Shooting from the hip

Spas need to learn to manage generational differences in the workplace

22nd Aug 2018
Spas need to learn to manage generational differences in the workplace

One thing is for certain, the workforce is changing. The spa industry, like all others, is experiencing a new dynamic, as five distinct generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z) find themselves interacting together in the workplace.

Shaped by political events, the socio-economic climate and the technological advances of their formative years, each generation comes with different values, attitudes, strengths and weaknesses. And although the workplace has always reflected the different behaviours of previous generations, with each new generation we see innovative ideas, a fresh vision and a new energy.

Understanding each generation is the first step for successful management

Bringing these five generations together can provide a distinct positive advantage as each one shares their distinct knowledge, experience and skills. Reverse mentoring (a young employee teaching and mentoring an older employee, especially in tech-related issues) is common nowadays, and provides opportunity for the different generations to interact and appreciate each other.

As managers are now overseeing a truly multi-generational staff, they need to embrace their unique qualities and differences

But having a multi-generational workforce can also create a breeding ground for dysfunction, conflict and diminished productivity. Understanding each generation is the first step for successful management! Issues include communication breakdowns, favouritism towards one generation or different visions of what the workplace values should be. As managers are now overseeing a truly multi-generational staff, the need to understand and embrace their unique qualities and key differences has never before been so important.

Here’s what to consider when endeavouring to create a harmonious and productive work environment:

1. Hire the right staff and learn how to retain them

Spas should update existing job descriptions to reflect the current market demographic and revise hiring policies to meet the expectations of each generation. It is of utmost importance that company policies, salaries, work conditions and benefits accommodate employee differences. Across the generations, providing continuing education through quality training and development is key for staff retention.

2. Understand how your team members act, react and interact

Familiarising yourself with the personal, lifestyle and workplace characteristics of each generation will help you to better understand their actions and behaviour on the job. Equally important is getting to know your employees as individuals, all the while recognising each one’s ‘generational’ strengths and weaknesses.

3. Look at conflict from each generation’s point of view

Although any difference between the generations may be a source of conflict in the workplace, here are some common causes:

  • Differing views of work ethics
  • A demand for flexible work hours, conditions and rules
  • The desire for more family time
  • Requests to work remotely

Managers, regardless of their own generational characteristics, must not only listen to the other’s point of view, they must acknowledge it. Decision-making should be based purely on the facts and not on personal convictions.

4. Use common bonds to resolve conflict and bridge the generations

Align values throughout your spa by positioning it as one that appreciates and embraces diversity. Providing constructive feedback works well for all generations, so avoid ‘hot-button’ language, and personal attacks. Turn conflict into collaboration by identifying the problem and getting those involved working together to resolve it.

5. Communication is the rule

Managers should consider each generation’s communication preferences (text messages, social media, e-mail, telephone) to avoid confrontations and misunderstandings, and establish a means of communication that works for everyone. Utilising an approach that accommodates all five generations will create dialogue between staff, and encourage rich conversation filled with differing viewpoints and perspectives. Above all, practice active listening!


About the Author:

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed, has been working in the global wellness industry for more than 30 years. He owns Fitness Resources, an education and consultancy company specialising in training, career development, social media strategies and marketing solutions for health clubs, boutique studios and spas. Fred has spoken at over 200 conferences and he has appeared in more than 170 international publications and e-media.


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