Today’s workforce is, more than ever, a mélange made up of many different people that cross multiple generations. From your oldest workers who may still remember the Second World War, to those who were born just before the turn of the century and, if you’re in the tech business, maybe even some who were born after!

Each of these individuals comes with their own personalities and preferences, but also with general characteristics that can be tied to the generation of which they are a part. As a leader in today’s market, you need to know how to engage each generation, while also helping them to work together. This means being able to:

  • Recognize the different norms individuals from different generations will bring to their place of work;
  • Understanding the different general expectations for what they need from an employer;
  • Delivering training through channels that will engages different generations;
  • Pursuing alternative incentives for different generations as ways to increase retention and loyalty; and
  • Be aware of the different motivators to ensure you’re bringing out the best from everyone in your workforce.

While managing for generational differences may sound like the latest fad, or just another organizational development scheme, ignoring these differences as a leader could mean the difference between your success and failure.

Consider for a moment the issue of communication, and take as an example where you would like to talk with a member of your team about what you just learned at a recent conference. If this were outside the office, you wouldn’t expect to explain the conference in the same way to your mother – or grandmother – as you would to your child, or grandchild. You would use different words, focus on different themes and you might even use different methods (a post card to mom, but a text to the grandkids). You see where I’m going – generational differences are important and play a role in how you lead and manage a team.

To be an effective leader in this area, you first need to know how to identify generations and know general characteristics of each:

Silent Generation: These individuals, born between 1925-1942, unsurprisingly, now make up the smallest portion of the workforce and will soon be completely gone. However, if you still have some Silents on your team, you should know that they are conformist and believe that the rules are there for a reason: to be followed.

Baby Boomers: Boomers, born between 1943-1964, still make up a health 29% of the workforce, especially since many people are working past retirement out of necessity or some other reason. These people are natural protesters and individualistic by nature, given their generally non-conformist past.

Generation X: This generation defies definition and makes up 34% of the workforce. In fact, they dare you to define them. Born between 1965 – 1979, engaging with GenXers has always been a challenge because of their need for individuality and space.

Millennials: Sometimes referred to as “Generation Y,” this group, born between 1980-2000, is now the largest sector of the workforce at just over 34%. They’ve been often labeled as narcissistic and entitled, but they also have a strong need for purpose and are interested in working for the betterment of the whole. They are massively dependent on technology.

Generation Z: Very few of these individuals are in the workforce yet (1% or less). Born between 2001-2013, these individuals are also known as the iGeneration because of their ease with technology and independent nature.

As you can see from the above, each generation has its own needs and characteristics. Engaging your team across these generational differences is a best practice for any successful leader.

It can be frustrating as an employer when you spend the time, effort and resources to sift through hundreds of applicants and invest so much into a new employee, only to have them leave at the next great opportunity. Sometimes it might only be six months thereafter, or a year or two after the individual’s initial hiring. Nevertheless, it is a costly problem that many companies experience.

How can you cut down on turnover? Better opportunities will always be there, so aside from offering more pay than you can afford, what are some ways companies can keep employees happier longer?

You’ve heard me talk about traditions, and perhaps you’ve even watched my TedX talk from May of 2015 in Boca Raton. Traditions are definitely a great way to beat the boredom and make employees want to stick around longer, but what are some other ways to get them to remain loyal?

Studies done over the last decade have revealed startling statistics about boredom in the workplace, which can lead to complacency, resentment and eventually the employees seeking jobs elsewhere. You may not even know what they are up to. They are quietly keeping their options open, subscribing to updates on or Career websites.

In case you missed my blog on 11 Fun Traditions you can bring into the workplace, you can go back and look at it here. Aside from these tactful rituals, there are other ways you can beat boredom if you just put on your creative hats and think about what the employees want. If you’re not sure, ask them!

For example, more and more companies are developing a company culture that is run more like a family atmosphere. You would be less likely to leave your family to go work elsewhere, so it’s a great philosophy. Another strategy is to bring more amenities and FUN into the workplace. Can work be fun? Yes, and it should be!

How about a “Funny Hat Friday” or weekly lunch picnic? How about putting a tiki bar in the breakroom and stocking it up full of free beverages and snacks? Or decorating the office with a great theme? Paint it to look like the ocean and let the employees help to draw the fish. It could be one, big mural that everyone participates in. If you work in a retail setting, you could even make the menial, boring tasks fun. For example, have a timed relay to get employees to race against one another to make the place look nice again after a mad rush of traffic has destroyed it. This works especially well for bookstores or apparel stores, when there is plenty of folding and restocking left to do.

