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United Fresh 2014: Each generation has own communication needs

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Retailers who know the best way to communicate with the multiple generations of employees will increase profitability and reduce turnover, said a speaker Wednesday at the United Fresh 2014 in Chicago.

“If you talk to everyone the same way, the message won’t resonate,” said speaker Jon Goldman, founder and CEO of Brand Launcher. “We think, ‘Oh, my father did it this way, so it will be OK.’ But it won’t be OK. The question is how you will adapt and change.”

Goldman was the speaker at a session called "Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce."

He said the two largest generations in the workforce are Baby Boomers at 81 million, and Gen Y with 86 million. Each generation looks at authority differently, and has distinctive wants and needs from an employer.

“Boomers want the boss to be a cop; Gen Y want a coach. If [Gen Y] don’t feel appreciated, they leave. This is the generation who got a trophy just for showing up for baseball,” he said.

Goldman said that 79% of Gen Y employees surveyed reported leaving jobs because they didn’t feel appreciated. However, companies who perform regular and individual acts of appreciation had a 600% increase in profitability.

Baby Boomers tend to stay on jobs, said Goldman, but Gen Y with its “need for speed” and are planning to leave. They also want to know if the values of a potential employer are in sync with their own. This is why it’s important for retailers to make their mission and values clear, and to use the Internet to relay that message, he said.


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“[And] if you’re interested in connecting with the younger generation, you had better be on social media,” said Goldman.

Creating a path for growth is another way to increase employee loyalty and decrease turnover, he said. He said that a 5% increase in employee loyalty increases profitability by 50%. Growth paths can include training for basic jobs, specific responsibilities and leadership training.

Regardless of the age of the worker, Goldman said that the most effective managers give up control to their employees, creating a leader-leader dynamic instead of a leader-follower.

“You want the manager to be invisible,” said Goldman. “It’s not what [employees] do in front of you that matters, it’s what they do behind your back.”

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Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Engagement Director / Fresh Market Editor at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined...

Jenna Telesca

Jenna Telesca is the Content Director of Supermarket News. She joined SN in 2010.
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