Running a small business with Gen Z, Millennials and Boomers? Tune into the Good Business podcast to learn how to work in Cross-Generational Teams.
There is so much conversation, contention and even a little competition around the generations in the workplace. But the individual characteristics aren’t what’s important. It’s about how we work together for the growth of the business AND individual satisfaction and engagement.
So, in our latest How-To episode, we asked the COO of Honeycombers, and my long-time colleague and friend, Angela Neo, to talk about how to work with, and foster understanding and retention across generations. Tune in for actionable tips on adapting your management style, building an inclusive company culture, and keeping all employees engaged and motivated!
00:00 – Welcome to this week’s episode
00:59 – Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z characteristics in the workplace.
03:25 – Communication and collaboration in a multigenerational workplace.
08:17 – Motivating younger generations in the workplace.
13:32- Building a caring workplace culture.
17:58- Employee retention and management strategies for small businesses.
28:48 – Talent management and retention across generations.
Good Business goes behind the scenes of the leaders of good businesses, who have people, planet and profit at the core of their mission. Follow the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Chris Edwards 0:02
Hi, I’m Chris Edwards and you’re listening to good business. Welcome to this week’s how to episode.
Today we’re gonna be talking about how to work with Gen Z’s and millennials. I have roped in our CEO at honeycombers, Angela Neo, whohas worked with us at honeycomber has now for over six years, and was the people and culture manager before getting promoted to CEO earlier this year. So welcome. And I should also mention, and is the host of the growing pains podcast, a parenting podcast that Honey Kids Asia produces. So very familiar to podcasting, but not often in the hot seat. So and thank you for saying yes, today and great to have you here.
Angela Neo 0:50
Thanks, Chris. It’s exciting to as you say, be in the hot seat today. And have the tables turned a little so no longer the host and now a guest.
Chris Edwards 0:59
Yeah, yeah. Well, look, I think we should jump straight into it. generational differences is really an interesting topic for workplaces today, mainly because there’s such big differences between being a Gen X and a millennial and Gen Z. And it’s can be really difficult for people to manage or work with people from different generations. So wondering if you can maybe share with us? What are the, you know, typical characteristics of a Gen X and Millennial and Gen Z that people should be aware of?
Angela Neo 1:35
Yes, thank you, Chris. So I’ll dive straight into kind of the stereotypical qualities of each of the generations. And we can talk a little more about the new answers later. But essentially, if we’re talking about Gen X, so those are those that are born between kind of the 1965 to 1980. They value work life balance, they’re adaptable, because they’ve lived through the technology kind of explosion throughout their lives. They often also bring years of experience to the table because they have been working for at least, you know, 20 plus years. They’re also labelled as the Forgotten generation. Sometimes they have a little chip on their shoulder, mainly because they’re a very small generation when compared to the boomers that came obviously postwar. And then also the millennials that are a much larger generation. If we move on to millennials, and I’m a millennial, I can share that today. We’re known for our collaborative spirit, we desire continuous feedback. And we have kind of a real emphasis on personal development, and personal development being you know, outside of work, as well as our professional development inside of work. And then if we move on to our Gen Z, so they’re those that typically born from, there’s a little argument about this, but we would say from 1996 onwards, they tend to be tech savvy, they need their work to be values and purpose driven. They prefer instant communication. And don’t call them because they want to do it over text message. And they’re actually the first generation that have never known the world without the Internet. They have never used a phone with a coordinate. And they have no idea what floppy disks are. Just to give an example of where they’re sitting right now.
Chris Edwards 3:25
Yeah, it’s so interesting, isn’t it? Because technology is a big part of why the generations are so different. I often think that if you’re my age, you know, I like to call myself a bit of a Luddite, because it just I mean, tech, I suppose I’m okay with that. I just am not like born with a I’m not born with that need to, I suppose it’s a constant communication is one of the things and instant messaging, right. Okay. So how does this roll out in workplaces? And what can be some of the challenges with different generations working together?
