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March 14-18, 2023

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The Secret to Effectively Managing People from 4 Different Generations



Never before have four generations occupied the same shifting workplace. Between an over-crowding and over-saturation of markets and exponentially increasing technology, the American workforce finds itself at odds with each other.

Owners and managers are forced to make decisions about office flow and dynamics without precedent or guidelines, resulting in a lack of cohesion between previous generations and millennials. With Generation Z on the horizon, the need for strategies to fuse opposing age groups into a functioning team is greater than ever.

Enter Jim Schug, engagement manager at FMI, whose presentation at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 highlights the problem companies face and offers creative solutions for mending the rifts now showing in modern workforces.

The Source of the Problem

The attitudes and perspectives of the different generations come from millions of different sources, but a large and easily stratified source is historical events. Baby boomers, for example, come from the Silent, WWII Generation, which created a culture of pride in work. For these employees, motivation, by and large, comes from duty and respect for the work.

Millennials, on the other hand, were raised just after the credit boom of the 80s and lived through the housing market collapse.  Financial security motivates millennials far more than previous generations, making raises and bonuses more important. Though these generalizations don’t always prove true, they can provide useful context when discovering how to manage and motivate different employees.

Perception plays a large role in these generational office dynamics: how one employee thinks about millennials impacts that employee’s office behavior far more than any real interactions they’ve had with millennials. As Schug shows, millennials perceives themselves far differently than others perceive them. For example, millennials tend to describe themselves as loyal and people-savvy, while the average HR professional describes them as disloyal and tech-savvy. As standards change between generations, precise and continuous communication is the only remedy for equalizing such different expectations.

Solutions for All Scenarios

Solutions for the situation come in a variety of packages. Companies often organize team-building exercises and implement cross-gender or cross-generational training to help heal the divide. Schug recommends learning about coaching styles and how to apply them in different scenarios to suit different needs. Baby boomers may respond better to authoritarian style, while millennials could resonate more with a pacemaker style. Schug himself recommends focusing on the coaching style, which stresses long-term, invested work with each employee, attempting to bring out their best quality through practice and support. The real key, however, is to remain flexible and ready to switch styles to suit different employees.

This leads to utilizing each generation for their strengths, as opposed to applying blanket requirements across 60 years of difference. By understanding that baby boomers do better with unbroken, concentrated desk work, for example, while millennials tend to do better with social media managing and project collaboration, managers can maximize an office’s output.

Tips and Tricks for Mixing Generations

With the severity and commonality of this problem, many different ideas exist on how to foster a healthy mixing of the generations and their viewpoints. WSJ recommends the following:

  • Offering additional training for managers on generational differences
  • Promoting mentorships, allowing older generations to help shape younger ones
  • Opening up office procedures to allow the free flow of information to all employees
  • Using positive reinforcement to clarify what is and isn’t expected of employees
  • Offer all employees the ability to give feedback and share opinions

Although these might sound obvious or easy, their successful implementation can offer serious challenges to business in more generationally fragmented industries. Solutions can take serious effort and time to yield results, meaning they must be pushed with intent and commitment.

Just Treat Them Like People

The heart of the issue is this: adjusting managerial style by person for better results. More important than age group or generational labels, becoming familiar with all employees on a personal level provides the best path to successful managing. What makes each employee tick, what drives them to come into the office every day may not be obvious at first, and only through time and genuine effort can the path to their motivation be truly discovered.

The generations tend to all operate a little differently and there are possible steps to remedy that; but at the end of the day, no healing or cohesion will occur with each employee being seen and valued as the human being they are.

Want More Information?

CONEXPO-CON/AGG’s comprehensive Education Program is the leading source for contractors, business owners, construction material producers and end users to obtain cutting-edge information for today’s challenging economy and business model.

For those unable to attend the education sessions or who would like a copy of what was presented, recordings are available for purchase on a USB drive. There are over 130-plus unique sessions from all 10 education tracks: Aggregates, Asphalt, Concrete, Earthmoving & Site Development, Cranes, Rigging & Aerial Lift, Safety & Regulation, Technology, Equipment Management & Maintenance, Management: Business Best Practices and Management: Workforce Development.

For more information and to purchase education program recordings, visit

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