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Furniture World - Employee Orientation Series- Different Strokes for Different Folks - Part 10

Furniture World Magazine


Last week, we explored some ways to reward employees, and included a list of 50 ways to reward your employees.  Several readers emailed to make suggestions that the list could include a donation to a charity on behalf of the employee.  I’d like tie up that important suggestion with two ways that employers can reward employees and  contribute to society as a whole.
    1. www.tisbest.org  Employers may provide a gift card to employees and the employee donates to the charity of his/her choice.
    2. www.kiva.org  Employers may provide a gift card and the employee chooses an entrepreneurial project – and provides a loan for a project in a developing country

Both of these organizations provide excellent choices for employee rewards programs. You will recall that the article suggests that employee rewards reflect your company values – here’s your opportunity! 

Now on to this week’s topic – Different Strokes for Different Folks

Today’s workforce, more than ever before, is made up of people from drastically varying social, generational, geographical, and cultural backgrounds. With a little bit of tolerance, and willingness to adapt and change, you will find that the rewards of incorporating the unique skills and attitudes of these different viewpoints are indeed worth the energy and effort.

This topic comes with only one introductory apology. I am not pigeonholing or stereotyping groups of people. So to those who take any offense, please pardon my "frailty and error" and I assure you that no offense is intended. That said, it is imperative to have some understanding of the basic differences in work values and characteristics, whether they be generational differences, cultural differences, individual characteristics, or competency-based discrepancies. Whatever the source, it requires you, as owner or supervisor, to adapt to these differences and to really use your best tools in your employee retention kit.

Different Strokes for Different Generations

At any time you may have up to four different generations working together, so you will want to gain a greater understanding of the differences which are partly rooted in the generational divides. You’ve heard of Generation X (those born between 1965–1980); Generation Y (those born between 1981-1999); The “Traditionalists” (born between 1922-1945) and of course, the “Boomers”(1946-1964)

It is true that each group brings different gifts and different challenges to the workplace. They also share lots of common ground such as preferring a workplace that is respectful and where their work is valued. A better understanding of these groups will help you to gain clarity and develop tools to help you to communicate effectively and to create the best environment to motivate your staff.

As you explore the four generations that make up the workplace and discover the work environment that each generation prefers, you will discover  that the communication styles of each generation are vastly different. It’s also important to understand that each generation has developed some values that correspond with their generational group. These values are partly based on the events that shaped their upbringing and are often reflected in the behaviors that shape their work ethic. Let’s start by looking at the core values of these groups, and some of the influencing and defining events that shape their work ethics as a whole:

Our “Traditionalists” come into your business with years of experience and they have respect for authority and a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Honor may well be their operative word. They’ve experienced the Great Depression and WWII among other major life-altering events. No surprise that they are loyal, that they stay with a company. They grew up when changing jobs was not an option, and authority was everything. This group prefers hierarchal organizational structure and favors straightforward and logical communication.

Next to the traditionalists are the “Boomers” who have a solid, strong work ethic, value personal gratification and involvement, and operate best as team players. Boomers have different, but equally defining events that have shaped their characteristics and core values. This huge demographic came from an era of social unrest.  An era where music and the prevalence of “freedom “was unveiling itself nightly on their new TVs. They also experienced the effects of the Cold War. The Boomers are often the workaholics -work first, everything else second-but they want personal satisfaction in their careers. In fact, they want it all.

Make way now for Generation X. This generation values diversity, self-reliance and flexibility. Our Gen Xer’s were influenced by Sesame Street, Game Boy, and a divorce rate that tripled over previous generations. This is the generation for whom the phrase “latch key children” was coined. No surprise then, that this group favors work environments that encourage self reliance and the opportunity to build a portable career. This group questions the relevance and authority of many institutions but they are highly adaptive to change and technology.

Now, for the up-and-coming Generation Y, whose core values include diversity and success, and whose defining phrase may well be “anything is possible.” Technology exploded just as they were coming into the world, and through the use of technology, extremely violent events unfolded before their eyes. They have been witness to countless natural and manmade disasters. This is also the empowered generation of “family meetings” and equality, where everyone on the baseball team gets the trophy and there’s no such thing as an MVP.

This short review of defining events may help to shape the paradigm from which you may view the diverse groups in your staff. So how can you use this information and awareness about the differences existing in your company?

Sometimes just bringing about that awareness of differences in of communication styles and values can break down barriers. You may be thinking, “No wonder my 19-year-old employee is such a great multi-tasker and loves all the new electronic inventory control gadgets. Also, no wonder that his sense of entitlement kicks in regularly, ands he expects to be manager though he only started last week!”

Next week we’ll explore how teams evolve, and some best strategies to help teams perform at their peak. 

Dawn McCooey, Author of Bestselling;  Keeping Good Employees on Board

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.