Managing the Generation Mix
by Barbara Semeniuk,
Purcell Enterprises Ltd.
Tearing your hair out:
What motivates the younger
Do you have to train them to work safely?
How do you get them to work safely?
Why do they take risks?
How can you get them to work safer?
How can you get the different
generations to respect one
another and work in harmony
as a team, to create a safer
People are living longer and different generations
are mixing and working together for longer time
This term was coined by Prince Phillip for the
generation that endured the Great Depression and
World War Two
They are moving out of the workplace now: retiring.
Born before 1945
Characteristics: they saved and sacrificed, molded
by World Events. Respect for authority, loyal.
Baby Boomers 1945-1964
• Older baby boomers 1950 and before had many
• Mid baby boomers 1951-1958
• Young Baby boomers 1959-1964
• Mid baby boomers had less opportunities than the
older baby boomers
• Young baby boomers resemble generation X
• Baby boomers: instant gratification, good work
ethic, comfortable with a great deal of debt “the
credit card generation”
Generation X born 1964 to 1980
Bust generation in terms of numbers and job
Compete with large numbers of baby boomers
overshadowed by them
Very family orientated, good work ethic.
Entrepreneurial, more tech savvy than the baby
1981-2000 very techno-savvy
The echo generation: larger numbers than
generation X: children of the baby boomers
Very devoted to their tribe: friends and family.
Loyalty to them rather than corporations
Techno-savvy, multi-taskers, short attention spans
All these generations are still in
the workplace and the mix can
This can create morale and Health and Safety
What motivates Generation Y?
How do we manage them?
What do they like about their managers?
What do they dislike?
I have conducted over 500
Health and Safety audits
Baby boomers tear their hair out (what’s remaining)
about this generation
No respect for authority
Have to train them to work and/or work safely
Work ethic is very different to theirs
As is knowledge of technology
A quote from a “Wonderful
World” by Louis Armstrong
They are smarter than I’ll ever be… what a
It’s time to see our kids for who they truly are.
Most of them are not rude, wild and
irresponsible, in fact, most of them could one day
make this country an immensely better place. David
Gergen, Editor at Large, US news.
Positive attributes of this
Lots of confidence, upbeat and full of self esteem
The most education minded generation in history
A generation paving the way to a more
open, tolerant society
A generation leading a new wave of volunteerism.
The self esteem generation
• These are the echo boom
• The children of the baby boomers
• Baby boomers nurtured self esteem
The rise of the “helicopter parent” that takes a more
active role in their children’s lives sometimes to
manager’s detriment and amazement
• This digital generation has never experienced life
• They can access increasingly complex system(s)
much faster than their elders
They are consultants to their parents who don’t
know how to use technology and collaborators with
teachers infusing technology into the curriculum
• They like to gain instant access to people, events
• Short attention spans
Wired for the Future
• Slow, unwieldy processes are out, streamlining is in
• One size fits all is out
• Customization is in
• Passive learning is out, interactivity is in
• Lifelong learning is a fact of life to this generation: 90%
expect to attend higher learning institutions like
university, college, and technical schools
• 70% expect to work in professional jobs
• 40% of college freshmen expect to get their masters
• Work and education lines blurred
• Education spans the boundaries of place and time, self
paced learning, just in time to meet the knowledge
gaps in their real lives and work
• Children of bi-racial and multi-cultural
marriages, creators of customized spiritual paths
• Rail against racism, sexism and homophobia
• One in three is a non-white minority
• Generation Y will be the first generation to grow old
as the white population for the first time in the US
and Canada becomes a minority.
This is the most socially conscious generation
since the 1960’s. Generation Y has a refreshing
altruism that embraces environmental, socio-
economic and community problems.
Service learning is the norm: to go beyond
academics to mold young adults into socially
conscious, aware citizens. 75% of college
freshman performed volunteer work in 1999.
What is the magic for this
The magic for Gen Y’ers comes in making a
difference in producing something worthwhile while
working with a great team and getting the rewards
they feel they have earned.
• This generation wants to be part of a highly
motivated team of committed people. They like
working closely with and learning from colleagues
they respect, and they hope to socialize and form
friendships with their co-workers…the human
connection is important because they spend a lot
of time alone: 20% of the time by
themselves…they crave connections.
• The Lost Generation sacrifices and can delay
• The Baby boomers are work orientated
• Generation X like to be part of a team of sole
proprietors who meet to put their individual
contributions together in a sum that is greater than
• Generation Y prefer to work side by side with
energized and energizing co-workers. Respect
must be earned.
Make people of all backgrounds and generations
feel welcomed, mobilizing their unique talents to
get important work done and done in a safe
Creating an open and open minded workplace is a
major challenge as is managing expectations.
Until 2005, most jobs available to Gen Y’s will be
minimum wage positions that meet none of their
• They become bored and isolated and feel little
incentive to excel.
• Slight increases in hourly wages will lure them out
your door and across the street to work for your
• You need to know what and how to motivate them
The right now generation
Managers must be able to coach Generation Y’s in
time management skills: how to break up large
projects into more manageable pieces, plan their
time, handle day to day task and responsibilities in
the midst of interruptions and to meet deadlines.
This generation grew up being micro managed by
their parents and do not want this from their
• This generation loves to be assigned a
challenge, given the freedom to explore the
challenge and matched to the best team to explore
• One company provides young, new hires with
ready made friendship groups and a support
system to ease their transition into the workplace
Organizations that can’t or won’t customize
training, career paths, incentives and work
responsibilities need a wake up call.
