The ages of employees working in our factories range from roughly 20 to 70. Four generations working under the same roof. Generations Z, X, Y, and Baby Boomers all working together.
As a corporation, we spend a great deal of time training management and recruiting for diversity. One form of diversity are the generations. Succession planning is important, but so is maintaining the knowledge that veteran employees possess.
After I posted this blog piece I reminded myself that the water ski team deals with multiple generations too. There is a lesson to be learned about embracing all ages in any organization.
Much has been made of which is better or worse than the other. But let’s face it, every generation thinks the ones before them are doomed. The fact is, they all have something positive to give on the job.
Here are some of the benefits that each generation have to give.
The Modern Elder
Loads of practical experience. They’ve been around long enough to forget what they learned in college, but their muscle memory never forgets how to get things done.
Good judgement. They do not have to ponder the what ifs, they’ve most likely seen it already and are self assured of what will happen if…
High Emotional Intelligence. One of the advantages I’ve had the last 4 plus years managing a diverse after hours workforce is how to interact with the crews who will nearly always do what I ask of them. My counterparts have not learned the subtleties of influencing for success as opposed to dictating how things should be. Younger generations spend more time with Artificial Intelligence and have not yet honed their emotional intelligence.
Commitment to stewardship. We have three employees with over 40 years of seniority, and an additional three over 30 years, and 23 over 20 years. That’s nearly 30% of our employees with over 20 years in the same building. That kind of loyalty may retire with them.
Problem solvers. They’ve had a lifetime of practice problem solving. Again, practical experience at work. When technology breaks down, they know how to solve problems without technology.
Most companies do not consider ‘seasoned’ citizens a diversity demographic. It’s a shame, the demographic still has much to share. While it is not legal to discriminate based upon age, age is not recognized as a diversity asset by as many as 92% of companies world wide.
Born 1997 to 2012. Probably have always used a smart phone, which has impacted the way that they interact with the world. Relationships are built via chats on social media as opposed to the elders who maintain relationships via social media. They also find their jobs via social media and evolve easily with ever changing forms of technology very well.
Technologically Competent. Tend to be the first of the generations to accept and latch onto technology changes and improvements. They are great mentors of technology change.
Entrepreneurial. A great majority of this generation want to own their own businesses or innovate existing businesses. They are very creative thinkers that help keep businesses stay ahead of the curve in ever changing business innovative needs.
Always On. They interact with multiple screens and formats. Interruptions and distractions do not negatively effect them. This makes them good candidates for collaborative projects, and group work cells.
Utilizing this group to train the older generations are a good investment in time. Older workers are more likely to stick around and utilize the training, where the Gen Z workers tend to leave for another employer quicker.
Self sufficient, resourceful and individualistic.
Prefer their work environment to be casual, with opportunities to advance or move laterally. Balancing work and life is important.
Gen X needs to be challenged by given a project, but not be told how to do the job. Micromanaging them will result in diminishing returns. However, they do crave being rewarded for a job well done with minimal supervision.
As a production supervisor, I managed just about every generation on the list. Backing up my research for this post, each generation did have its strengths and challenges for a manager. Keeping the younger ones happy and job satisfied was a challenge. Keeping them on task was not. They did like to work hard in spurts, then idle for a while. The final result was the same as the tortoise older Gens who were steady from hour to hour. But…as long as they worked safely with good quality I let this practice go.
In Customer Service I’m the junior employee at the tender age of 60 on site. I have two virtual workers; one in India and one at our Division HQ in North Carolina. I’ve yet to meet the virtual employees and have no idea which generation they fall in. Asking them how they prefer to be managed is the best I will be able to do.
Regardless of the generation, they all are good at what we ask them to do and most are good at telling me what their obstacles and strengths are.
My goal is to hire at least one more succession person to learn what everyone does. This person will then train the next succession hires as they occur. The generation? Do not know, but will not discriminate any of them during the hiring process. The best candidate will win regardless of Gen.