Working Generations, Young and Old

February 13, 2017 12 Comments

 

Allen F. Weitzel

Allen F. Weitzel

Business success requires workers of all ages and experience.  In this world of political correctness, technology and social media, getting different age groups of workers to mix and work well together is not easy.  Here are some procedures that can smooth out that process.

 

Starting Up

 

At my first park, each director interviewed their own new hires.  We were building and maintaining our teams.  We would be assigning the work and we needed our crews to jell to be effective.  We did not mistrust the HR Department, but we wanted control over the selection of workers that would impact the specifics of our departments.  We interviewed for good, cooperative workers and put less emphasis on age.  That message was critical to the hiring process.  The procedure paid off.   When the new hire saw that the department head was hand picking the staff, they understood they were a critical part of the team.

 

Retraining for Veterans

 

Unity should be the message during all training.  The trainers could be of varied ages, but all must be skilled and dedicated.  One practice I required was the retraining of all employees, including long term employees, every 24 months.  With new procedures, technology and employees constantly entering the operation, you must keep all employees up to speed.  All employees must hear the same message.  The company should also address basic cultural procedures that all employees should respect. Many generational and cultural issues can be handled in new employee orientation, procedure manuals and mandatory retraining.

 

 

Check Those Egos

 

Managers and supervisors must watch for and address situations where workers put their egos ahead of teamwork or begin to favor workers near their own age.   Do not let a young supervisor become elated by their title.  Do not allow veteran employees to become know-it-alls or parent figures to younger workers.  It is about the work, not about age.

 

I had a 22-year-old supervisor who was trained to oversee our merchandise department on my days off.  A 50-year-old female supervisor of our General Store felt she should oversee the whole department based on her age and longevity.  I met with both women together and separately.  I was clear about my decision.  My young supervisor was in charge of the entire department in my absence.  Privately, I told the supervisor to avoid micro-managing the General Store operation unless a serious problem arose.  Once the veteran realized that the younger supervisor was capable, harmony returned.

 

Different Languages

 

Clearly, the younger generations have their own language stemming from ‘internet talk.’  The company must be clear about where, how much and when such communication is permissible.

 

Another park I worked for required that when employees were around other employees and guests, only English would be spoken, but it was never enforced by management or HR.  Departments ended up with several different procedures and employee groups based upon the native language spoken.  This lead to rookie managers ignoring problems or not engaging in dialogue with all employees equally.  This poor communication was a contributing factor in two fall-from-height OSHA incidents that we experienced.  Managers allowed marginally trained employees to handle unfamiliar situations unsupervised.  One incident involved a senior employee and in the other case, the injured employee was a young staffer.  Luckily, both workers survived. Managers must get out of their office and make sure all employees and generations are communicating clearly.  All leadership levels must lead by example.  An old statement, but still true.

 

Age Pros and Cons

 

Learn the pros and cons of every age group in your employee roster and address what they bring to the table.  Younger workers bring excitement and energy to work.  They are normally more fit and can handle physical tasks with ease.  Older workers have work and life experience and can educate younger workers about the cause and effect results surrounding procedures. They can explain what could go right or wrong in many scenarios.  A mix of ages could also mean that employees may have different scheduling needs.  These needs could off-set each other or could become a headache.  Supervisors must be trained to understand how to manage the staff around these scheduling needs in an unbiased manner.

 

Taking Action

 

Do not be afraid to retrain or release unfit employees regardless of age. Do so promptly, as it can demoralize the other workers and erode your message of teamwork if you act slowly.  It is difficult to do when addressing a long term employee and you want to give them second chances to turn their attitude around.  Let them go gracefully, but do not prolong the action. Always confer with your HR Department before releasing any worker.

 

Never Ending

 

Clearly, generational communication responsibility falls upon leadership to make these interactions work.  Just as you must supervise employees to follow safe practices and company procedures, a range of ages in workers requires close supervision.  Understand that the task is a journey not a destination.  You will never reach complete harmony.  Constant training, equal retraining and reminders are the keys to success in making and mixing a well-oiled team, regardless of age or beliefs.  It is all about the on-going culture of the entire company, not merely problem solving one or two employee disputes.

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12 Comments to “Working Generations, Young and Old”
  1. Paul Warren says:

    Hello Mr. Weitzel.

