Old School vs. New School: Managing a Multi-generational Workforce

Technicians

Today’s field service workforce is more multi-generational then ever before.  Baby boomers are retiring at a later age then in the past, and the younger generation is entering the workforce right out of school.  While this can be beneficial to companies, as employers have both experienced older professionals, as well as aspiring new employees who bring a different mindset and work style, it can also be difficult to bring them together in an efficient and acceptable way.  Each generation provides different values and skill-sets, and it is the duty of the employer to ensure they can all work together in harmony.

Old School vs. New School

  • Technology. Many older workers fear technology; they haven’t grown up with it, and may find it overwhelming. They are well practiced at traditional business skills, face-to-face communication, and a more formal way of operating.  Conversely, millennials embrace technology and believe it can help them learn new skills and make their jobs easier. Telecommuting, social networks, online demonstrations, and all things tech-savvy are what young employees thrive on and rely on to get the job done. 
  • Work ethic. Baby boomers tend to view their jobs as a means to an end: in exchange for showing up and getting their work done on a daily basis, they receive long-term security (salary, health insurance and 401k plans). Millennials, on the other hand, tend to view their jobs as stepping-stones on the path to a better job.
  • Values.Money is the most important benefit that older workers expect from their jobs, but for millennials, work-life balance is most important.
  • Learning. Baby boomers have deep knowledge and experience gained over many years; millennials are comfortable with app-based learning and are confident they can quickly become competent when taking on a new job.

Knowledge exchange vs. knowledge transfer

As many field service workers are getting older, companies are focusing on preventing the loss of knowledge in the workplace by ensuring that knowledge is passed down to younger workers. However, the transfer of knowledge should not be one directional. Instead, field service companies need to think about helping different generations of staff to exchange knowledge. For example, younger generations can share technical skills, while older generations pass on industry knowledge and overall wisdom about the workplace.

Since customers also come in all ages, it is important to remember both the older and younger employees bring important skills to the table and that each generation can learn a lot from one another.  Employers should inspire strong communications throughout the workforce and a company culture inclusive of all. Access to training and development, offering mentors to new employees, and organizing events that encourage teamwork are simple ways for organizations to bridge the generation gap. 

The Bottom Line

When there is generational conflict, it is usually due to managers and the team pitting “old school” vs. “new school” as a battle between right and wrong. Successful field service companies see “old school” and “new school” not as polar opposites but as diverse sources of knowledge, experience, and energy that — when embraced — can contribute to a richer and more productive work environment. An age diverse workforce comes with benefits that can be ground-breaking.  Embrace it and see how your business will thrive.

FIELDBOSS is an end-to-end field service solution built within Microsoft Dynamics 365. FIELDBOSS is a flexible and configurable platform that allows you to work the way you want to work, now and in the future. Our focus is to help you get the most out of your labour resources and deliver the information you and your staff need to run your business more efficiently, profitably, and with lower risk. Contact us for more information.

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