The ideas are endless, but by brainstorming and asking employees what it would take to make the work environment more fun, you are also creating a company culture that embraces and encourages their creativity. If a worker enjoys being there, they are less likely to keep searching for a new job. Just by implementing a few things like this, you can start some new traditions in the workplace and also beat the odds of having to go through the hiring process again and again.

All too often, entrepreneurs and business owners are focused on the financial aspects of their business, which can result in many undesirable qualities. Yes, it’s true that you do need to know what is going on with your finances and keep a handle on costs and profits, but that is not the real reason you went into business. Is it? Did you decide to launch your business simply because you wanted to get rich, or did you do it because it was an idea that you were passionate about and enjoyed?

If you answered with the latter, then perhaps it is time to reignite that original “spark” that drove you to get into business in the first place. That is where the title of this article comes into play.

There is more to the Bottom Line Than the Bottom Line.”

Think about this phrase for a moment and decide what truly drives you. If it is money, then even the smallest lull or drop in the bottom line of your business may escalate anxiety or worry. If profits and sales and acquisitions are all you think about, then you will not rest very easy at night.

There should be personal rewards that come with success, rather than just emphasizing the profits and losses. Having short sighted perception of your financial and personal goals will lead to burnout and lack of passion for what you do. So, sometimes you have to go back to the very beginning and assess what inspired you to get into this line of work to begin with?

By placing a new focus on the things that truly matter, such as spending more time with your family, or feeling good about the people you work with, or even the fact that you get to do something you love every day, the success will become inevitable. You can avoid the “feast or famine” mentality or the worry, regret and resentment over failures. Instead of beating yourself up over the mistakes you have made, you can feel good when you look in the mirror.

These are just a few ways you can put less focus into your bottom line and more into what truly matters when it comes to business:

  • Find ways you can help others through your business. This will make you feel good, whether you are helping employees or non-profit organizations externally.
  • Spend less and eliminate things you no longer need or that are no longer serving you well.
  • Evaluate the time you spend with your family vs. the time you spend working. When your kids are all grown, will they remember the time you spent together or will they remember those long weekends you were gone to conferences and trade shows or working late hours all the time?
  • Does your business model allow you to conserve and preserve? This could relate to health, the environment or energy. Doing things to save will not only help your bottom line, they will make you (and your customers) feel better about your business model.
  • Delegate more. By letting go of more control, you will develop a renewed sense of freedom, while helping colleagues develop new leadership skills.
  • Always maintain integrity. If customers or staff members ask you to go beyond your personal boundaries of ethics, morality and integrity, it is not worth it. Remember you still have to hold yourself accountable for your business whenever you look in the mirror. The bottom line is not worth sacrificing any amount of integrity!

From time to time, we all must evaluate our bottom line in business, but the focus should not be solely money or wealth. If financial gain is your primary goal in life, then you may become a very unhappy person inside. Look deep within your soul and remember what is most important.

Our parents went the extra mile to teach us some valuable life lessons, but sometimes those fall by the wayside when we become adults. It can be easy to backtrack or forget these lessons, although as parents we strive to teach our own children the same principles or morals that our kinfolk presented to us, growing up. It is a different era, but if we enforce and adhere to the lessons we teach our youth, then perhaps we can all experience a great difference in the enjoyment of both our professional and personal lives.

These are some of the lessons we teach children which can apply within the workplace:

  • Express appreciation. We tell our children to say thank you and be grateful for life’s little blessings, but do we remember to do this at work? Sometimes adults are the biggest culprits of groaning and grumbling over trivial things!

  • Treat others the way they like to be treated (The Platinum Rule!). No matter how high up you are on the hierarchy of employment, there is no reason to make the subordinates feel inferior. In fact, employees will respect leaders more when they are treated like valuable members of the team.

  • Don’t sweat the petty things. We get exasperated when children throw a tantrum over something seemingly minor, but how often do we keep our own tempers in check when things don’t go the way we planned at work? Stay calm, cool and collected and look for an alternate solution.

  • Always welcome new ideas. Children absorb new information like sponges and parents encourage their kids to learn, but when it comes to learning a “new way” of doing things at work, sometimes adults are very headstrong or stuck in their own ways. Embracing new concepts can streamline processes, increase productivity and expand your mind. Creating a culture of continuous learning is a MUST today!

  • Stop profiling people. Children offer the best example of innocence. They will play with anyone, of any race or gender at the playground, and as parents we teach them to accept others no matter what their background or ethnicity. Yet, adults do not seem to adhere to this lesson. Society has a way of marring this innocence and changing the way we perceive others, which has led to a judgmental society of non-acceptance. Can’t we all just get along and accept one another?

