Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for younger professionals to leave a job after one or two years if they feel they haven’t achieved personal goals they set when hired. Times have drastically changed, especially in regard to work ethic and behavior. In the Twenty-First Century, unpredictable Millennials are being deemed as “the future” of most industries, while those in prior generations are working their way towards retirement.
Research has shown that there are distinctive characteristics and events in history that have helped shape each generation, making each of them unique in their own way. From Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) to Millennials (born between 1981 and 1999), every generation is motivated and frustrated by different things, according to Dave Berry, management consultant at FMI Corp. in Tampa, FL. “Figuring out how to lead the four distinct generations in today’s workforce is extremely challenging and overwhelming, but also doable,” he explained on the first official day of Total Solutions Plus (TSP) at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, CA, back in October 2016.
Although most people aren’t aware of the differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials, or Veterans (born before 1946) and Gen-Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), the evolution of 25-year-olds today compared to those 25 years ago is extremely apparent. In his presentation, “Leading Employees of All Generations,” Berry set out to describe the differences between each generation, how to implement certain strategies for communicating and effectively leading different generations, and retaining employees of all generations.
“Why is it so hard to find good people?” Berry asked a crowded room of attendees. With attentive looks on everyone’s faces, Berry proceeded to explain all of the factors that impact this. Beginning with a chart of the nation’s progress on increased employment and decreased unemployment, which showed unemployment rates favorably lower than five years ago and employments rates comparable to 2007 before the Great Recession, the decrease in construction unemployment rates was also highlighted. Between July 2014 and July 2015, employment in the construction industry increased in 37 states and DC, allowing the industry to add 199,000 jobs over the last year. “In the next five to 10 years, professionals see slow growth,” said Berry. “No one sees a decrease.”
With a positive outlook for the industry’s future, Berry detailed the different generations and their impact on the industry, both currently and futuristically. “Millennials are the future of the industry,” he explained, noting how they comprise 19% of today’s workforce. “We need to find a way to work with them.”
Gen-Xers, who are the most family focused, according to Berry, account for the largest contingent of today’s industry professionals with 38%; Baby Boomers, who Berry deemed as the hardest workers, are just below them with 37%. Following both generations are the up-and-coming Millennials (with 19%), who thrive off of social interaction and are technologically-driven.
How times have changed
The Silent Generation — around 50 million people born between 1925 and 1945 who were plagued with war and economic instability as a result of the Great Depression — is said to have shaped the Baby Boomers, supporting their title as the hardest workers. Although most Baby Boomers are retired or only a few years away from doing so, they are stark followers of the hierarchy structure, thriving off of competing for raises and promotions, with an aversion to technology and teamwork. Gen-Xers, on the other hand, are said to be more adaptable and resourceful, with a focus on balancing work and personal life, although they were shaped by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers.
“Millennials believe they’re very loyal,” Berry explained of the teamwork-based generation, which has been shaped by the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. “If they have friends and people they can relate to, it keeps them at a job longer.”
Although Berry believes Millennials are the future of the industry, he also advises veterans to prepare for those in “Generation Z” (born from 2000 on). “They will account for 20% of the workforce by 2019,” he said.
Although every generation has its distinct characteristics, they all share the desire to win, remain intelligent hard workers and provide a better life for the next generation. However, with Millennials at the forefront — who are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers by 22 million by 2030 — as well as Gen-Zers, supervisors and owners from the older generations need to be mindful of the new way of thinking and working. “We have to cater to those generations because we’re not going back [in time],” Berry explained. “That means catering your business strategy to Millennials rather than Baby Boomers.”
Adapting to the present
So, many people may wonder, how do you do that? Since many key factors that heavily impact the way business is conducted and handled have changed over the years, Berry outlined some things to constantly be cognizant of in order to adapt and succeed. Most importantly, is means of communication; today, 45% of communication is conducted through body language, according to Berry. He also noted the decrease in face-to-face conversations, since technology has evolved so rapidly and become so prevalent. With the introduction of smartphones in the early 2000s, sending a text message has seemingly become the new phone call; the need to communicate verbally is visibly decreasing.
Realizing the younger generations are less traditional in their approach to business will also help, according to Berry. Millennials, who can be the most loyal workers if treated and compensated well, thrive for a job that provides a healthy balance. “If 40 hours of work can be completed in 20, they’d rather figure out a way to make that happen,” said Berry, who described how older generations will stay at work for longer periods of time, even if there’s not much work to be completed, simply because that’s what they’re accustomed to.
Noticing how younger professionals prefer teamwork over competition is also important. “There’s no ‘I’ in teamwork” is the motto for Millennials, who prefer more freedom rather than structure. Being comfortable in a work environment is of utmost importance nowadays. “Create a place where people want to stay,” Berry explained. “Provide mentoring opportunities and create work options and flexibility. Provide educational and growth opportunities, recognition and awards programs, open communication platforms to give Millennials a voice, and open office structures with less hierarchy. Understand that character issues are not necessarily generational traits.”
A recent study conducted by Gallup showed that 70% of people don’t believe they’re engaged at work, which brought Berry to his final point. “Become a manager they want to work for,” he said. “Management is getting results through other people. You need your people more than they need you. Remember, you get paid for their results, not yours.”
By clearly communicating your expectations, providing frequent feedback and coaching with skill, you will not only be able to retain younger workers but mold them to become the future of your company.