Angela Neo 4:00
Look, the biggest one is communication. And so we’ve just talked about technology. And part of my role is obviously, managing the HR operations of the business, but it’s also recruitment, it’s also talking to people outside. And what I’ve observed throughout these different generations is that communication and the way they like to communicate is so vastly different. So even if we talk about the phone, if I’m recruiting, and I’m, and I know that I’m speaking to someone that may belong to Gen Z, never call them on the phone, they won’t answer the phone, they’ll think that it’s an emergency, and it’s very aggressive, and they don’t respond well to that. So what they respond to is a WhatsApp message or a instant message over LinkedIn. Whereas our Gen X’s, they value a call, they valued the feedback and the one on one conversation, and they’ll answer their phone and that also applies to our staff. So if I think about my colleagues that belong in the Gen X bucket. They are the ones that I call on my phone. And you’re one of them. Right, Chris. So one of the few. Yes. And then if I, if I think about our millennial staff, they bridge the gap a little in terms of that. So, look, I’m a geriatric millennial I scraped in on the skin of my teeth. So I do have a little bit of crossborder. Understanding with that Gen Xers as well. But our Gen z’s, most of our millennials, they just instant message. That’s how they communicate. That’s how they communicate with each other. Their Gen Z is love to send gifts and emojis and names to kind of communicate their expression. And they do that in the workplace. So I think for me, that has been the biggest generation gap that I’ve observed just in terms of work, and the way in which we communicate, which is so important when we’re talking about working remotely when we’re talking about working cross country, when we’re talking about, you know, working in the age of technology. And one of the things that I’ve had to do, and most of our generations that belong to the older generation have had to do is adapt and conform to what our younger teammates or those that belong to Gen Z. And our younger millennials, you know, the way in which they want to work because we need to be able to relate to the staff that report to us, we also need to be able to foster a collaborative and fun environment as well, particularly given the nature of what we do, Chris. So communication, for me is the biggest one, and particularly if you’re a small business owner, or a manager of a team, where you’re a different generation to most of your team. And that applies to actually most I think small business owners, you do have a lot of stuff that, you know, you’ve had years of experience launched your business, and then you’ve got all these young staff working for you is really being able to put yourself in their shoes, really being able to find ways to change how you communicate, or how you manage or how you address issues in the workplace to fit within a way that there’ll be receptive to and that they understand.
Chris Edwards 7:15
Yeah, cool. Can you also maybe just share with our listeners, one of the tools that we have at honeycombers, which we’ve just brought in? Is our user manual for helping I suppose people understand each other’s preferences. But yeah, can you share with us a little bit about that?
Angela Neo 7:31
Yeah, so this all came about, because of the fact as I mentioned before, we work across four or five different countries, sometimes even more based on the fact that we have a lot of trust with our team. And we have a work anywhere policy where people can work from anywhere in the world. And a lot of our team actually have never met each other in person, right. So our smaller satellite teams don’t get the opportunity to come to Singapore a lot. And also, a lot of our team only come into the office a couple of days a week. So we actually needed to have a way for all of us to be able to express and communicate to the rest of our team, how we like to work, what makes us tick, how we like to learn what motivates us how we would like to be recognised. And that is what a user manual is. So it’s a really simple tool. It’s essentially just a short word doc, or Google doc template that you fill out where there are questions that are asked in there. And they’re thoughtful questions that are asked all about exactly what I just said. So how you like to work, how you like to communicate, what your superpower is, how you like to be recognised how you like to receive feedback, which is really important when we’re dealing with again, as I said, you know, different generations, we all have different likes, dislikes, and preferences, and also just personal information that that person can share. So whenever anyone new starts in their first week, their little homework is to complete this for us. And then we have it all in one folder where everyone in the company can read each other’s user manuals. And it’s something that I remind the teams to do, I remind and encourage our managers to talk about our user manuals when we have our team catch ups, but also to respect what’s in there. So some of our team work part time because they have personal or family commitments. And they may write in there, I’d really prefer not to be contacted after this time of the day, because that’s when I stopped working. So it’s also starting to foster that mutual understanding, respect, and just getting to know each other in a way that will work for all the generations.
Chris Edwards 9:40
Yeah, I think it’s such an interesting tool. I just jumped into it this morning. And actually in the user manual, some of our team members have put so much effort into the user manual, like their page has got multiple photos and there’s like essays about what they like and what they don’t like. It’s really interesting because I noticed that Like, the Gen X’s like the older generation, put like a small amount in and the younger generation really pad it out because they really care about the way people interact with them, it’s really important to them. One of the big challenges I see in our Launchpad community and members have said this, to me is it’s just really hard to motivate the younger generations, they’re not motivated by money or status. In fact, some of them really don’t like capitalism. So, you know, they have this anti kind of work culture. So what’s your advice to how to motivate younger generations if money and status and and even like, the whole world of business is something they’re not super thrilled to participate in, but they kind of feel like it’s a necessary evil?