  • Share. How many times have we told our kids to share with their siblings, share with other kids, or share their feelings? Adults find this lesson much harder to do. We hoard knowledge, our feelings and build walls around us after a few failures. Instead of sharing toys, how about sharing your stapler or printer? How about sharing your opinion and wisdom? This is one lesson that we teach kids that can be very difficult to remember as grownups!

What are some other lessons you can think of? I welcome your comments and feedback! Feel free to write them below.

You may have heard me talking a lot about traditions in the workplace lately, especially since the TEDx Talk in Boca Raton in early May of 2015. In case you missed it, you can click here to watch it. Even after you realize the importance of preserving traditions in the workplace, you may wonder, well how can this be done?

These rituals are essential to keeping the workplace fun, as well as improving the quality of the work atmosphere while there. It gives employees something to look forward to! Plus, it helps to solidify your corporate brand and identity, helping your company to become “known” for something.

If you are ready to embrace this concept, but simply don’t know where to begin, here are 20 Fun Traditions you could apply or modify to bring into the workplace:

  • Days of the Week (or Month) Themes. Clash day, Bring your kid to work day, Pizza day, etc. or you can think of anything relevant to your organization to further develop these special days.

  • Create a corporate song/jingle. This could be a quick, 15-30 second, catchy jingle that will motivate and pump up the staff and that you sing or listen to every morning before starting your job.

  • Welcome tradition or indoctrination. Think of a tradition that your staff could do to welcome new employees; preferably something friendly or a type of indoctrination.

  • First day of the season celebrations. The first day of spring, summer, winter and fall could be an opportunity to celebrate, so think of a tradition that would remind your employees about these changes of season.

  • Birthday traditions. If you have a large company, it might not be feasible to celebrate birthdays every day, however, if you pass around a giant card and have everyone sign it, and acknowledge the employee’s individual birthdays with a gift card, this would be a great way to make them feel appreciated.

  • Non-profit of the month participations. Employees shouldn’t feel obligated to donate to non-profits; however some may have individual non-profits that they feel passionate about. At the beginning of the year, create a calendar of 12 non-profits that you wish to help and invite employees to suggest ideas on how you can all raise money for each organization. Examples include walk-a-thons, flea markets, kids’ carnivals, etc.

  • Appreciation jar. You could encourage appreciation in the workplace with an “appreciation jar” and every time someone feels appreciation towards another employee they would put in a quarter. At the end of the month, give the jar to the employee-of-the month or think of a way to honor someone. Repeat monthly.

  • Summer cookout. If you are not into the corporate holiday parties or perhaps your business is too busy during this time, organize an annual “outside of work” day that people can bring their family members. This is a great way to build a tight-knit workforce.

  • Spiff bonuses. “Spiff” money is a slang term for cash that is handed out the same day. If an employee meets a certain goal or milestone for that day, they would receive cash rewards. This is especially encouraging for employees who are money motivated, rather than having to wait for their paychecks. It gives them a reason to work harder in between paychecks.

  • Company hike once a month. Nothing makes people work together better than to experience some kind of a field trip together, so you could make it a hike, festival, bike ride or whatever is most appropriate for the type of people who work for your company.

  • Have a “Flop of the Week” award. It may seem counterproductive to reward failures, but this is not true. Laughing about errors can be a good way to teach everyone what to do and what not to do, so the “flop” should be something that reminds them about the flub. For example, you could have an ugly doll that gets passed around to the winner of the “Flop of the Week” and the employee has to keep it in a prominent place on their desk all week until it goes to the next person.

There are so many different traditions you could apply to your own organization, and it is a good idea to integrate as many as possible. By doing so, you will build loyalty, trust and commitment to your workplace. Your challenge: Assess your current and commit to developing one new impactful tradition within the next 30 days. The kind that puts you in a class of one! One of my favorites is The Holiday Inn, Panama City, Florida: The hotel involves its customers in a fun tradition. The hotel blasts “The Circle of Life,” the memorable song from the musical The Lion King, at 11 a.m. daily to wake the annual influx of spring breakers. The marketing director says when they first tried this in 2012 they didn’t dream it would become so wildly popular. Yet today people make sure the tradition continues before booking a room. That may be a bit over the top for a staid office, but a musical shot of adrenaline shouldn’t be dismissed, either.


