“HEY POPS! YOU STILL GOT IT…”
I recently went on a way too short trip to visit my son in college out in Arizona. I love the energy on college campuses and seeing the potential of the future in many student’s eyes as they are on the cusp of new careers and opportunities. Back in the halcyon days of my youth I played quarterback in college. (Can I say “Back in my day without sounding like an old Geezer?). As such, I still like to throw the football around with my college son and anybody else for that matter who will catch my passes. After we were done throwing the football around, he mentioned the above, that “I still got it”
As I left Arizona and headed back home to Florida, I thought about how much everyone can learn from another. My son can learn from my wife and I, but life itself will teach him some things I never could. I can still learn from him because he has many different experiences and perspective that are not identical to mine. The fact that we can all learn from each other and help one another rings true in families and in the business world.
Today’s workforce is decidedly multigenerational and certainly multicultural for that matter. It is composed of five generations— Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennial), and a smattering of Generation Z—whose life experiences have left indelible marks on their values and work preferences.
I have led multi-generational teams for years and understand that to succeed, the entire team must move forward together, as one unit. This is sometimes not an easy task because the motivations, communication and way people operate within their respective generations is often very different from one another.
As the years go on, there is less of the older demographic in the workforce for obvious reasons and the workforce and leadership shifts to the younger generation. We are seeing a new shift as generation Z is entering the workforce and generation Y is moving up the corporate ladder. Jeff Cunningham, professor of leadership at Arizona State University/Thunderbird School of Global Management, recently wrote a brilliant article for Chief Executive Magazine called Generation Z is Coming to the workplace, are you ready? https://chiefexecutive.net/generation-z-coming-workplace-ready/
Very often, mid to senior management of a company are older and their staff is younger. One of my friends was a Marine sniper and was the youngest Sergeant in the entire Marine Corps when he got promoted at the age of 19. He told me it was awkward giving orders and advice to people who were 15 years older than him, but he was up to the task. (and given his stack of medals I say he did a good job)
Having a multigenerational workforce can, and should, be a distinct advantage for your company. A wide range of ideas and knowledge from a diverse group of people can serve the company well, and help all employees become more productive. No matter the working age, we all have things we can bring to the table. When we all know what the goals and purposes are we can work together; not just to get the job done but done well.
So how do you maximize your multi-generational workforce’s productivity?
Here are three ways that have worked for me:
1) Have a clear, concise and actionable “Purpose” for your company. Keep it as simple as possible. Understand that when employees know what the simple heart of the purpose is, they will easily make it their own.
2) Daily focus – DAILY – on Teamwork. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in service or manufacturing, teamwork never fails to produce better results. We’re all in it to win it.
3) Recognition and Rewards tied to your purpose. The acknowledgement of a job well done should be built into your purpose. (We all need our egos stroked every now and then.)
An example of purpose being a driver comes from the ethos of the Cracker Barrel Restaurant. They have a very simple purpose that they live by every single day – to Please People. That’s it, to Please People. Easy to say, but hard to do. They must satisfy investors, customers, their employees, their communities, etc.…. but it works! If one had bought their stock when it went public back in 1981 at .58 cents, that person probably wouldn’t be working today. Successful and very simple purpose statements that are put into action can be a principle for all constituents.
At my company, HH Staffing, our purpose is simple, To Help People. That’s what we do every single day, we help people find jobs and clients find great people, and it is the most gratifying work that anyone could ever do.
This ties directly into the first which is once a clear purpose has been created then ensure that all generations in the workforce understand and live that purpose as it will show up in different ways with different people. My 81-year-old mother-in-law Peggy works 25 hours a week in a small fashion boutique store in Florence Alabama named Marigails Fashion House. Peggy sells clothes alongside 20 something year old college students and they all have unique attributes that are appreciated by the customers, so much so that this small boutique retail store in this small little town in Northwest Alabama has withstood the onslaught of Amazon and big box retailers on their business to the point where their sales continue to grow year over year. Why? Teamwork.
At this small fashion boutique store, they leverage each other’s strengths which allows them to connect with their entire customer base that ranges from 20 something year old customers to 80+ year old customers, they don’t segment their customers, they embrace the entire 60 year spectrum of customers that they have by leveraging the unique attributes of their entire team. It works and they continue to win against the biggest players in this digital age of customer segmentation. (Note: If you ever go to Florence, Alabama, please stop in Marigails Fashion House and ask for Peggy Jenkins and you will see why this 81 year “young lady” cranks 25 hours a week with gusto, energy and smiles ear to ear and tell her that Darrin said hello).
Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football once said, “The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.”
Teamwork and purpose are incredibly important to the success of every worker, but this environment is especially crucial when working with millennials. Millennials get a lot of crap from society about their work ethic or attitude, but in my experience, there are plenty of rock stars in this generation as well. Millennial want to be included, asked their opinion, as well as talk about their future and the company’s future. They often like to see their responsibilities matter and expect fun to be associated with their job as well as work.
Rewards and Recognition
When you see great teamwork aligned to the overall purpose of the company, recognize that teamwork and reward that teamwork. I often say in my company, “Together We Win….Individually we Lose.” Business is far too complex these days for anybody to think that they individually can carry an entire team across the goal line. Come on, get real, that world no longer exist, if it ever did exist.
Esprit de corps.
I love this phrase.
It means “the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group”.
I had a conversation recently about how to incentivize teamwork with a business colleague. Like many business owners, I have revenue goals that I want my company to exceed. I talked with my friend about offering the same bonus to everyone on the team if we hit that goal and I had a “Eureka” moment when we talked about the challenges that would present to the least and best performing people on ANY team. A person who performs below expectations thinks they can be carried by the rest of the team and the workhorse doesn’t feel that his or her individual efforts and success are being rewarded enough. I reinforced to each person on my team that the year-end discretionary individual bonus is still in place and will be given based on each person’s contribution to the overall team results. The lesson here is that to build an incredibly successful team, leaders should still understand the motivations, strengths, weaknesses and personalities of each individual on the team.
Bringing it all together now as I wrap up my commentary on increasing multi-generational worker productivity. “You Still Got It.” We’ve always had it and all of us still need it. Purpose – Teamwork – Rewards and Recognition. As leaders, managers and supervisors for any company, please focus on these three things and watch your worker productivity soar to new heights but beyond seeing an increase in productivity and business results, how about do these three things simply because it’s just the right thing to do!
Until Next Time,
Your Staffing Partner, Darrin Rohr- President, CEO and Chief Servant
Current owner of HH Staffing and Former Chief HR Officer for several successful Multinational Fortune 500 Companies. Brings fresh perspective from decades of experiences creating Great Workplace Cultures by building high performance teams while leading and managing people from all different backgrounds. HH Staffing is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida and is uniquely positioned to serve both local and national clients.