Angela Neo 10:49
I mean, there’s a couple of things. The first one is just having a conversation with the people that work for you and asking what is meaningful. That’s where everything starts when it comes to being a manager. And when it comes to building trust based relationships with your team. And I actually had a conversation about this quite recently with one of our managers where I said, they asked how they’re going, right, how am I going? Have you had any feedback from the team? And I actually said, Well, have you asked your team for feedback, right? Because we need to be able to build a trust based relationship with the people that work for us. And the best way to know how they tick and what they want. And what motivates them is to have a conversation with them, which is very simple, right? It’s very simple to do that. That’s the start. The other thing that we need to do as employers, right, is think about what is our I call it an employee value proposition? What is our value proposition to our team, to our company, to the people that work for us? What are the things that we promise and will deliver on that set us apart from our competitors that make us unique, or that really speak to what our staff are asking for? So they’re things like, these are things that we have at honeycombers, we have wellness days, that are kind of no questions asked days off that our team get every year, we have work anywhere policy, which I mentioned before, so when anyone’s worked for us for a year, they can request up to one month of the year where they work anywhere in the world, they just have to tell us how it will work. We also have our four and a half day workweek. So we finish work at 130. On a Friday, if everything’s done, which we very much try and the team are very motivated to make sure it’s happened. And we also are a I talk about values a lot. So we’re a values led business. And what that means is we have identified the five core values that personify who we are as a company. And we try to embed that in everything that we do. So we have a monthly meeting. We call it our MVP meeting, most valuable person. And that’s where we share information we learn. But we also shout out and recognise our teammates for their contribution. And I usually ask the team to think about our values when they’re doing that. So our values of fun, teamwork, love, local integrity, and impact. And we talk about them all the time. They’re the pillars that assist us in terms of understanding the type of business we are for people that are trying to join us, but also a part of the retention tool that is keeping our team engaged, understanding the meaning and the purpose of why we do what we do, and the standards that will kind of hold ourselves accountable to as a management and as a business. Yeah,
Chris Edwards 13:32
cool. It’s so nice to actually talk to you about this, because it’s something that you and I talk a lot about, think a lot about. And it’s also one of those things that it’s kind of like, quite difficult to think about how you can bake this into your every day, the way you do business. And you know, that MVP meeting, it’s a monthly meeting. But we also have other little, I suppose ways to help us continually foster that communication and openness and understanding of what makes everyone tick. So maybe you could share some more hints and tips of how do you build a culture of really caring for your staff and really connecting with your staff so that you do build a workplace that can happily have cross generational members working really well together, but also understanding each other really well. So maybe you could share some more, more of our inside workings. Ouch.
Angela Neo 14:32
Yeah, I mean, look, I don’t believe in hierarchy in terms of so we have had interns that have joined our company and had the most brilliant idea, right? And I would never want someone who is Junior or new to the company or even just here for a short period of time to feel that they don’t have a voice. And so that’s a big part of how we have set expectations with our managers. So yes, we have promotional opportunities. Yes, we have frameworks around how to develop the careers of our teammates. But also, there isn’t a value that is higher attached to the more senior people in the company. So that’s one of the things that I always really encourages, don’t have a business where it’s, you know, my way or the highway and be really particularly leadership within a company, spending time with those that are the more junior members of the team, asking them for their thoughts and advice and ideas, because we do know that Gen Z, have amazing ideas. And they’re our technology wizards. And they have a strong sense of what’s right and wrong. And they have a strong sense of needing to belong to meaning in the company that they work for. Right? So yeah, so I encouraged and we do encourage that everyone has a voice, and everyone is important. And everyone’s role is really important to the success of the company, not just the managers, not just the CEO, or the CEO, I also run training every six weeks for our manager group, because one thing that’s also really important, but sounds a little, you know, it’s not as sexy is the fact that we actually have risk and requirements when it comes to making sure that our management team and the people that are managing people have the skills to be able to deal with all of the I mean, there’s so many things that come up in the people space, I’ve always said to Chris, you never know what’s going to happen when you deal with people, because everyone is unique. And so what we need to do is make sure that those that manage people understand about diversity, inclusion, understand about recruitment practices, understand how to give feedback, understand how to be kind and encouraging managers. So these are things that we’ll run training on, I actually have one today, where we’re talking about learning and development plans and how to make that a collaborative event rather than this is what my Kochi needs to do. This is what my teammate needs to do. And I’m imparting that on to them. So make sure that your manager group have training. And if you can’t provide it, honestly, there are so many tools that you can find online that I find. I mean, I’m a one person show in terms of HR. And you know, LinkedIn is a great place and a great source of information. I’ve joined some HR communities, one in Australia, one in Singapore, that gives me a lot of advice. So there are things that are really important to me, also the we talked about wellness leave before, it’s important that you have policies and put some money behind some programmes to support your employees wellness, and their mental health. And so we have an employee assistance programme at honeycombers that anyone can access if they’re having struggles or challenges at work or at home. And I’ve also got a HR handbook that we’ve put together over the years that has