Managing Generation Gaps

Smart Business

The hiring and retention of employees is becoming increasingly difficult ― and while a few years ago employers were calling attorneys asking how to get rid of misbehaving employees, now they are calling to ask how to keep them.

“I’m asked, ‘How do I motivate these people?’” says Ken Cookson, director at Kegler, Brown, Hill & Hitter LPA. “They are a good group, but there are several generations in the work force right now ― and all of them have different kind of approaches.”

If you are trying to manage a millennial (1977-1994), who came into the work force in the last few years, you want to do it entirely different than you would a leading-edge baby boomer (1946-1954).

“You would give the Leading Edge Baby Boomer an acrylic memento to put on the desk and he or she would be forever happy,” Cookson says. “You give that to a millennial and he or she would laugh at you.”

The baby boomers still think of themselves as 35 years of age, being vibrant and alive. They are leaders. They run the football model of management ― “This is my team; I am the quarterback. Those people run the play I tell them to run when I tell them to run it. I never consult with them; I’m the quarterback.”

“The millennials tend to run the true partnership model,” he says. “Everybody has strengths and values that they bring to the partnership. If yours are needed, you are the leader, and if they’re not for this project, it’s like playing right field. You can sort of sleep through it.”