Kaye Parker, an author, public relations practitioner and personal efficiency coach, says a little positive thinking can go a long way — especially in the workplace.
“Optimistic, positive people are healthier, happier… they live at least two years longer and they’re more successful than the pessimists of the world,” said Parker, the founder and president of Think Training Inc.
Parker was in town to address guests at the Hants Regional Development Authority’s business appreciation evening Oct. 18 at the Super 8 Motel in Windsor.
Parker spent some time outlining the four generations of people in today’s workforce. A skilled trainer with a background in teaching, Parker said the businesses that will prosper will be those stacked with well-trained support staff and leaders who appreciate the unique skills employees of all ages have to offer.
Parker described traditionalists in the workforce as people born before 1945, known for their sterling work ethic, loyalty and respect for authority.
“The people who are traditionalists in the workplace today are usually frugal, really hard workers, (they) value family life, (are) very active in the community… and they believe that you start at the bottom and you probably stay with the same company.”
She explained that many traditionalists were influenced by the Great Depression and the Second World War.
Parker said the baby boomer generation, including people born from 1945 to 1964, generally consists of optimistic employees who believe hard work will be rewarded.
“The baby boomers are the people who practically invented the 60-hour work week,” Parker said.
“All the rest of you can please thank them for it,” she joked.
She said baby boomers value education, and while some didn’t necessarily get as far as they wanted to in school, they made sure their kids were educated.
Parker noted an interesting shift in the desire for feedback between the baby boomers and those following in some, but not all, of their footsteps. While the baby boomers typically received feedback in the form of criticism, Generation X employees wanted balanced feedback from employers, including praise for a job well done.
She said many workers in Generation X, born from 1965 to about 1984, watched their parents devote themselves to one company, only to later get downsized. As a result, Parker said, when this generation entered the workforce, they did not feel compelled to devote themselves to one company for their entire working life, nor did they necessarily feel they had to start at the bottom and work their way up; they wanted to go where their skills would be most valued.
“They became known as road warriors; they would go down the road because they got a better job.”
“Generation Y hasn’t been in the workforce long enough that we know as much as we think we do about them,” said Parker.
Born between 1984 and 2000, Parker described Generation Y employees as typically well-travelled, technologically adept and well-educated individuals.
“They are the smartest children we’ve ever created and, I’ve been told by those who study these things, this will probably be the generation that is going to do great things in our workplaces — but we’re going to have to give them a chance.”
She said Generation Y workers value feedback, but tend to want positive feedback only. She said some employers complain that Generation Y employees are not as accountable as they would like them to be.
“Most of all, (Generation Y’s) are going to value their ability to be flexible… have a home life and family time and friend time.”
Don’t get stuck on the stereotypes
In closing, Parker reminded business owners in the audience that the generations are stereotypes, and advised them against fixating on how their employees differ according to what year they were born.
“There are so many ways the generations are different, and yet, they all have things in common. They all want to be appreciated; they all value flexibility,” said Parker.
“They all want to be treated with respect.”