Bridging the Generational Divide

Millennials in the workforce.

Amy Steinbrech Jan 1, 2017

There is a lot of risk involved in running a family business. Making sense of profit and loss statements, worrying about meeting payroll, putting together a succession plan and most importantly, preserving family relationships. Zions Bank realizes family businesses have unique challenges and regularly hosts family business lunches where clients gather to discuss ideas and strategies involving multiple generations.

“Zions Bank is committed to walking alongside family businesses in joyous times and tough times,” said Garrett Barnes, senior vice president of Zions Bank’s Family Business Services. “Family businesses are the backbone of our communities, and this is an opportunity for them to get together to network and learn from us and each other.”

The lunch last October focused on recognizing the unique differences and attributes each generation brings to the table. Chris Redgrave, Zions Bank’s senior vice president of community relations, shared research clarifying how multiple generations working under the same roof impact the workplace.

Personal Experience

Oftentimes conflicting roles between children and parents arise in family businesses. Harris Simmons, Zions Bancorporation chairman and CEO, spoke about his personal experience working in the family business. “I grew up going to business meetings and forums with my father where ideas and strategies to keep business in the family were discussed,” he said.

Simmons shared a story about a friend in California who was at a difficult crossroads. His friend’s son was on the payroll but not performing well, which led to the difficult decision for the father to let his son go. Simmons recounted how the father had to wear two hats, one as the boss and the other as the father.

Millennial Characteristics

Researchers classify millennials as those born from approximately 1977 to 1995, growing up in the social media age, where Twitter and Instagram accounts were the norm. Millennials want to make a difference in the workplace, tend to be project oriented and are often proficient with digital applications, Redgrave noted. Millennials are known as the most educated generation; more than 70 percent have advanced degrees. However, approximately one-third of younger millennials rely on their parents for financial support, Redgrave added.

The millennial generation is defined by a few commonalities. “They have a strong culture of work-life balance, and they desire flexible work schedules,” Redgrave says. They also value influence over affluence and purpose over profits. She suggests including information about how the family business is making a difference within its mission statement.

Narrowing the Generation Gap

Redgrave says with four out of five workplace conversations attempting to bridge a generational gap, finding common ground among generations has taken center stage. One way employers can narrow the gap is to find value alignment among employees and then develop programs around shared interests.

Another way to narrow the generational gap is to understand an employee as a whole person rather than focusing on differences, Redgrave added, thereby creating an involved culture, which would be one way to set a family business up for success.

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