Rita Craig’s father, mother, grandmother and 10 siblings taught her to appreciate diversity. Craig, 59, is president of Top Tier Leadership, an international training and coaching service. The wife and mother is president of the Florida Speakers Association and winner of the Human Resource Association of Palm Beach County’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

RitaCraigON HER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: “That, to me, really was one of the most rewarding forms of recognition I’ve ever gotten because it was from people in my field – my peers.” FULL HOUSE: “I lived with my father, mother and grandmother, seven brothers and three sisters. Living with 13 distinct personalities with different likes and dislikes prepared me to work in the people business.” ASK, DON’T TELL: “A coach’s job is to ask questions. A mentor tells you what you should do. I’ve coached thousands upon thousands of people, from Microsoft to small mom-and-pops, to get them to think it through. It doesn’t matter where I go globally, people have the same challenges.”

While preparing for my TEDx Talk in Boca Raton on May 4, I did a great deal of research about the differences between culture and tradition.

After studying the meaning of the word culture, it is rather parallel to tradition. It refers to the rituals we put in place. It is defined as a way of “thinking, behaving, or working that exists within a place or organization. In 2014, the word culture itself was the most “looked up” word on the online dictionary. This tells me that people are trying to find a sense of community.

However, when you look up the word tradition, it does have a similar meaning. It’s a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used and reinforced by a person, family, society or group of people for a long time. It is taking practices and passing them on to the next generations. They bring life and values to an organization, creating a huge environment.

Some traditions connect us in a way that extends far beyond the real traditions themselves, by establishing a sense of camaraderie, friendship, community and commitment.

Those same feelings that connect our families can also be used to create a strong sense of dedication and connection at work. According to a Gallup Survey in January 2015, over 70% of all employees are disengaged, meaning they are not motivated to get up and do their jobs.

That means only 30% of all employees like what they do! Many of them actually hate their jobs and try to taint others in the workplace with their dread or disdain. Perhaps you know people like this, whether you work with them or have an acquaintance? Although disappointing, employers do not realize why and have many assumptions to blame. Technology, the economy, or other factors offer possible reasons.

In reality, the biggest reason for staggering numbers of people who hate their jobs is because they simply don’t have the heart to do it. They have not been “touched” or “connected” or “expanded” through traditions. Within our multi-generational workplaces, there must be some traditions in place to connect people and touch them in some way.

Using this knowledge, as an employer, you can evaluate…

  • What is our company doing to bring people together? Particularly “off-line” and outside the space of the internet?
  • What are we doing to help people get to know each other, so they can laugh more and nurture a sense of camaraderie and friendship?
  • Do the employees feel like they are nothing more than a number or that nobody truly cares about them?
  • Does everyone’s opinion(s) count?

Some traditions need to go away, or be rehabilitated. Some are stale and need to be thrown away.

Employers must find ways to connect their employees. By bringing them together, it directly impacts productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. It could be as a group, or through community and schools. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time, but it can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.

Recently, I had the complete honor and pleasure of speaking at the latest TEDx Talk in Boca Raton, Florida. Coming from a huge family of eleven children, plus two parents and one grandmother, it was essential for my mother to have systems in place to manage such an enormous undertaking. After packing seemingly hundreds of sandwiches and lunch bags, she looked each of us square in the eye before school and always said, “Be on your best behavior. I know you’ll make us proud.”

After hearing those words every single day, it became a tradition. It was a “touch tone” to start the day. Traditions do three things:

  • Traditions touch us

  • Traditions connect us

  • Traditions expand us

That early morning touched me because it brought so much love, as well as connecting me with my family, as we all shared those heartfelt words. It expanded me because I took those same feelings to school. So, after becoming a mother, I also instilled a tradition by saying to my son, “Make good choices. I love you.”

When we think back to our own childhood traditions, do they still touch you? Connect you? Expand you? Family is easy, but what about work?

Traditions at work have a bad rap, perhaps many of us believing them to be a way to hold on to the status quo. Some people think they go against everything we’ve learned about being innovative, productive, creative or progressive. However, this is simply not true.

Traditions can bring a sense of community, which results in a positive work environment; while enabling employers to attract and retain the very best in talent.”

We must change our perception of traditions.

Why? If we don’t, we cannot bridge the gap between today’s multi-generational employees. The millennials mixed with the baby boomers and Gen-Xers simply don’t understand one another, unless you find a way for them to come together.

WATCH THE TEDX presentation to hear ideas for building connections and traditions in your workplace!


The larger a company, the more likely it is to have multi-generational employees. A lot of workers are forgoing retirement until much later than the normal age of 55, for a variety of reasons. Some simply don’t have the financial safety net of social security or pension benefits to fall back on, either because they started saving too late or simply because of the increased cost of living. Others want to work because they enjoy the social camaraderie and bigger paychecks.