• This generation craves the guidance of
knowledgeable, confident managers and co-
workers. They want their ideas to be heard by
expert listeners who don’t discount them because
they are young. They are entrepreneurial in
nature. They challenge everything asking, “Why?”
This can drive the baby boomers crazy
• Expect the best and you will get the best
• The work world will change as baby boomers retire
and Generation X and Generation Y embrace the
values and structures to those defined by these
generations and those demanded by the new
Managing the Generation Y’s
Lifetime employment is dead
Gen Y’s are the owners of “me, inc.”
The best young talent is learning to negotiate the
best deals in ways the older generations could not
The Seven Worst Traits of
Managers according to this
Close mindedness: don’t come across as an
expert, closes out other voices, opinions and
• Ineffective delegation: this generation wants to
contribute and feel they’re adding value. They want
to be challenged with the pace and scope of work.
• Remember increasing responsibility lights their fire.
If you’re not sure your challenging them
enough, simply ask.
• They will be happy to tell you.
The Seven Worst Traits
• Their bosses need to know more than do. They
expect that’s why you have earned your title. Little
respect is given by them if they feel they know
more than you do: although they’ll forgive you in
the technology department. You need to be
competent in organization, planning, decision
making and goal setting. Position means little to
this generation rather the person with hands on
knowledge and who can help them get the job
done and accomplish their goals wins their loyalty
• Ongoing learning is important: this generation
needs effective training they don’t want to feel
incompetent as it deflates this Gen Y’s self-
confidence and self-esteem.
The Seven Worst Traits
Disrespectfor young people. They have been
told all their lives they can do anything. Authority
figures must earn their respect and that will be
granted when it is earned.
Management by intimidation does not work well
with this generation, hence the rise of workplace
bullying issues is no coincidence.
The Seven Worst Traits
• Over-emphasis on outward appearance: dress is
a prime generational battleground
• No more jerks, please: this generation leaves
rather than putting up with ineffective managers.
Knowledgeable, effective managers in your
organization are required that have a commitment
to people. They are the ones willing to do the high
maintenance work required to motivate a high
maintenance workforce…but the rewards are
Knowledgeable adult who jumps in as a team
player when needed, listens to their
ideas, recognizes and mentors them and inspires
and motivates them to excel at work
Relationship with their immediate supervisor is the
number one factor affecting employee performance
as well as retention
The Supervisor’s Role
• Supervisorsmust be trained to mentor and coach this
generation and promote Health and Safety and take a
leadership role in the process
• Work must matter: it must challenge them, clearly
delegate assignments with freedom and flexibility. Offer
increasing responsibility as a reward for
accomplishments. Connect with your employees ensure
competency by time outs for one on one coaching
sessions, team meetings, informal chats
• Provide ongoing training and learning opportunities
• Learning is part of their daily lives, they want clear
connections between the skills they learn today and the
skills they’ll use tomorrow. Mentor your employees. The
Construction Owners Association of Alberta at www.
acoaa.ca has a free mentoring course.
The Supervisor’s Role (cont’d)
• Comfortable, low stress environment is essential
• Flexible scheduling
• Focus on work but be personable with a sense of humour
• Hands on: managers must be strong enough to take
charge, know enough to provide guidance and leadership and
walk the line between that role and the role of a contributing
worker unafraid to get into the trenches with everybody else.
• Treat them as colleagues: for example a baby boomer
manager who knows the power of words tells his gen X and
gen y staff he is a colleague and not to introduce him as a
manger when they are out in business situations.
• Treat them with respect and consistently provide constructive
• Use incentives when they have done a good job: verbal
recognition is not enough. Managers need to customize
rewards and incentives to keep their best contributors
Why does this generation take
The brain in young teenagers and adults is still
immature as is the area of the brain that analyzes
risk….they don’t have the same perceptions about
risk as older workers do. Mentor and coach them
about risks and watch them to ensure they are
working safely. Explain why its important to follow
a certain job procedure and/or process.
How do you get them to work
safer Their relationship with their immediate supervisor is
• This person must be competent and tell this
generation how the task they are doing fits into the
big picture. Even the smallest job can be positioned
as contributing to a larger result. Talk to them: what
are we doing well, what are we doing not so
well, how can we do this better?
• Teach them leadership skills and engage them in
leadership roles. Reward them in quick, instant
ways. Spell out everything. Write it down.
Talk to them…let them manage their own learning
and provide a variety of resources to match their
diverse learning styles.
How do you get them to work safer
• Recognize your mentors and avoid burnout: often
baby boomers have this role and with their other
responsibilities become resentful and tired.
• Create a physical and emotional comfort zone for
• Feedback needs to be frequent, accurate, specific
and timely: FAST.
• All generations need to lighten up and monitor their
How do you get the different
generations to work together and in
• Customize your feedback to the different learning styles
of the generations
• Build on each generations strengths and facilitate
teamwork and an entrepreneurial spirit.
• Use the appropriate rewards for each generation and
strive for a respectful, actively caring environment
• Use targeted behavioral based safety initiatives where
• Remember the number one reason why all generations
leave their employer: their immediate supervisor.
• Provide rewards targeted to the individual, not the
Respect one another’s differences and strengths.