Right now is the first time in United States history that four generations of people have collaborated in the same workforce.
Those four generations were the focal point of Suzanne Johnston’s speech during the Supervisory Skills Enhancement seminar held Wednesday afternoon at Allied Health Center on the Southwestern Community College campus.
Johnston — employee relations supervisor at Bunn-O-Matic and keynote speaker for the seminar — illustrated the current diversity in the workforce kicking off the seminar with a game of “Name that Sitcom Theme Song.”
“Oh, how things have changed,” Johnston said. “Think about going from ‘The Waltons’ to ‘Jersey Shore.’ These sitcoms illustrate the drastic change and magnitude of change we’ve seen in our society over the decades.”
Johnston’s speech — entitled “Multiple Generations in the Workplace” — identified the four generations of people in the workplace including the Traditionalists (born 1922-44), Baby Boomers (1945-64), Generation X (1965-80) and Generation Y (1981-2000).
Johnston delved into the attitudes, behaviors, expectations and the things that motivate each generation. She suggested current and prospective leaders first understand their own generation and then begin research on the traits of other generations.
“Keep in mind we all vary in our experiences, but by research we have been able to identify specific traits for each generation,” Johnston said.
Johnson said research shows Traditionalists are loyal, hardworking and Generation Y respects them most.
Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are driven, love challenges, team players, slightly judgemental and sometimes put process ahead of results (Note: 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring everyday for the next 16 years.)
Research shows Generation X is independent, resourceful, don’t like to be micromanaged, must respect who they are working for, impatient and skeptical.
And, Generation Y is technology savvy, want time off, want fun in the workplace, sociable, confident, fast thinking, sometimes wasteful, need supervision and don’t like monotony.
Greg Stravers — vice president of human resources at Precision Pully & Idler in Pella — was the second speaker at the seminar.
In his speech entitled “Nuts and Bolts of Being a Supervisor,” he told the more than 50 people in attendance that leaders must understand they are always being watched by employees.
“You’re always on stage,” Stravers said. “Your employees are watching you, and the way you do things and the way you say them send signals to your employees. Those signals will affect their performance positively or negatively.”
Stravers advised leaders to know your job because “phonies will be spotted.” He added, also, don’t be afraid to show that no task is beneath you as Generation X and Y will respond favorably as they follow out of desire — not fear.
Stravers also covered leadership styles, conflict resolution and active listening necessary to become a good leader.
Jill Jensen-Welch — attorney at Dickinson Mackaman Tyler & Hagen in Des Moines — was the third speaker. Her speech — entitled “First Aid: Supervisor Training on Handling Workplace Complaints” detailed how leaders should deal with complaints.
“The most important thing is prompt and effective action,” Jensen-Welch said.
Her speech also covered decision-making, discipline and the importance of a follow-up interview to make sure the conflict is truly resolved.
The seminar was sponsored by Southwestern Iowa Chapter, Society for Human Resource Management, Employers Council of Iowa, Southwestern Community College and Iowa Works.