    I have missed seeing your blog for some time. I am glad that you are back.
    Your comments, ideas, and suggestions are so refreshing. I think I was aware
    of many of your concepts, but I had never heard them codified in such a
    succinct and articulate manner. You provided me with some good reminders,
    and I shall put them into practice as we start our new season. Best wishes
    to you and the TAP team.

    Cordially, Paul Warren, Fun-Time

    • Thanks, Paul. I appreciate TAP’s commitment to continued education for the readers – providing insight on all sorts of topics. This is the time to rev-up and put new training topics into place. It always rewarding to see an operation or department begin to run smoother after updated training is offered. As our contributors pointed out, the ‘generations’ subject is an extremely important topic and it requires targeted attention. I am pleased that you appreciate our dedication to this management blog in an ongoing effort to provide our readers with an array of topics and procedures. Let us all enjoy the diversity that our crew of employees provides for our Guests, as well as helping our facilities run better. Have a great season. Allen

  2. Mike Hassel says:

    Thanks Allen, This Blog gives some good tips on cross-generational management. I like your example. This also gives some pointers on management in general and theme park management specifically. Retraining employees every 2 years seems like a great way to make sure everyone is playing by the same role book. It is so easy for habit to become rule.

    Mike,

    • Hi, Mike. Good to hear from you and your part of the country. Thanks for the kind words and support. I stumbled upon the ’24-month retraining’ idea when I was presenting our leadership-series classes. I needed to track who had or had not been trained on specific topics. I noticed that seasoned veterans slipped through the cracks as far as receiving info on new or current procedures. So we started the ‘retraining every 24 months program.’ We, then, did not have to drive ourselves crazy with excessive and superfluous class attendance record keeping. I appreciate you checking in and lending your support to our message. Best wishes, -Allen

  3. Brian Bareen says:

    Excellent overview! Love the reference to “….journey not a destination.”

    Good advice for most industries, not just the attractions/entertainment industry.

    Examples from the depth of your experience adds punch to your points.

    Thanks. I’m passing the link along….

    • Dear Brian. First, thanks for checking in and taking time from your hectic schedule to speak to our readers. No doubt you have ‘seen it all’ during your years in the business. Yep, it is a journey and often the management believes they can address work related issues with one memo or a single training class. In today’s world, management will many times send a ‘protect the company memo’ rather than a training-based message. Timely and professionally presented training always yields good results. In my years in the business, I can count on one hand the number of employees who did not appreciate receiving any and all new training. Thank you Brian, for passing our message along. Best, Allen

  4. Gary Ater says:

    This is a very timely article considering that we now have such a large source of Baby-Boomers at the same time that the world is up-side down from everything from social media to terrorist threats. The point is that all businesses need the experience of those that know what did and didn’t work in the past, and that from the younger generations that can navigate the internet, Twitter, Facebook and all the latest iPhone apps.

    Todays businesses need the experience of all working men and women of all ages, and ethnicities, and management must provide an environment and culture that allows all of these differences to work together for the business, not against it. As a retired Silicon Valley executive, the success of the companies where I worked was mainly due to having this open management attitude. I learned early on about this and I personally did move on from a company where the culture changed, due to the changes of the egos at the top that didn’t take this approach to management.

    • Dear Gary. Thank you for your note. With your vast business experience, it is nice to know that you echo the points we covered in this blog. You also reminded our readers that without support of leadership at all levels, the team cannot function, regardless of the make up of the staff. You always seem to have the pulse of business and relationships. Thanks for lending your voice to our message. Stay well. -Allen

  5. Mike says:

    Great article, thanks for the ongoing tips and advice.

    • Dear Mike. Thanks for taking the time from your schedule to weigh in on our blog. It is always great when an industry professional lends support to our effort to provide operational ideas to our readers. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Best, Allen

  6. Nathan Emmett says:

    Hello Allen,

    Thank you for sharing this great information. For managers, and supervisors that have been in the hospitality business for 20+ years focused communication requires more attention than ever. With the new language of “The Internet” (text, email, facebook, tweet, ect) you have to really make quality use of face to face engagement. Competing with those smart devices, when you need face time can be very challenging in our ever changing workplace.

    Thank you for all this information.

    Nathan

    • Thanks, Nathan. Good point on the practice of using face-to-face communication. Even before technology, memos were used to convey messages, often with only minimal success. So, with the advent of various technology tools, talking to your employees one-on-one is critical. Working face-to-face will minimize confusion when information is passed along. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and taking the time to contribute to our Blog. I appreciate your time and support to our readers. Best, Allen

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