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Generational differences in workplace can lead to success

Local business leaders heard about ways to manage the generational gap in the workforce during a recent Business Advisory Council meeting.

Williams County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ashley Epling invited Todd Hendricks Jr. of Pioneer Industrial System to present on the topic after hearing him give a similar one during a manufacturing boot camp event last year.

“One of the things that I think is very interesting is the different generations and what that brings,” Hendricks said.

He started by saying that while many people have the impression that others don’t want to work, that is a problem that dates back to at least 1894, in which newspaper articles stated as much.

“That’s a common problem and it’s not going away nor will it ever,” Hendricks said. “So it’s something we need to understand and work with.”

He also said the country has been under the replacement birth rate average needed to fill job positions. That has led to the rise in robotics and possibly artificial intelligence being used more in the workplace.

He added that each generation brings different strengths and weaknesses, typically, and that those need to be understood. He also emphasized not everyone in a particular generation is the same.

“So one of the big takeaways is let’s take care of the people that we do have, how do we interact with them and how do we lead them,” Hendricks said.

He started with the Traditionalist generation, typically born from 1928-1945. They went through the Great Depression and World War II, and have a strong work ethic and usually prefer traditional work days or hours.

“Again, everyone’s different, but this group typically loves respect and recognition,” Hendrick said. “They’re more the you pay your dues type. You get where you are based on years of service and that gives you expertise and experience.”

They also usually prefer face-to-face communication.

“As you look to manage, if you have an opportunity to manage which is probably pretty rare for this group, but emphasize that human connection, have those one on one, face-to-face conversations with them, and this can apply not just with people you manage, but it can apply to vendors that you work with or customers,” Hendricks said.

Baby Boomers were born 1946-1964 and is one of the largest groups, which is also leading to workforce issues as members of this generation retire from the workforce.

“They’re retiring or exiting or selling their businesses or leaving the workplace,” Hendricks said. “They’re leaving big shoes to fill.”

They value face-to-face communication as well, and perhaps email, while also encouraging collaboration.

“This generation, the one prior to it, and even Gen X a little bit, they’re the type that if you’re not here, you’re not working,” Hendricks said.

Generation X members were born from 1965 to 1980 and Hendricks said they value work-life balance, adaptability and independence.

“They value a bit more autonomy, they don’t like to be micromanaged,” he said.

This is most likely due to many members Gen X being latchkey kids raised by dual-income households fostering independence. They are usually resourceful, tech-savvy and appreciate flexibility.

“They’re the glue between the different generational gaps, they do a really great job of bringing people together,” Hendricks said. “Which is funny, because they love to be left alone.”

He also said Gen X typically prefer direct communication and getting to the point.

Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996 and prioritize purposeful work, collaboration and social impact in work. He added they may seem impatient, but that’s to be expected from a group that was raised with microwave ovens and broadband internet.

They’re also used to working in teams and thrive on collaboration.

“They’re much more inclusive, they express themselves much more than the previous generations, so taking those things into account, try to meet them where they are a little bit and understand they like open communication, they like to be recognized for their impact,” Hendricks said.

He also said when working on a project, they are better off knowing the entire situation, not just the part they are working on for it.

They are also more likely to job hop if they feel they are not making headway. They can also be leery of making decisions if not told specifically they have the authority to do so.

Members of Generation Z were born 1997-2012 and value transparency, seek meaningful work and embrace diversity. They prefer communicating through instant messaging and visuals, such as GIFs and emojis, but usually do not like talking on a phone.

“Part of it is it’s nice for us to be able to look at it, digest it and make sure we put the right answer back,” Hendricks said. “Accuracy is big for this group.”

They have also been surrounded by technology since birth, but employers can use that to their advantage. They have grown up in casual attire, and may need to be reminded what work attire is expected.

Hendricks added successful companies and managers will accept the differences and work with them, rather than against them.

“You’ve got to play the hand that you’re given, not the cards that you had years ago when times were better,” he said.

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May 02
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This was a very good presentation from Todd. His material and the way he presented was perfect. We are actually having him come and talk to our employees at work about this next week!

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