14 Jan Closing the Generational Gap at Associations
As the newer generations get older and make their way into a more concrete place in our job market, they bring new work ethic, technology, and methods of getting things done. Streamlining processes and working smarter, not harder, is the goal of the younger generations.
The main characteristic differences between the last four generations – Baby Boomers (the oldest generation still in the workforce), Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z (the youngest generation in the workforce) become apparent when you compare several different categories. Community Associations Institute did a study on these differences and concluded the following:
Baby Boomers are optimistic, have a strong work ethic, and are very team oriented. They like to build a single career and remain with one company for the entirety of their career, prefer no negative feedback, and prefer to work in the office only for face-to-face interactions.
Generation X are also optimistic; however they are more goal-oriented, better multi-taskers, and prefer a more transferable career where they remain at a company for a long time but make a switch to, at most, one other company throughout their career for a more diverse portfolio. They prefer working in the office and value face-to-face interactions, however are more open-minded to the concept of working from home every once in a while.
Next are Millennials, the most abundant generation making up the workforce at the present time next to Generation X, since most Baby Boomers are retiring (or preparing to). Millennial workers have been coined as the most progressive and bold generation, as this is the group that has made the most changes to software, systems, operations, etc. to run businesses. They are the first generation to be the most sociable, value morality and diversity, and are the first generation to be extremely technologically literate. Unlike the previous generations, Millennials have changed the narrative of staying with one company throughout their entire lives and value the opportunity to change companies multiple times throughout their career in order to gain more knowledge, insight, and expand their skill set. This generation prefers a split between office interactions and at-home time, leaning more towards home-office life to have a healthier work-life balance.
Last, Generation Z, the youngest generation to recently have entered the workforce only a few years ago, are making waves and following in Millennials’ footsteps to create more change for the better, striving for more diversity in the workplace, and have a strong desire to grow and learn through multiple job positions throughout their career. Also much like their previous generation, Generation Z values the work-life balance and is even more strongly inclined to desire a work-from-home employment opportunity with the option to go into a physical office.
These differences in values are quickly changing the way we work, and are creating new norms for associations, too. While those who work onsite at associations cannot work from home, many of the processes and ways of operating a community, no matter its size, have drastically evolved into the hands-on, technologically advanced methods we know today. Homeowners Associations have always been a people-first business, and that won’t change anytime soon. But the differences between team members based on their work ethic or methods can bring up potential issues such as with communication, work-life balances, or even power struggles. Avoiding issues such as these will create a more inclusive, healthy, and productive workspace at your community and will create a better association for your residents.
Here are a few ways to help bridge that generational gap between employees and keep your workplace standardized:
Create standardized goals. All associations have lots of people who have different roles and keep operations running smoothly. Set up standardized goals that all team members can work toward, together. Make it known that these goals are not set up to create competition among team members, and instead to help each other grow for the betterment of the community that each resident has decided to call their home. Set up goals like improving communication (have a bulletin board or dry-erase board in the break room for announcements or common questions), improving meeting effectiveness (use agendas, recordings, etc. to ensure meetings are as effective as possible), or something measurable, like getting 10 positive feedback notes from residents in one month.
Have team members take classes often. Some HOA management companies, such as Worth Ross Management Company for example, offer educational stipends for their team members to take classes and further their knowledge in their field of choice. As a General Manager, encourage your team to take classes – or organize them yourself – that help their skillset in something that is used onsite every day, such as your onsite software for example, to make sure everyone stays up-to-speed and no one is left behind. WRMC also offers a dedicated training department for this very reason; multiple courses are provided each month on common HOA issues and how to navigate them, common HOA practices, and work methods onsite. Ensuring each team member – regardless of age or background – stays on the same page is essential to keeping business running as smooth as possible.
Create a space for different communication styles. Keep in mind the difference in knowledge of technology and how quickly different generations adapt to newer forms of communication. Set up a maximum of two forms of communication to relay important messages and announcements to your team, but also for your team to communicate throughout the workday as well. For example, everyone uses email; have you thought about adding a different software for onsite employee communication? Some offices use Microsoft Teams, however there may be other programs specifically designed for HOA teams to effectively communicate. Alternatively, you can use something as simple as a bulletin board or dry erase board in the break room for easy message-posting or comments to other team members in a quick, user-friendly way.
Encourage flexibility. Each generation that exists in the workplace will have very different goals and priorities. Generation Z employees might be fresh out of school, looking to prove themselves in the workplace, and gain valuable experience for the beginning of their career. Millennials may be searching for new social opportunities and looking to network for their next big move within their career. Generation X is most likely trying to remain in a stable place in their career, and most likely has childcare or school obligations, while Baby Boomers are in the final stages of their career and are in the beginning phase of looking towards retirement. Team members will not all have the same relationship to their job – as a manager, help them to be as productive as possible and provide them with the flexibility and mentorship that you know will help them, and ultimately the association, to succeed. Happier team members mean a better performing community, ultimately translating to satisfied homeowners.
Successful communities and offices have a healthy mix of motivational and situational elements to keep multiple generations engaged, happy, and productive. You’ll come to find that prioritizing your team members will have a much better impact on the association in the long run and will allow them to function as one unit instead of separate groups based on age or experience. Encourage your employees to get to know one another and learn each other’s backgrounds – it might just be the defining act that gives your association the competitive edge you were looking for!