Across the great divide: managing differences between generations – Special Report: NRA Wrap-up – National Restaurant Association seminar by Claire Raines

Across the great divide: managing differences between generations – Special Report: NRA Wrap-up – National Restaurant Association seminar by Claire Raines – Brief Article

Amy Zuber

Restaurateurs can make their operations run more smoothly if they have a better understanding of the ways in which differences among various generations affect today’s diverse workforce, according to Claire Raines, who is the author of four management books.

During a session at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show called “Generations at Work: Managing the Mix of Veterans, Boomers, Xers & Nexters in Your Workplace,” Raines shared her belief that “people resemble their times more than they resemble their parents.”

The generation in which a person was born affects everything about him or her, including tastes and work style, according to Raines. She asserted that restaurant owners would have an easier time overseeing their staffs with a better grasp of the differences among generations.

Raines described four personality types delineated by age: the World War II Generation, which includes people older than 61; the Baby Boom Generation, which includes people from the ages of 41 to 61; Generation X, which is people from 21 to 41 years old; and the Millennial Generation, which includes people 21 years and younger.

Those who are in the WWII Generation have a practical outlook and a dedicated work ethic, according to Raines. She said they are respectful of authority and believe in personal sacrifice.

In contrast, baby boomers are optimistic, driven and team-oriented. Often people from that generation have their self-images tied to doing a good job, Raines noted.

Generation X is known for having a skeptical outlook on life and for desiring a balance between work and personal time. People from that generation often are unimpressed with authority figures, so they don’t look up to their bosses or supervisors, Raines explained.

The youngest age group, recently dubbed the Millennial Generation, is ambitious, hopeful, relaxed, polite and collaborative. Raines said young people tend to enjoy working alongside their friends.

In managing the mix of generations, Raines suggested that restaurateurs initiate conversations with their staffs about these differences. She said it is important to ask people about their needs and preferences in terms of work styles.

For example, Raines said a worker from the WWII Generation most likely prefers a directive style of management, while a Generation X employee seeks more flexibility.

“To them leaders are just other human beings, so they don’t put their bosses on a pedestal,” Raines explained.

Generation X wants a more casual work environment with more fun on the job. They want leaders who are competent and genuine but who also will be direct and straightforward.

In contrast, Baby Boomers tend to prefer friendly managers who give recognition. Those workers tend to have a team-oriented vision, Raines asserted.

The WWII Generation wants a stable work environment with a leader who is logical, is fair and gives clear direction, she said.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the members of the Millennial Generation want a leader who will motivate them in a positive work environment. They tend to be flexible, achievement-oriented and collaborative.

Raines noted that some restaurateurs have reported success with recruiting groups of friends from the Millennial Generation. Because they enjoy working together, they tend to have better retention rates, she said.

During the session Raines had attendees discuss several related topics, including:

* If you were to characterize your organization as resembling one of the generations, which would it be? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Does it need change? If so, how might that be accomplished?

* What can you do to facilitate better working relationships between the generations in your organizations?

* In your organization which generation or generations would you suppose feels least understood or valued? What is the cost of that feeling? How might the situation be improved?

COPYRIGHT 2002 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group