Des Moines business leaders with a range of experience levels on Wednesday offered advice on negotiating the sometimes touchy issue of generational differences among employees.


The Business Record held its latest Power Breakfast, "The Growing Generational Frustration: how to recognize, manage and incorporate its lessons into your workforce succession plan" at the Des Moines Club.


The session opened with a tongue-in-cheek video. Watch it here.


Panelists: Deborah Rinner Godwin, vice president of Tero International, Inc.; Steve Chapman, president and CEO of Ruan Transportation Management Systems; Marci Chickering, vice president of Wellmark Inc.; Jonathan Brendemuehl, corporate communications manager, Bankers Trust Co.; and Susan Hatten, senior consultant for strategic partnerships, Holmes Murphy and Associates offered the following suggestions: 

  • Every generation has unique traits. Manage to them.

  • Some of the best ideas come from the newest employees, but some veterans will resistthem.

  • Everyone wants to contribute. Don't focus on the age or experience level of employees.

  • Help employees identify a career path at the company and the skills needed to succeed.

  • Employees should look for ways to contribute to company success outside their base role. "Do the job, get the job.".

  • Develop a succession plan without regard to the age of candidates for promotion.

  • Have meaningful conversations about goals frequently, not just at performance review time.

  • Seek and give feedback. Regularly. A lack of feedback makes employees wonder about their future with the company.

  • Recognize that there is no single path to success.

  • See "climbing the ladder" more as "climbing the lattice."

  • Look for ways to improve retention. Don't focus just on a physically nice workplace; spend one-on-one time with employees.

  • Give employees the flexibility to serve on local boards.

  • You've heard "lead, follow or get out of the way." Actually, you should "lead AND get out of the way."

  • Walk through the office. Look for signs of employees under stress. Ask about potential problems to be addressed.

  • Show openness and genuine concern.

  • Clarify expectations.

  • Promote trust and communication.

  • Encourage self-awareness and accountability.

  • Make sure the whole staff benefits from initiatives, not just company managers.

  • Communicate successes.

Want more resources on the topic?

  • The Millennial Mind: An inside look at what makes millennials tick.  Check out a video roundtable the Business Record conducted earlier this year. Read more
  • Tim Urban writes on Huffington Post about why Generation Y yuppies are unhappy: Read more
  • A millennial's response to a boomer's letter: Read more