a whole list of free and online resources that the team can check out even ones that are just like, what’s my stress test today? Like, how, how do I manage that. And then we also, I mean, we’re very lucky that we have a large network through Chris, and through our business. And so you know, we’ve had guest speakers that have talked to us on topics that have aligned with that. So most recently, we did a session on EFT tapping, which was all about a tool that we can use a process that we can use to maybe minimise our stress, or anxiety or our nerves or centre us when we’re having one of those days. I mean, I could go on forever, Chris, to be honest, because there’s so many things that I’m really passionate about this, I’m really passionate about the fact that so the most important thing that a small business owner needs to focus on when it comes to their people is retaining them, right? So we always obsess about attracting staff, like how do I find talent, what we also need to do is think about the strategies to keep them with us. Because that is where I mean, we’ve got a number of staff now that are coming up to five years with the company. And I’m coming up to seven years, right? To see the growth and development of those individuals and the return on investment that we as a company have had. That’s what I want for everyone. So everything that we do here, I mean, I love recruiting, I love meeting new people, but everything that I’m trying to do in my role, and with all of this training for the managers, and a sense of meaning and employee value proposition, and all of our benefits is to focus on retaining our staff. And I really encourage all business owners out there because we do focus very much on I need to expand and I need new people and you’re really focusing on throwing all the money and all of the you know, sign on bonus or this or that or Yes, whatever you want to join us. And then those that are within the company are the ones that you really need to focus on.
Chris Edwards 19:47
And just on that I think we’ve seen a big shift with our success in the last gosh, I suppose it’s, I suppose it is the last five or six years where we’ve had I think it’s six staff that have come way up to five years, which is really like it’s so it is, it’s so meaningful, because you do invest personally in these people and their lives and their career progression. But yeah, so what I was gonna say is, I think what we really focused on is the retention piece. While we’ve been focusing on retention, and having really great success on retaining key talent, we’ve actually found the recruitment process much, much easier, right? Because people hear about our company, hear about our culture, and that word of mouth really has recruitment has become a lot easier in the last five years as well, when you say and
Angela Neo 20:39
yes, and this comes back to, again, if we’re talking about the generations, whenever we advertise for roles, we always talk about our story, our values, what it is that resonates with us, we talk about being a diverse and inclusive place and a safe place for people from any walk of life to join our company. And it’s not something that’s normal in Asia to express, and so that I truly believe I interview a lot of people in my job, right, as a host, but mainly in my role in recruitment. And one of the things that they say the most the candidates that I interview is, I wanted to apply for this role, because I know who you are, because we express that. So yes, when we’re talking about attracting different generations, but also attracting the right people with the right kind of alignment with values to you is telling your story. So don’t just have us your applications, don’t just have us the description of your role. And your company, which a lot of companies do. If you go into LinkedIn right now, there are so many job ads that are two paragraphs. And I just think you pay for those, right. So first, there’s a cost there. But also, it is literally an advertisement for your company. So you want it to be firstly, exciting. You want it to talk about exactly who you are as a company, so that you attract the people that are going to align with the values and the culture that you’ve already put in place.
Chris Edwards 22:15
And what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had at your role at honeycombers is when it comes to intergenerational management,
Angela Neo 22:21
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had is that actually, the bulk of our staff are millennials, and it’s a big cohort. So if we talk about 35 staff, we may have five Gen Z staff, we may have five that are Gen X and the rest of millennials. But our Gen X staff are more experienced stuff. And they’re actually really valuable to the company. So when we’re looking at creating our retention strategies, we can’t just base them on what our millennial staff want, we have to try and tailor them to our Gen X’s and also our Gen z’s. They’re the new and up and coming staff that have energy, and they have exciting ideas. And they want different things. And so the challenge is trying to keep everyone feeling like we’ve heard them that they’re valued, and that we’re putting in place reward and recognition structures that appeal to everyone. But that also, again, keep our millennials happy because they’re the biggest group that we have. So I find that really difficult, particularly as resources aren’t unlimited. So when we’re talking about and you know, Chris and I have had long conversations about what we can and can’t do, because we’re a small business, we’re not a big four accounting firm that I’ve worked for before where there’s kind of this big money pot for professional development and big money, pot fit everything. So you’ve got a skinny little budget that you need to stretch. And so for instance, our Gen X staff may value job stability and job security and longer term career advancement. So where will my role be in five years, whereas our millennials, they’re very demanding, right as they should be, because they’re brilliant, but they’re very demanding. They want new opportunities, new development constantly. They need to be recognised and rewarded in a way that feels personal. And then our Gen Z is they’re not as motivated by money. They’re more motivated in terms of do we have diversity and inclusion at our workplace? Are we a workplace that has meaning and holds meaning for them? Are we going to accommodate their flexible work arrangements and the fact that they might want to travel more? So these are the challenges that we have and you can’t always do everything. And that is always the challenge, particularly in HR, like there’s always this grey area that is everything. Nothing is black and white. So for me, the biggest challenge has been purely just trying to make sure that all the strategies we put in place that fall under our employee The value proposition are going to speak to everyone as much as we can.
