Tips, ideas, information for the wholesaler on the go.

  • Don't try to change their value systems. Bob Losyk of Innovative Training Solutions Inc., speaking at this year's Central Wholesalers Association convention, says that Generation X workers, born between 1965 and 1980, have different value systems than their superiors because of how they were raised. And because of these value systems, they think about work differently than you do.

    Gen Xers typically live with their parents longer, have a negative view of the world, want to be "well-off," keep their options open, always question the boss, want freedom and challenging work, have difficulty talking about themselves in interviews, are not trained to give service, and can't handle difficult people and situations.

    "For the first time in this country's history, there are four generations in the workforce at the same time," Losyk says. "And the dynamics have changed. In the '70s and '80s, it was the old managing the young. Now we have some of the very young managing the very old. This can create conflict in the workplace."

  • Realize their experiences are different than yours. This generation doesn't know that Americans were held hostage in Iran, they've never feared nuclear war, the Vietnam War is ancient history to them, and their lifetime has always included AIDS. They've never had a record player or an eight-track player. They've always had cable, VCRs and computers. They look at the world differently than you do.

  • Act like a parent for the first few months, but don't baby them. Take them under your wing; make sure they have a buddy or a mentor to check in with them frequently. This generation is the first where both parents worked outside the home. Because they often were latchkey kids, they need to be taught responsibility and to accept the consequences of their actions, Losyk explains.

  • Meet with them often. After the first day, week, month and quarterly, sir down and talk with them. Do they like what they're doing? Do they have everything they need to perform their jobs? It is critical for managers to make sure the training was sufficient and that young workers understand their jobs, Losyk says. Otherwise, they will leave, or stay and continue doing their jobs incorrectly.

  • Get to know them individually. When managing people, the most difficult thing you'll ever have to do is to be fair and consistent with everybody, and yet treat each person as an individual, Losyk says. Try to be as flexible as you can. Balance the needs of your younger workers with the needs of your older workers. But remember: Give employees too much flexibility and you'll lose control of the situation.

  • Communicate specific standards, expectations, goals and responsibilities. If you have certain standards for dress or conduct, let potential workers know that. If you don't like body piercings or tattoos, tell them that at the interview process. Don't lower your standards just to hire a body.

  • Keep channels of communication open. Losyk says the No. 1 reason young people will leave your company concerns communication with their direct boss every day. "The way that they're greeted in the morning, the communication throughout the day, the way they're treated, the pat on the back or thank-you - all contribute to the communication process. Negative communication will push them out the door."

  • Become a good listener and show your support of difficult personal situations. Gen Xers are the most verbally, physically and sexually abused people we've ever had in this country, Losyk says. "You may feel like a psychiatrist sometimes, because there are a lot of problems out there. Many of these young people had little or no parental guidance. Sometimes we need to coach and counsel them, find out what's going on in their lives." If an employee is hurting inside about something, he isn't thinking about the work he has to do.

  • Ask for individual and group input and ideas. "In interviewing young people, they kept telling me, 'My boss thinks because I'm 18 (or 20, etc.), I don't have a brain. He never asks for my opinion,'" Losyk notes. "Remember, these people have grown up in a constantly changing world, a world totally different from yours; tap into that." Get your people involved; ask them for ideas.

  • Recognize and reward exceptional behaviors and excellence. It is critical to recognize employees for going above and beyond their particular job requirements. Rewarding and recognizing such behavior is one of the real keys to motivating young people, Losyk says. But reward them with something that is meaningful to them. Many times certificates, plaques or trophies are good, but ask them and make sure the reward is something they value.

  • Ask employees to identify barriers to performing. Ask your employees these questions: Do you need anything to do your job better? Is there anything preventing you from doing your job? What is the biggest de-motivator in our company? "If young people see that nothing is being done to remove barriers to job performance or eliminate de-motivators, they leave," Losyk states. "They know they're in demand in today's workplace, so they don't stick around long for things to change."

  • Establish a system to warn employees of nonperformance or negative behaviors. Start out with a warning, then move to probation, suspension and, finally, termination. Make sure you give them continuous feedback. "When giving negative feedback to young people, don't do it in front of their colleagues; most of this generation is sensitive to criticism and may leave because of it," Losyk says. "Be considerate; do your reprimanding in an office or private area. Let them know what they did wrong and how you want them to correct it."