How to Empower Multiple Generations to Thrive in Your Dealership

Jan. 28, 2022

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of WQP as "Hiring by the Ages"

About the author:

Kelly Thompson, CWS-VI, is president of Moti-Vitality LLC. Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or 810.560.2788.

I recognize that this article may end up making some HR professionals cringe. I am admittedly not going to focus on the legal aspects of taking a potential candidates’ age into consideration when adding a new member to your team, which would clearly be discrimination.

Those familiar with my company’s, Moti-Vitality, interview and hiring strategy know that we prefer to spend eight to 10 hours over the course of four interviews, which allows us to get a very thorough glimpse of character and potential successful integration into an organization. I know that does seem like a lot, but I would rather spend the time up front than bring someone in after one interview and pay them for a month only to find out things I wish I had known before I bought them business cards.

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The reality is that many of us unintentionally automatically judge people on their age, so I wanted to use this opportunity to toss out a couple of ideas to take into consideration when you find your self slipping down that road — even if only in your inner thoughts.

Let’s loosely define the generational categories that may be in our potential labor pool with some unscientific commentary attached. Also, please forgive the extremely broad brush stroke. There are a ton of exceptions to every observation made here.

1946 – 1964 | Baby Boomers | Age 57-75

These individuals grew up during the civil revolution, and they have lived through at least two recessions. When they started working, the “American Dream” was hammered into them — work hard and retire with stability and some security. They have already had a career that was in many cases ripped away from them by circumstances beyond their control. In fact, many of them were the ones conducting the interviews, which makes it all the more difficult and maybe even a little humiliating to be looking at a new career now.

While there are some Baby Boomers, of course, that are looking for part-time work to stave off boredom or to supplement retirement, others will be desperately wanting to add to their retirement security as quickly as possible. They have a solid work ethic and can generally work without a babysitter. Empower them. Show them the respect they believe they are due and find a place for them that does not add to their embarrassment of having to go to work every day instead of fishing or traveling. One other commonality I have noticed is that they often do not want the stress of a management position.

1964 – 1979 | Generation X | Age 42-57

Full disclosure, this is me. It took me wearing a tie to three interviews to land my first job at Long John Silvers in the mid 80s. Even $3 per hour jobs were hard to come by, which is why I also delivered newspapers in the wee hours of the morning. I would not have had the money to buy my own records or car if I had not.

Gen X individuals learned their work ethic early. They had to share what little extra their parents had to give with multiple siblings. They cut grass and shoveled snow for extra money they could call their own. More of them went to college than their Boomer parents, but they had to work their way through. They had fewer children than their parents, but many times those kids are living at home while finishing a degree or trying to save money. Gen X have a strong work ethic, but they also have a ton of financial responsibility. Do not be offended if you cannot afford them. It is not out of a sense of entitlement that they are asking for higher wages. If you can afford it, you may find a team member with a work ethic, maturity, leadership skills and years of employment ahead of them.

1979 – 1995 | Generation Y (Millennials, Young Professionals) | Age 26-42

If there is one group that has acquired a bad rap, it has been this one. The title “Millennial” brings to the mind of many a picture of an entitled moocher that expects to skip the entry level positions and move straight to the highest paid leadership positions. When these individuals were entering the workforce, Burger King was offering a $500 signing bonus and $15 or more per hour. They were allowed to go to work with pierced faces and tattoos prominently displayed. They are often only children and their parents helped pay for part, if not all, of their education. That is the stereotype, and it is really unfair to the young professionals that do not fit this description.

So let us put a few things in perspective. Some Gen Ys are grandparents now. They did go to school, and in some cases, their parents did assist them, but mostly because the parents wanted the kids to be able to concentrate on their studies and even more likely than that, because the cost of college has skyrocketed. Even the older individuals in this category are riddled with student loan debt. They come into the workforce asking for higher wages, not because they are entitled, but because they can not afford to take less. Are they worth the higher wages? You have to decide, but at this point most of them have been in the workforce long enough to gain maturity and leadership skills, and they are likely to be among the highest educated of your staff. In many cases, they are exactly who you will want to take your company into the future.

1995 – 2009 | Generation Z (Zoomers) | Age 12-25

This is the group that prompted me to write this article. I have been noticing a trend with the Gen Zs my clients have hired — my friends’ kids and my own Gen Z daughter that I am excited to watch develop. There are some confounding traits that I see. These individuals call in sick for “anxiety” more than I ever thought possible, and there is a definite reliance on meal delivery services and social networking sites like Snapchat, TikTok and others I am not aware of, I am sure (definitely not Facebook, though… that is apparently for old people).

I have also noticed a genuine desire to learn. Gen Z wants to earn leadership roles, and they appreciate appropriate wages. They are less likely to have attended a four-year college, and they see the value of beginning and recognizing a career. Many Zoomers grew up during the recession. They watched their parents lose the house or car or a job that they had for years. They watched older siblings have to move back home, and they have sworn that they were not going to let that happen to them. My suggestion is to hire as many of these energetic team members as you can and challenge them to grow and learn. Do not forget that they are new to the workforce and may need a substantial amount of guidance and accountability, not to mention sincere praise and encouragement, but I have seen several dealers across the country get far more production out of a young Gen Z than many of the other generational categories.

The bottom line is that you should make your hiring decisions based on the skills, experience and capabilities of the team member to perform. It is illegal to base your hiring decisions on age, but recognizing how to create a position that compliments the candidates history and experiences will go a long ways towards reducing turnover and increasing productivity and growth. I’d love to hear your observations on the issue. Shoot me an email to share.

*Editor’s Note: This is a perspective column and represents the opinion of the author.

About the Author

Kelly Thompson

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