Chris Edwards 25:05
Maybe just to round out one tool that just popped into my head, that’s something that you’ve taught me is talent mapping. And so when it comes to retention of key staff, and you’re looking at millennials and Gen Z’s and Gen X’s, maybe you can talk through your tool of talent mapping, because I think that’s a really good tool that not many people would know about.
Angela Neo 25:26
Yes. So one of the biggest challenges of being a small business is that you can’t actually afford to give everyone what they want. You can’t like it’s not possible. So there’s an exercise that we go through where as a company, we need to identify who are our key talent, right? Who are the people that if tomorrow, were gone, would leave the biggest holes in our company. And these people don’t have to be CEOs. They are also some of our riders that are brilliant. So what we do is, we measure someone’s work performance, in terms of are they pour their work performance? are they achieving it their work performance? Or are they exceptional, right? Exceptional at what they do every day? And then we also measure someone’s potential? And look, I can’t go through all the things that we talked about in terms of potential, because there’s a lot of questions that we would look at. But essentially, it’s, do I see this person being able to perform at a higher level? Do I see this person being agile and innovative and able to take on new tasks and new opportunities, and new projects seamlessly? Do I see this person as a leader within the business and leader doesn’t mean, as I said, being in a senior role, but someone that others look to for encouragement, motivation, and support. So we measure potential, and performance. And those that are high potential and high performance would make up the key talent of our business. Now, that may only be three or four people. But we know who those three or four people are. And they’re the ones that we will make sure that we have serious conversations with in terms of their longer term plans. You invest in those people. And it isn’t to say, like a lot of people, this is a very actually a very emotive topic. Some people really don’t like talent mapping, because they say, Well, what about those that are moderate in terms of their potential and moderate in terms of their performance? What about them, there’s a reality, which is that we need to make sure that we focus on those that we absolutely have to retain, and we still have a wonderful work culture, advancements, annual reviews, salary increases for everyone in the company, right. But we also need if we have limited resources to think about who it is that we want to channel, the most resources into, and that’s your key talent. It also can help to identify succession planning, in terms of who do we have that has, and this is something that every company needs to talk about, particularly if it’s a small business is, if someone leaves do I have someone to fill that spot? Or do we have big holes? Who do I need to focus my energy on that a more junior team in terms of understanding their potential. So succession planning, talent mapping helps with that, it also helps with identifying if there are people that are underperforming, and that need more support, or perhaps are in the wrong role. And it also helps us to look at there are people that are actually exceptional performers, Chris, but they don’t actually want to advance, but they’re really happy in their role. They’re their expert in their role, and they really just want to stay in that space. So it helps us with all of that as really useful tool. And it’s so simple. It’s just a little diagram, and you look at who’s in your top right corner of that diagram with high potential and high performance.
Chris Edwards 28:48
Yeah, so great exercise. And as always, I love chatting with you. But that was a great chat and a lot of insight into how much thought and energy goes on when it comes to talent management and retention, and really keeping in mind, how do we work across generations, which it is a big challenge for many businesses. So thank you so much for coming on the show today. I could have gone on for hours, hours, but I really hope that the tips that you’ve shared today helps help other entrepreneurs really think about how they can create good businesses that have their people at the centre and the forefront of what they’re doing. So thanks so much.
Angela Neo 29:29
My pleasure. Thanks so much, Chris.
Chris Edwards 29:34
So thanks so much for listening. You can drop me an email at Chris at the launchpad dot group. If you have any feedback about this episode. We absolutely love hearing from our listeners. Also, if you found this episode helpful, please be sure to leave us a review or give us a rating. Finally, if you would like to join our community of conscious entrepreneurs that are purpose led and supportive. Come and check us out at www dot The Launch Pad dot group. And before I close out, I just really wanted to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land of which I’m recording this podcast, which is the Rockwell people of the Bundjalung nation. I pay my respects to elder’s past, present and future, and I extend my respects to all traditional cultures. Thanks again for tuning into good business. My name is Chris Edwards. And that’s all for today.