Webinar Wrap-Up: Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce in a Customer Service Environment

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employee-growth-metricsManaging the differences between the generations in the workplace has proven to be difficult for many business leaders. Generational challenges and dissimilar working styles are ever-present and can cause a disconnect between employers and employees. When you add the headaches associated with a customer service environment to these generational differences, serious operational issues can arise and impact your bottom line. Adecco’s recent webinar, “Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce in a Customer Service Environment,” helps leaders and managers mitigate these issues. In the webinar, topics include a detailed look at the generations in the workforce, leveraging generational strengths, best practices for addressing generational challenges, management tips and advice for helping the younger generations provide excellent service.

Panelists for the webinar include Bruce Tulgan (Author, Founder & CEO of RainmakerThinking), Wendy Slayton (Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Adecco Group North America), Kristen Leverone (Senior Vice President & Global Talent Development Practice Leader for Lee Hecht Harrison) and Lauren Griffin (Senior Vice President of Adecco Staffing, USA). Individuals who attended the webinar earned Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) credit, which counts toward the certification and recertification process for HR professionals.

If you are interested in viewing the “Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce in a Customer Service Environment” webinar, click here. For those wishing to receive HRCI credit, we will be granting accreditation through October 10, 2014 for those who watch the webinar in its entirety. Please note: In order to receive credit, you MUST complete the form that appears and provide valid information. Your HRCI credit information will be sent within a week of viewing.

If you wish to view only the slides presented in the webinar and are not interested in receiving HRCI credit, click here.

Poll Results

During the webinar, attendees were invited to participate in four poll questions, which helped establish our audience demographic, but also shed light on generational perceptions. Let’s take a look at the poll results.

Question 1: Which generation are you?

Bruce Tulgan kicked off the webinar with a true definition of each generation and discussed the “generational shift” that has occurred in today’s workforce. In short, the generational shift has shown that younger generations now make up the majority of the workforce as the Baby Boomers are more rapidly retiring.

  • Pre-Boomers – Those born prior to 1946. These members are all but gone from the workforce.
  • Baby Boomers – Those born in the period after World War II. The first wave is turning 70 years old and reinventing retirement. The youngest of the generation are in their 50s and 60s and in the final stages of their work phase.
  • Generation X – Now recognized as the “prime age” workforce. The original “rule-breaking, new economy” workers are approaching 40 and have come into their own.
  • Generation Y – Born between 1978 and 1989, these are earliest members of the “Millennial” generation. This generation began their careers in an ever-changing world, both economically and politically.
  • Generation Z – The newest wave of the millennial generation. These are teens and twenty-somethings brought up in a post 9/11, technology-driven world are the youngest members of today’s workforce.

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In the first poll question, Bruce asked the attendees which generation they identified with. The results showed that 66.8 percent of the attendees were part of Generation X, Y and Z while only 32 percent were part of the Baby Boomer generation. This reinforces Bruce’s statement regarding the generational shift happening in today’s workforce: that the majority of the workers are younger in age than in the past – even in managerial and leadership roles.

Question 2: What do you see as Generation Z’s greatest challenge?

Prior to the second poll question, our panelists discussed the prevalence of young people working in the customer service industry. The reason being, many of these “frontline” positions are largely considered lower tier and important for building experience. The generational shift leads to a new set of attitudes and expectations for these young workers.  This also means that the remaining Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are now managing the younger millennials. The difference in work styles and attitudes causes a rift in many manager-to-employee relationships.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.52.33 PM.pngComplaints about young workers — especially in a customer service setting — are heavy. A few of the complaints discussed in the webinar ranged from “not focused while at work” to “rude” to “unable to effectively deal with customer complaints.” It’s important to note that most complaints listed could apply to every generation – not just the younger workers. Often times these complaints arise from pre-conceived perceptions and the fact that many entry-level workers are still learning on the job.

We asked our attendees what they thought was the biggest complaint about the youngest workers. The results were pretty even across the board, possibly due to the heavy attendance of younger people participating in the webinar poll. The results showed that most people thought younger Millennials “lack professionalism”, while others saw “weaker soft skills” and a generation “less prepared for the workforce.”

Question 3:  What do you see as Generation Y’s greatest strength?

After discussing the challenges the younger generations are seeing, our panelists went on to present some of the strengths of the older members of the workforce. This was explored to prove that when leaders can balance the strengths and weaknesses of each generation, they can have a well-rounded workforce. It’s important to establish mentor partnerships in both ways. Here are some of the generational strengths:

  • Baby Boomers – empathetic, competitive, reliable, experienced, strong work Ethic, favor relationships with loyalty and teamwork, and show a higher level of patience
  • Generation X – Hard workers, independent, resourceful, and favor merit-based rewards over tenure
  • Generation Y – Most educated, global thinkers, appreciate diversity, digitally savvy, multi-taskers, and are willing to work with all levels of workers

The third question posed tScreen Shot 2014-09-18 at 2.22.35 PM.pngo the attendees was “What do you see as Generation Y’s greatest strength?” Results showed an overwhelming response. 60 percent of attendees believe that the largest strength of the older Millennials is their knowledge of digital trends. “Globally minded” came in a distant second at 16 percent, while “Multi-tasking” came in third, and “Education” showed the lowest response.

The large majority of attendees choosing “Digitally native” came as a surprise to the panelists. What do you think? Are you a member of Generation Y? Tell us how you feel about this perception in the comments below.

Question 4: Is your company investing in training programs?

After the surprising result, the panel switched gears and discussed ways to help Generation Y and Z provide exceptional customer service. The discussion covered the importance of relationship building within a staff, why complaints arise and the value of skills development and training programs.

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Focusing on training programs, our panelists posed the question to attendees – “Is your company investing in training programs?”. The results showed positive figures. Nearly 71 percent of attendees said that some form of training is being administered in their company, while 12 percent said there was a plan to start formal training. Only 17 percent admitted there were no training programs being practiced or planned.

Customer service is a valuable skill that every professional should cultivate – no matter their role or age. Many people fail to realize that everyone is their customer, whether they are a colleague, boss, direct report or actual client. The diversity of generations in a customer service setting continues to be a significant challenge for business leaders.

If you are interested in learning more about these generational challenges, return to the blog next week for part two. During the webinar, attendees posed many questions and our panelists weren’t able to get to all of them. Part two of this blog post will reveal the panelists’ answers to these questions.

Click here to view our “Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce in a Customer Service Environment” webinar. Our expert panelists share insights on the four generations currently in the workplace. They’ll discuss the challenges of employing multiple generations and how to tailor your management strategy. If you watch the webinar in its entirety by October 10, 2014, you will receive HRCI credit within a week. Watch now!


Jason Provost is a Marketing Manager for Adecco Staffing USA's Attraction & Lead Generation team. Aside from his professional work with Adecco, Jason plays bass guitar, loves to cook and is a diehard Boston sports fan. Follow his insights on the Adecco USA blog!

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