Leading across the generations
In today’s workplaces, leaders may need to manage across as many as four generations of workers. The key to effective team management: Focus in on what employees have in common.
“While we may have been raised at different times, we still have a shared place to pull from because we want the same things in the workplace,” Wanda Ortwine, an executive at the Luck Cos. in Goochland, said during a leadership conference on Thursday.
There’s no generation gap, she says, when it comes to the desire for challenging projects, competitive compensation, advancement opportunities, fair treatment and a work/life balance.
Ortwine, who is chief family officer for the Luck Cos., led a workshop on leading across generations during the 2014 Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Richmond Leadership Summit held at the former Hotel John Marshall (now the Residences at the John Marshall) in Richmond. The event drew 133 women.
The Luck Cos., one of the country’s largest producers of crushed stone, is a family business that began in 1923. Today, two generations of the family work there while the company’s 180 employees include workers from four generations. Ortwine said they include traditionalists, ages 69 to 89; baby boomers, ages 50 to 68; generation X, ages 34 to 49; and generation Y — also known as millennials — ages 15 to 33.
Ortwine, who joined the company eight years ago, works with Luck family members on activities and business issues such as succession. She noted that by 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be millennials, or workers born between 1981 and 1999.
“The workforce will be changing dramatically,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are transitioning all the knowledge to the generation X and Y generations.”
One thing for business leaders to keep in mind that is worker values are influenced by events that shape their generations. During one exercise, people, grouped by age, were asked to, define the traits and stereotypes of their generations.
While boomers noted their strong work ethic — shaped in part by opportunities that came as a result of the women’s liberation movement — members of generation X described themselves as latchkey kids who tended to be independent and resourceful, while millenials noted their generation’s expertise with technology and social media.
“Each generation is responsible to help the next generation be successful,” Ortwine said. So while generation Y can teach boomers and older workers about technology, these experienced workers can mentor younger ones on many facets of business.