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REVVING TOGETHER

There are four generations in the modern workforce—how do we please them all?!

Story by SARAH PERKINS

In the dynamic world of automotive repair, a unique blend of expertise, experience and energy converges as different generations come together under the same hood. With four generations—Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z— working together, the stereotypical image of the seasoned technician passing the wrench to a new wave of tech-savvy apprentices has evolved into a space with the potential for a multifaceted collaboration that can spark innovation and revitalize the industry in new and interesting ways.

According to Christie Hall, area manager of operations for CARSTAR Canada, creating generational harmony is a process of communication, collaboration and an understanding of cultural shifts. In a presentation made at the Saskatchewan Association of Auto Repairers (SAAR) 2023 Spring Conference, Hall spoke on integrating generations in the workplace by understanding key areas such as generational cultural influences and world views, communication styles, and employee expectations. Read below for some key takeaways.

“BABY BOOMERS” (1946 – 1965)

According to Hall, as a generation, Baby Boomers (employees born from 1946-1965) currently make up 19.7 percent of the Canadian work force and tend to be team-oriented, competitive and hard working. Shaped by changes in civil rights and geo-global politics, in a workspace, they are motivated by company loyalty, teamwork and a strong sense of duty. Baby Boomers are willing to make sacrifices for success, and when it comes to communication styles, members from this generation would prefer to receive workplace information over the phone and through face-to-face interactions. When it comes to employee expectations, Baby Boomers would prefer managers to offer specific goals and deadlines and would like to be put into mentor roles where they can exert their competitive spirit and team-oriented views.

GEN X (1966 – 1980)

Unlike Baby Boomers, Hall notes that Gen X (employees born from 1966 to 1980) are more flexible and independent, but also more curious and questioning. As a generation, Gen X makes up 29.5 percent of the Canadian workforce and is motivated by opportunities for diversity, a desire for a strong work life balance and they are more likely than Baby Boomers to put their personal interests over company interests. Shaped by the beginnings of the dot-com boom, Gen X prefers phone calls and face-to-face interactions, and is also typically quick to move on if an employer fails to meet their needs. As a result, preferred managing styles for Gen X include offering immediate feedback on performances, flexible work arrangements and access to financial services to assist in future retirement expectations.

GEN Y OR “MILLENNIAL” (1981 – 1996)

Generation Y, or Millennials (employees born from 1981 to 1996), make up the majority of the Canadian workforce at 33.2 percent. In Hall’s presentation, she outlines how Gen Y tends to be competitive, civic-oriented and open minded and also achievement oriented. Gen Y is motivated in the workforce by points of responsibility, having a quality manager, and getting to experience unique working opportunities. Shaped by the rise of the internet, Gen Y’s preferred communication style is instant messaging, text messages and emails, and their expectations from an employer include having managers get to know them personally. Other employer expectations include offering immediate feedback, flexible work and work assignment schedules, as well as career development programs.

GEN Z (1997 – 2012)

The youngest and most recent generation to enter the workforce, Gen Z makes up just 17.6 percent of Canadian employees and represents those born between 1997 to 2012. Having grown up totally immersed in the digital age, Gen Z tend to be social media minded and this means that they are often progressive, less focused, and entrepreneurial. As a generation, Gen Z is motivated by diversity and personalization, and unlike the other generations, they desire the most independence and individuality in the workplace. Gen Z typically prefers to work with Millennial managers and those who are innovative (regardless of age). The preferred communication style of Gen Z is instant messaging, text messages and social media messages, and Gen Z’s expectations of employers often involve employers allowing for an ability to self-direct tasks, offering opportunities to multitask, as well as assistance with student debt and opportunities for advancement.

As a result, despite these potential generational differences, knowing how to align employee personalities and workstyles in the workplace—and especially when it comes to collision repair—can help ensure that work goes smoothly. On this note, some suggestions for the auto shop include having your Gen Z apprentice work alongside the positive and knowledgeable Baby Boomer technician; assigning your achievement-oriented Gen Y as team lead to work with a Gen Z apprentice; or have a Gen X employee work with Gen Z as both like to think through problems and innovate solutions. While clashes may sometimes occur and differences in opinion may exist, maintaining an open communication style that recognizes value and diversity, and encourages teamwork, will ensure that, regardless of generation, knowledge and quality will continue to be the driving force propelling the automotive repair industry into an exciting era of both tradition and transformation combined.

ACCORDING TO CHRISTIE HALL, AN AREA MANAGER OF OPERATIONS FOR CARSTAR CANADA, CREATING GENERATIONAL HARMONY IS A PROCESS OF COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF CULTURAL SHIFTS.

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