We often think the biggest difference in worker groups is between blue-collar and white-collar, but it’s not. It is between generations.
In the ever-changing times that we live in, the notion of “collar” employees may be a distant thing to younger generations. With the laid-back nature of so many companies, you don’t even have to wear a collared shirt. Historically, there were large divides between the economic and social classes between the two types of workers. The times have changed and the demand for highly skilled laborers coupled with lower paying white-collar jobs has begun to blur the lines between the classes.
So how do people know where they fall? How do younger managers know how to motivate their employees based on the kind of work that they do? And is there really a difference between the characteristics, specifically regarding managing and motivating, of white-collar (professional) and blue-collar (trade) employees?
SURPRISE!!! Just like the lines blurred for the classes, the lines are blurred for motivation. And they aren’t blurred because of the class. They are blurred because of generational differences. Depending on who your employees are and the era they were raised in, they are motivated by different things. If you have Baby Boomers, they are typically workaholics and view money, title, promotion, and mass recognition coupled with respect, as the best rewards. In contrast, your Gen X and Y (aka Millennials) thrive on having work-life balance and want freedom to have shorter work weeks or more vacation time to offset working the long hours they put in. You have those employees that want to personally make a difference (X’ers) and those that want to know the company they are working for is making a difference (Millennials). Money is a common motivator for all 3 major generations, but it must be balanced with other factors to be effective.
So what does this mean? Does this mean I just gave you the perfect blueprint and you should manage all your people purely based on their birth year? NOPE! These are just guidelines and trends that have been noticed. Take this information and do the best thing you can do as a manager…TALK TO YOUR PEOPLE! Find out what motivates them. Here’s an exercise to better understand your employees’ values. Give each employee a list of 5 things and have them rate them each in importance. Afterward, have an in-depth conversation about what their ranking means to them. With the ease of email, text messages, instant messages, and all other types of “non-personal personal” communication, we forget the importance of just talking to our people. It doesn’t matter if you manage blue-collar, white-collar, or no-collar employees. You are managing PEOPLE and the bottom line is that we all want to feel important. The key is to find out what their definition of feeling important is!