MIND THE GAP – Why You Must Focus on Generational Gaps
Christie McAdams January 31, 2020

When was the last time you heard someone in your business say “Millennials, they just don’t know how to communicate”?  Or, “the young generation are just lazy, they don’t have a winning mentality”?  When was the last time you said something like that?  Is it really a condition of the younger generations to appear lazy and lacklustre, or are we guilty of not engaging with them in a way that they understand and that keeps them engaged?  And most importantly, why should you care?

Dealerships today are on the cusp of a serious transition and face a new and totally unique challenge.  For the first time Dealers staff consists of people spanning four very different generations, from 70-year-old Baby Boomers to 18-year-old Generation Z’s.  And while Dealers have always employed people with large age gaps, these generations are so very different from one another that employing them under one roof is proving a challenge right across our industry.  They have different interests, different hobbies, different languages and very different outlooks and expectations, that are much wider apart than their simple ages would suggest.

When you look at the generational divide and try to work out why you should really care about it, keep in mind these additional facts; today our industry has a staff turnover rate of 46%* (almost 70% for sales people), and that by 2025, Millennials and Generation Z’s will make up 75% of your workforce!  So, if you can’t keep Millennials and Generation Z’s at your business today, who is going to sell cars from your showroom or turn a wrench in your workshops in 5 years time?

However, it’s not time to despair quite yet as where we have challenges, we also have great opportunities!

According to the *2019 Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing Study, “a whopping 32% of Gen Z and 36% of Young Millennials are interested in working for a dealership. That figure is even higher when including roles outside of sales. This surge in interest in working at a dealership surpasses previous generations by leaps and bounds.”  But, remember, we are an industry with employment protocols that suit the Baby Boomer and not the younger Millennials and Generations Z’s, so we need to adapt to the needs of these younger generations to keep their interest high and keep them at your stores.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of the generations, you should recognize all of these people in your business today.

BABY BOOMERS (1946 – 1964)

Being born in a crowded generation, the baby boomers had to compete and work hard to succeed. Long work hours and evenings or weekend shifts didn’t scare them if it meant reaching high positions and status. They appreciate hierarchical structures, authority and tradition and deem the next generations should also pay their dues.

GENERATION X (1965 – 1976)

The later born Generation X grew up mostly in two-income-earning families and in an era with a high divorce rate. This made them extremely independently motivated, self-reliant, skeptical and unimpressed with authority. They initiated the trends of diversity and leveraging technology in the workplace which the Millennials and now Gen Z are taking to a whole other level.

MILLENNIALS (1977 – 1995)

Also known as the Internet generation, Millennials are defined by the rise of computer technologies and innovations, they always strive to find efficiencies and love multi-tasking. They focus on life outside of work and have created the conversation of “work-life-balance”. Also, as they were raised in supportive environments where parents valued their self-expression, they became confident individuals who don’t always adhere well to hierarchy organizations.

GENERATION Z (1996 to Present)

Millennials’ attributes are even more prominent in the youngest Generation Z who grew up with the instant gratification offered by connected technologies and social media. Now joining the workforce, they challenge the traditional “top-down” structure and demand even more flexible work arrangements, diversity, competitive compensations and efficient tools and technology to complete their work.

Contrary to previous generations who valued long-term loyalty to their employer and hierarchal systems, these four generations are increasingly more devoted to their personal careers first, rather than their employer.

So, what should you be doing now to ensure you can make the most of this desire to work in our industry?  Here are our suggestions:

  1. Invest in smart technologies and tools

Definite leaps have been made by dealers to respond to the younger generations needs for smart technologies.  From integrated consumer credit applications to innovative alerting technologies bridging communications gaps across departments, we see dealers investing in tools to satisfy those needs. As technologies develop, it is important for dealers to continually integrate new, simple and intuitive systems for employees to perform their tasks efficiently.

  1. Listen and value employees

The “listen and obey” mentality is definitely a thing of the past.  Younger generations need to feel heard and valued.  They need to feel in charge of their own path.  Offering career growth potential and diverse responsibilities is key to keep employees engaged.  Allowing them to constantly develop new skills, accommodating schedule requests and offering flexible work arrangements will also be sure to give them great purpose and motivation.

  1. Welcome diversity and inclusion

The younger generations are constantly witnessing many global equality social movements and activism. Mirroring these values in your approach will instill great relationships among your team.  Also, hiring personnel to best represent your customer-base will be sure to bring quality to the services you offer.

  1. Offer competitive salaries and benefit plans

Younger generations value a stable and secure job to achieve financial stability.  Recent surveys have found that many employees are steering away from commission-based employment and opting for stable incomes instead which is much more appealing to young Millennials and Generations Z’s.  Working nights and weekends may not be problematic with these career-focused generations if higher salaries and benefits go along with it.  So, reviewing your compensation plan may help retain your qualified talent.

It is important to understand the different strengths and values of each generation so leaders can best put them to use and bring synergies to their teams.  Leaders cannot ignore the disconnect between these generations and force their traditional values and beliefs onto younger generations.  This would be a disaster and Dealers that try this are destined to fail.  By focusing on values such as Communication, Collaboration, Connection and Empathy, it will help keep employee conflicts and turnover to a minimum and productivity at a maximum, in order to offer your clientele the best possible service.

Christie McAdams, President, Right Fit Plus

For more details about RightFit Plus, please visit RightFitPlus.com

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