• What's Wrong with the Younger Generation?

    March 1, 2010
    The above is a constant refrain heard today. You also often hear, The young kids of today just don't want to work. They have no work ethic! Or The younger

    The above is a constant refrain heard today. You also often hear, “The young kids of today just don't want to work. They have no work ethic!” Or “The younger techs just want to get by. They don't want to pay their dues.”

    Generally, the person making these statements is a Baby Boomer. And the above statements are followed by something like: “Why, in my day, I worked 60 hours a week and never complained. Nowadays, kids have to be off work at exactly 5 o'clock. And, when did men start taking time off work for sick kids?”

    According to the latest census data, there are approximately 78 million baby boomers in the U.S. out of a total population of approximately 300 million. Baby Boomers are between 46 and 64 years old; 43% of the adult population and control 70% of the net worth of the U.S. We are a dominant force. (A dominant force that you should be directly marketing to, but that's another article.) And yes, I'm one of you.

    The “younger generation” (as we boomers call them) is also referred to as Generation Xers, and Millenials by socio-demographic experts. Generation Xers are between 30 and 45, and Millenials are in their 20's and late teens. Yes, Xers and Millenials do have a different work ethic, but it's not non-existent.

    The common phrase often used to describe the Baby Boomer work ethic is: We live to work. Boomers often define who we are by what we do for a living, how hard we work, how many hours we put in, and what we have accomplished in the world of work. We are the generation that created the 60-hr. work week. After all, the more hours we worked meant we were working harder and would accomplish more.

    Our children, the Xers and Millenials, watched and grew up in this environment of “work takes priority over everything.” The term “latch key kids” evolved because Generation Xers were the first generation to have their own key and come home to an empty house after school.

    As a result, the phrase often used to define the work ethic of Xers is: We work to live. Xers see work as a necessary means to living their real life, while boomers see work as being their real life. This is where the conflict begins.

    So what can Boomers, Xers, and Millenials do about it?

    Since Boomers are generally in charge in a contracting organization, let's start there. First, recognize what you have accomplished primarily because of long hours and hard work and be grateful that the next generations (many of them your children) may not have to put in the same long hours and make the same sacrifices that you did.

    Xers and Millenials need to be respectful and appreciative of the businesses that provide them a good living. It's the long hours and sacrifices of Boomer owners that created this place that provides a good living; therefore, give it your best effort and full attention until 5 o'clock.

    Boomer owners and managers need to offer incentives that appeal to Xers and Millenials. Incentives such as paid time off, movie tickets for two, tickets to the local amusement park for the family rather than dollar spiffs. Remember for Xers and Millenials, real life begins after 5 with their friends and families. Xers and Millenials need to be willing, without whining, to work overtime when required by the weather.

    One characteristic of Xers and Millenials that Boomers really don't understand is the need to constantly be connected and have instant access to information and communication through electronics. Xers grew up with joy sticks in their hands and Millenials don't remember a world without texting, Internet, and cell phones. Quite a different world perspective from us Boomers, who still remember being excited when we received our first Selectric typewriter.

    As a Boomer, remember the days of meeting at the coffee pot in the morning to exchange stories about last week's fishing trip or relive the highlights of last night's sports event on TV? We were socializing. We were building our relationships and ties to one another and the company we worked for.

    Xers and Millenials do the same thing, but electronically. So, as a Boomer, instead of resenting what appears to you as a waste of precious labor hours, focus on how to use it to help build the younger generation's ties and relationships with the company: electronic dispatching, text messages with reminders of the week's specials that technicians need to be educating customers about, a Facebook site that Xers and Millenials can refer their friends to, an electronic pat on the back for doing a good job. The ideas are endless.

    Generational issues are never a quick fix. The first step is to stop asking what's wrong, and start appreciating what's different!

    Vicki LaPlant has been working with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer and consultant. She is expert in helping people work better together for greater success. She is a ContractingBusiness.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by email at [email protected], or by phone at 903/786-6262.