Talking about growing pains, how’s your experience dealing with multiple generations in the workplace? We have Gen X, Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z who recently joined the workforce. Don’t strike out the boomers just yet; many seniors are still holding fort in several businesses out there. What important differences exist between these generations, and what do these mean for employers? Do different generations need to be treated differently? And if they do, how?

Of course, some suggest that there aren’t any real differences, and that today’s Gen Y will slowly become the older generation over the next 30 or 40 years. Yet it’s not really easy to predict what the workplace of the future will be like.

Furthermore, the foodservice industry is changing and ever challenging. As of 2020, millennials now comprise 40 percent of the total working population in the country. As consumers, they are changing the food industry. One of the key differences is that out of the three age groups, millennials are the most likely to purchase prepared meals, regardless of eating place, instead of preparing meals at home. As this habit grows, technologies like mobile ordering and delivery apps will play a key role to make eating more convenient for millennials. More restaurants and fast casual chains are offering delivery and making their to-go menu options more accessible.

More grocery stores are now offering prepared meals or improving their existing options. These developments—the fast-changing technology that claims to be able to do whatever we need, people’s ever-increasing environmental conscientiousness and the ceaseless march of new regulatory requirements—keep the ground shifting for the industry. And the internal requirements are becoming more oriented towards people skills (culture, retention, engagement, talent management), which makes the employer’s job more challenging.

What important differences exist between these generations, and what do these mean for employers? Do different generations need to be treated differently? And if they do, how?

Enter my regular column called the ABC’s of the Gen XYZ. My goal is to provide current, practical advice for entrepreneurs, business owners and just about any reader trying to keep up with the times. These articles will spill the tea on the XYZs, providing you with tips about dealing with all generations, especially about millennials who are now occupying key roles in your company, and also about Gen Z (born in 1995 and later) who just entered the workforce in droves over the last five years. I aim to address issues employers have with these digital generations on behavior, needs and desires they seem to often exhibit and perhaps even interview business owners to share their approaches and success models.

As a consultant and corporate educator, I specialize in people and organizational development. I have served organizations in various industries both local and international for more than two decades now. Some of my clients are from the foodservice industry. My team has partnered with other groups to conduct studies that sought to understand Filipino buyers and digital generations. I glean from my experiences and these studies to help my clients in dealing with people in their workplace.

Remember that today’s boomers and X generation grew up without computers, answering machines or smartphones. So the presence and frequent use of digital technology may be the key factor affecting behavioral differences. In her presentation at a past Brand Boot Camp, which we partnered on, Pauline Fermin of Acumen used this digital reference to describe each generation: Gen Z are the digital mavens who not only navigate but also create and innovate in the digital world; Gen Y are the digital natives who breathe the internet. These two digital generations will die if there’s no wi-fi connection. Gen X are the digital immigrants: they managed to adapt to the internet generation. Lastly, the boomers are the digital tourists because they need guides to maneuver around the web, on any platform, or use any gadget.

While technological and cultural developments have surely given rise to certain distinct generational characteristics, I carefully remind my clients that it’s a mistake to judge employees by their generations alone. Generation is only one factor affecting an individual. Other factors, such as family background and personal experiences, interests, aspirations, abilities, and personality traits may be equally or even more important.

I carefully remind my clients that it’s a mistake to judge employees by their generations alone. Generation is only one factor affecting an individual.

Furthermore, the line between one generation and the next is not crystal clear. Generations are approximations. People born at the end of one generation may have more in common with the next generation than with their own.

It’s important to be careful not to pigeon-hole employees because of their generation. Generational diversity is only one of many factors you need to consider when supervising employees.

The generational stereotypes are just that—stereotypes—and there are outliers of all ages at work these days, from highly tech-savvy boomers to luddite millennials. But there’s no question that managing and motivating multiple generations at work is a challenge for even the most experienced business leaders or HR professionals.

Your millennial workers, far from being the new kids on the block, are now moving into leadership positions in your organization, or they’re trying to anyway. There’s no room for them to advance when large numbers of boomers are still working past traditional retirement age. You may even have some silvers (born before 1945) still on the payroll. The boomers may cause challenges both when they retire and when they don’t retire.

Meanwhile, your Gen Xers are caught in between. Many of the older members of this generation are starting to think about winding down work-wise, while younger members are sandwiched in between the stress of simultaneously caring for their children and their parents.

Through this column, you’ll learn a little more about what makes each of these generations tick, what to do when generational goals and characteristics collide, and how to get them to work together. We’ll talk about how to keep your high potential employees engaged and advancing when they run up against the “gray ceiling,” and how to create a succession plan that works. You’ll also learn how to speak to each group effectively and how to design a compensation and benefits package that is appealing across the board. I intend to eliminate some of the haze and clutter, and point readers in reasonable directions as they seek the strategies that will carry their organizations—and them—to success.

At the end of the day, these growing pains might prove to be an exciting learning curve for employers to know how to help each employee succeed—no matter what generation they are from. We all have to learn the overarching things that all employees need at work in order to thrive.

Boris Joaquin is a corporate trainer, executive coach and consultant. He is the founder of Project Purpose Philippines, co-founder of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy, which carries Salt and Light Ventures, and is an Investors in People specialist. Boris is married to Michelle Ocampo-Joaquin and has two daughters Ysobel and Julia.

For questions, you may e-mail borisjoaquin@gmail.com and fnbreport@hinge.ph

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