Business Management

Motivating Across the Generational Divide

Recognizing what’s important to our employees and clients is more than knowing their favorite shade of polish or the names of their children; it’s about understanding that they embrace the things they do, in part, because of what the world looked like as they grew up.

All around the world, salon managers just like you are brainstorming ideas to bring out the best in each member of their staff. Incentives, programs, and pay structures are the focus. Communication methods are examined to find the absolute best one. Policies are put -under the microscope in an effort to whip our array of employees into a well-oiled machine.

What if, in our effort to streamline and find the single best route, we took a detour and instead looked at spreading out our efforts according to the audience we are trying to reach? What if we meet them where they are? What if we try to understand why they see the world the way they do?

Look at any group of people and it’s easy to see some of the similarities and differences. Greater attention has been put on issues of diversity. Race, gender, and age quickly come to mind. Generation and personality are additional areas rich with opportunities to build a happier employee or client.

We have every age group represented in our salons — from the child who comes in for her first service to the grandmother who has recently returned to work out of economic concern. Each carries with her a unique view of the world, carved out by what she’s experienced.

By understanding some of the similarities and potential differences present in our staff, we can help to enrich their job satisfaction and performance. Guiding them to do the same with clients may help them offer a more comfortable salon experience for patrons.

While it’s easy to generalize, we must never lose sight of the employee or client as an individual. There will always be exceptions. These are just tools in our management toolbox. It’s up to you to determine what type of tool is best for the job and when to apply it.

Traditionalists, born 1901-1942

This group was shaped by their families’ hardships. Events like the Great Depression and World War II led them to embrace the ideals of hard work and thrift. Military service gave them a sense of order and thus perpetuated an environment of formality. With this in mind, traditionalist employees may not take us seriously if we force role-playing or games. Giving them a leadership role in these exercises may help them become more comfortable with the results. Let them be the “recorder” during brainstorming sessions, offer a mix of games and serious discussion for balance, or ask them for input on ways to make it fun for younger workers. They will appreciate the respect and recognition of their experience.

Being too familiar may make them squirm. A simple “Do you prefer Mrs. Smith or Anne?” will give them the opportunity to guide you. They are probably at ease with hearing, “yes sir,” or “yes ma’am” and given the choice for communication, they will likely choose face-to-face or telephone contact.

Even though Traditionalists didn’t grow up with computers, they have embraced technology in record numbers recently. Your grandmother may have recently “friended” you on Facebook. Open a dialogue by asking them what types of technology they enjoy. Hayley Foster, a coauthor of the book “Live Every Day Motivated, Successful, and Happy,” is a trainer specializing in communication issues. She encourages managers to “communicate with each employee in the way in which they prefer to receive it.”

Traditionalists grew up on a steady diet of memorization, books, and lecture. They grew up to be prolific storytellers when given an audience. All of this as well as individual personality will have an effect on their learning style and the most effective techniques. “It can take a long time to get to know our employees. By listening to their stories, we begin to piece together a model of how each of them thinks and feels,” asserts Foster. While we may not know an employee or client’s exact age, we can get a feel for them by the content of the experiences they share.

Baby Boomers, born 1943-1960

Boomers came of age in an era of political freedom, educational -excellence, and class participation. They set out to get experience and want to be recognized for it. They brought us “workshops” and the widespread acceptance of course-based learning. This generation headed to college in droves. Boomers demanded fairness and would sacrifice for it. They learned how to build companies into bigger companies and know they have a lot to offer the workplace — regardless of age.

Meeting their need for fair and well-thought-out feedback can be accomplished by keeping a record. “Even the smartest and most well-meaning supervisor can have a lapse in memory,” comments Foster. “It’s much easier and will be experienced as more fair if you can refer to a journal to communicate about directions given or concerns addressed.

This also acts as a deterrent to misbehavior. Clearly articulate expectations; employees feel more secure when they know where they stand.”

This group is determined to age gracefully, so avoid “sir” or “ma’am” unless you want them to run for the door. Their ears perk up for words like “anti-aging” or “protective.” Boomers ushered in our love affair with technology. Using PowerPoint in presentations might endear you to them. They probably have an e-mail address and a cell phone, and are probably comfortable with getting e-mail newsletters instead of snail mail.

Generation X, born 1961-1981

MTV captivated Generation X. They grew up with cable TV, computers, and video games. Mom and Dad went to work and girls played serious sports. Xers expected learning to be fun and developed the often-unfair reputation of having a shortened attention span. Role-playing felt natural to Generation Xers and they expanded their visual learning style to be more media-centric. They have grown a bit cynical after years of watching news, teleported instantly into their homes, from around the world. These are straight shooters and they don’t like to be handled.

“When developing any program, I consider the diversity in the prospective audience. For instance, will there be Gen Xers in the room, who are used to working, talking on the phone, texting, and surfing the Internet — all at the same time? Holding their interest will require a quick pace and interaction. They will simply tune out a lecture,” says Foster. She encourages management and trainers to incorporate different elements into each delivery to accommodate different ages, learning styles, and personality types. “This means I try to engage all of the senses with interesting visuals, variance in vocal tone and cadence, and often means providing manipulative materials such as putty or puzzles for those who are kinesthetic learners.”

Millenials (also called Netsters or Gen Y), born 1982-2000

Millenials were ushered from the proverbial soccer field to Karate practice in a “Mommy Van” outfitted with a video player. They took keyboarding classes instead of typing and faced public tragedies like Columbine and the Virginia Tech shootings unfold alongside the rest of the world. Their micromanaged schedules demanded they become multitaskers-extraordinaire. Much was demanded of them and they, in turn, demand much from us. They have embraced Web 2.0 to the extent that the lines between mine, his, and ours are sometimes blurred. They are team players but have less loyalty to an employer than the previous generations. If made to feel insignificant they may shoot out a message to 4,000 of their closest “’net friends” and promptly surf Monster for a new job. They’ll often shun the ringing phone, preferring to text. E-mail them and you may receive a response with an “emoticon” or two. Technology has always been a big part of their life so they may not immediately understand others who have less experience with technology.

Lights, music, action — you will have them in the palm of your hand. These guys can handle a tight schedule and listen to a podcast, read a blog, or contribute to a Wiki in between clients.

To keep these collaborative, team players, Foster encourages managers to “know what each employee wants from his/her position, and make certain to offer support of these goals. They will know that you are invested in their success and this will go a long way toward building a cooperative team.”

Motivating Across the Ages

> Easy-to-read print on all materials

> Varied use of media

> Images of different generations represented in printed materials

> Address the values of each generation

> Alternate lecture with participation

> Allow for different personalities (let introverts volunteer, while extroverts love to

be called on)

> Use a mix of text message, phone, and snail mail to convey information and respond to employees

> Establish salon guidelines for social networking

 

Keywords:   business tools     customer service     keeping your business competitive     marketing/promotions     staff management  

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