The Human Edge: Generational differences

by Angela Splinter, Trucking HR Canada

Understanding the needs, values and expectations of the different generations in your workforce is a valid approach to solving some recruitment and retention problems. The trucking industry now has four generations working side by side, and the differences among them can create the potential for misunderstandings, conflict and different expectations regarding work.

Looking at this issue as part of your HR management can provide you with an added advantage when competing for and retaining talent. Consider these points to help you attract, manage and retain workers from different generations:

Step 1: Understand the factors and events that have formed each of the four generations and how these play out in their attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours.

There is a lot of material on this topic, including training programs and seminars with an HR focus. Educating yourself and your staff can help you in developing an effective approach for your organization.

Step 2: Segment your workforce.

Assess your own workforce to determine your demographics, identify potential conflict areas among teams and adapt training programs accordingly.

Step 3: Don’t underestimate the power of mentoring.

Mentoring is a great way to offer support and development to younger and more junior workers by linking them with knowledgeable, experienced employees. Formal mentoring programs have been shown to help improve retention rates and allow employees to become more productive workers. This can be key to retaining Gen Ys, as this is a generation that has often been protected from failure (i.e. no-fail educational policies, sports competitions where every team gets a medal). This risk-averse generation should be encouraged, coached and mentored. Boomers meanwhile welcome the opportunity to add value and expect to be recognized for their achievements. Providing them with the opportunity to mentor young workers is something they will appreciate.

Step 4: Design reward and recognition programs with generational differences in mind.

Rewarding and recognizing your employees goes a long way in keeping them happy. Considering generational differences in your recognition program can make it that much more effective. When looking at how you reward your employees, use rewards that matter. For example, Boomers are known for their work ethic and rewarding that is motivating to them. They like visible recognition such as impressive job titles, parking spots, helping them get featured in an industry publication or local newspaper. Your Gen X employees are always looking to develop their marketable skills. Offer them opportunities to take on a new challenge or project, or provide them additional training. Recognition also includes providing feedback.

While the Boomers are accustomed to receiving feedback less frequently, such as an annual performance review, Gen Y requires feedback more often. This “just-in-time” generation is accustomed to feedback at the push of a button. They do not need a meeting with their boss to hear how they are doing. They are happy to receive feedback by e-mail.

Step 5: Consider flexible approaches to training.

All employees look to their employers to help them learn and develop. Being sensitive to the preferences of the different generations when it comes to learning will help. In particular, Gen X expects to receive learning and development opportunities from their employer—they are all about building their marketable skills.

Other factors to consider include varying comfort levels with technology and different learning styles. For example, coaching is a preferred style of learning for Boomers—they thrive on the interactivity inherent in this process. Gen Y, on the other hand, seeks learning experiences that incorporate technology, allow for collaboration and help translate new skills into immediate results.

As you look to incorporate a new approach to manage the different generations in your workforce, just be careful not to over-stereotype. What matters is that companies develop work environments and practices that recognize and leverage the talents and skills of all employees so that you can effectively recruit and retain the workers you need.

The four generations at work are:

Veterans (16% of Canadian population) born between 1922 and 1945

Baby Boomers (30% of Canadian population) born between 1946 and 1964

Generation X (21% of the Canadian population) born between 1965 and 1980

Generation Y (26% of the Canadian population) born between 1981 and 2000

Angela Splinter is CEO of Trucking HR Canada

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.