Meanwhile, keeping the new workforce relevant, engaged and interested in working also requires a strong company culture. In order to hire and keep the millennials and Gen-Xers interested, a company must incorporate relevant programs and systems that are more contemporary in values. As you might imagine, the struggle to maintain balance between the old and new is an ongoing topic for any business. There is often a gap between the “oldies” and “newbies” that is not only noticeable, but problematic in some cases.

Balancing Tradition While Blending New Methods and Technologies; Can This Be Done?

The importance of preserving tradition in the workplace is not about maintaining “status quo”. It is about connecting and bridging the gap between the baby boomers and the youth who are entering the workplace. By merging the new technologies and programs with the old, companies can satisfy the needs of all of the staff members on a broader scale, while creating a harmonious working environment.

Another reason to preserve the corporate traditions is for the benefit of the customers. Too many changes all at once can create confusion and discontent. There is nothing that will alienate customers faster than disgruntled employees, and after working so hard to build a brand that is rich in tradition, it would be a shame to throw it all away. Nevertheless, a company must evolve. The best way to provide balance is through training, implementing and by nurturing effective leadership. Teaching the management to pass on the most critical aspects of a company culture – while consecutively embracing the newer systems and concepts – is an ongoing process.

How to Know Which Traditions to Keep vs. Which to Toss

As far as knowing which traditions matter most, this can be done by using two methods.

  1. asking the employees; or
  2. asking the customers.

Both should be done subtly. You don’t want to alienate either of these vital aspects of your business, but there is value in their opinions. One way you could do this would be simply by asking for feedback. A straightforward approach makes employees feel included, whereas changes that suddenly appear might seem scary. Come outright in your approach. For example; “How do you feel about our traditional July cookout, do you feel that it should be changed?” or; “Our company is leaning toward a simplified method of networking online, how do you feel about that?” You could also ask which traditions are their favorite, versus which they care the least about. Their answers may surprise you! Traditions connect people and are very important in our very disconnected world!

There is a book by one of the most successful leadership trainers of our time, John C. Maxwell. “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions” is a topic that many people would not even think about, much less write an entire 304 page book about. Yet, when it comes down to it, the importance of asking questions is understated as a leadership skill. Not just any ‘ole questions, but the thought-provoking kind that make people stop and wonder how you came up with them.

Why is Question-Asking Considered a Valuable Leadership Skill?

Good question.

It does require thought to answer a question, but the act of “asking” it in the first place requires cognitive, tactical or logical thinking. Asking questions also uses creativity, because the asker must first notice what is wrong in the first place and then process the information to realize there may be an answer. In other words, the asker has done the following (ANIV):

  • Analyzed: The question asker has analyzed that something is amiss.

  • Noticed: After analyzing that something is wrong, the asker has “noticed” and wondered this question.

  • Initiative: Rather than settling for what is wrong, the asker has taken the initiative to question it.

  • Voice: After analyzing what is wrong, noticing it, and taking the initiative, the asker then “voices” it out loud. This is what sets the person apart as a leader, because rather than silently musing about the topic; they have expressed it out loud in the form of a question.

Makes sense, right? In other words, the person who inquires about what is wrong has not only noticed (through logic), they have also voiced it in the form of a question. Now, as a leader, how can you develop these thought provoking questions?

Let’s begin by brainstorming. Think about a team of people. Think about typical questions they might ask. Then, think of the complete opposite, or stretch your mind beyond the typical questions to make your questions more engaging, enlightening and more on the side of problem solving.

Questions and Answers Help to Solve Problems

Questions are challenging and give employees a chance to “figure things out”, which can also make them look up to you. Instead of doing things for them or answering and solving your own problems, by presenting it as a question, you are asking them to think for themselves. You are helping them to develop not only in the workplace, but as individuals!

Here are some examples of thought-provoking questions you could present to your staff. This might help you come up with other pertinent examples for your business. There is a “typical” question and then a similar, yet more thought-provoking way of asking it directly underneath.

  • Typical: “How can we beat the competition?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “If another company came along offering the same services, what weak areas of ours would they most likely target?”

  • Typical: “How can we be more successful?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “What are two key areas that are preventing us from moving forward?”

  • Typical: “What do you like about working here?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “What is your biggest concern about working here, and what can you do to overcome this?”

  • Typical: “What do you think of this project we’re doing?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “If you were to be solely responsible for this project, how would you handle it or make it better?”

  • Typical: “How should we handle this?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “Assuming there was absolutely ZERO chance of failure, what would be the first thing to do?”

Asking questions is stimulating and nurtures a creative workforce. By making your employees think harder, they will decidedly earn your respect as a leader who listens, cares and who asks the right questions to help them succeed.