For the first time in history, five generations are working side by side in today’s distribution centers. Whether this multi-generational workplace works – or doesn’t – is, in a large part, up to your managers and how they relate to employees of different age groups.
The first step to ensuring success is to study the demographics of your current and future workforce. Each generation will have different expectations, communication styles, and perspectives. A general understanding of the generations will provide insight into what your employees want out of their jobs, how they like to be coached, and what motivates them.
The 5 Generations in your DC
The following is a list of the generations that might be present in your DC and a summary of their working styles. Note, the dates used to define each generation are not hard and fast. Some of your employees’ experience may align with a preceding or succeeding generation.
- Generation Z (1997–2012)
Generation Z employees are all about collaboration; they thrive in an environment that allows them to interact with a tech-based project alongside their team members. As a generation that was educated in a more tech-focused space, Gen Zers care deeply about comprehensive training in the workplace, and they look for instruction that will help them advance in the workplace and adapt to evolving technologies and company infrastructure. They’re proactive, which means they also look for ways they can use the knowledge they’re gaining today to help them down the line should their job cease to exist tomorrow.
- Millennials (1981–1996)
Millennials prefer to work in teams and to make ample use of technology. They are lively, well-educated, tech-savvy, confident, and have the capacity to multitask. They set high expectations for themselves, are adamant about achieving work life balance, and are committed to doing work that allows them to be civically engaged, so that they may give back to their communities. Millennials require feedback on their performance on a regular basis, and that feedback must be clear and specific to be effective.
- Generation Xers (1965–1980)
Gen Xers are independent, adaptable, highly collaborative, open to feedback, calm and collected. Because of their independence and adaptability, they tend to overcome challenges and learn new technologies without looking for outside help. They have a “work hard, play hard mentality,” which means they work well in a flexible, informal, and even a high-stress environment. They were at the forefront of the switch from analog to digital technology, which means they learned how to be resilient and how to tackle challenges head-on.
- Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
Baby boomers are confident, hardworking, goal-oriented, independent, and competitive. They are motivated by position, perks, and even prestige. This generation defines itself by their professional accomplishments and may even criticize younger generations for a lack of work ethic and commitment to the workplace. They are known for questioning established authority systems and challenging the status quo. Baby Boomers have a hard time adjusting to workplace flexibility trends and believe “in-person” interactions at the office are a necessity.
- Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945)
The silent generation, also known as traditionalists, are loyal, hardworking, willful, and dedicated. They respect authority, and believe that you earn your way through hard work. They usually hold positions as partners, managers, and senior support staff, though some might sign on as part-time administrative staff to keep busy after retirement. They have a strong work ethic because they grew up during tough times, including the Great Depression and World War II. To the Silent Generation, work is a privilege, and they believe promotions should be the result of tenure and proven productivity.
Strategies to Manage Individual Team Members
With an understanding of your workforce demographics in hand, you can now begin to develop strategies to manage the 5 Generations in your DC. A Labor Management System (LMS) can play a key role in helping you develop and execute those strategies.
Comprehensive training in the workplace
For the generation seeking comprehensive training in the workplace (Generation Z) an LMS enables this by automatically identifying individuals in need of assistance and scheduling training interactions as required.
Performance feedback on a regular basis
For the generation seeking performance feedback on a regular basis (Millennials) an LMS enables you to create scheduled coaching engagements. This results in more consistent interactions that show associates that you care about them and their contribution to the company.
Work hard, play hard
A generation with a “work hard, play hard mentality” (Generation Xers) will get easily burned out by too much overtime. An LMS can help you avoid alienating this demographic by enabling you to accurately model and plan labor.
Goal-oriented, independent, and competitive
For the confident, hardworking, goal-oriented, independent, and competitive generation (Baby Boomers), an LMS supports the use of Production Boards on the floor which provide critical operational metrics and recognition messaging throughout the day. This is a great way to recognize high achievers and create some friendly competition at the department level.
For the generation that believes in hard work and feels promotions and incentives should be the result of proven productivity (Silent Generation), an LMS can help you build a self-funding incentive program that rewards associates for operating above the minimum expected performance level.
The supply chain industry continues to experience extreme difficulties in finding and hiring enough staff to satisfy its business needs. This is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Today, it’s just as important to have a well thought out hiring strategy, as it is to have a well thought out retention strategy. The more we can improve on our retention rate, the less we will need to recruit. Understanding the beliefs and tendencies of the different generations in your operation is a foundational element of improving relationships with your workforce and ultimately improving your retention. To learn more about identifying and managing employee retention issues, get your copy of 2021: The Year of the Labor Management System or contact us.