CREATIVES & COMMUNICATION: The Diversity of Age at Work By Sharon Cohen
Ever find it challenging to manage the clash of Veterans, Boomers, Gen X’s and Gen Y’s? Do your Gen X employees sometimes frustrate your Veteran clients? Does your Boomer management style ever conflict with your Gen X staff? Welcome to the unprecedented age of age diversity at work.
This office challenge has nothing to do with global downsizing, cutthroat competition, narcissistic bosses, stress, or corporate greed. Rather, it is the unique condition of multiple generations all working together -- and often colliding. Different values, different ideas, different approaches and different communication styles have always existed. So why is it now such a conundrum?
For the first time in U.S. history, four different generations -- Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen X’s and Gen Y’s -- are working side-by-side. The once definite protocols pertaining to how older workers interacted with younger workers and vice-versa no longer apply. The rules are being rewritten daily as tech-savvy young creatives are managing agency vets twice their age.
In the creative sphere, generational differences affect every facet of the business, including recruitment, training, team building, management, motivation and rewards. Differences in vision, perspective, education, experience and style can beget misunderstandings, resentments, loyalty issues, an ambiguous hierarchy of power, difficulty in attracting talent and high employee turnover.
Similar to the typical family, intergenerational creative groups sometimes have conflicting work ethics, dissimilar values and idiosyncratic styles. Based on research derived from The Iowa Consortium for Applied Gerontology, the chart ( please click the link below to view chart ) illustrates each generational group’s individual characteristics – core values, work ethic, work style, communications style, reward preferences and motivators.
As one of the youngest employees at HLD/Blankman Public Relations, Account Executive Nicole Smith notes that the majority of people she works with both internally and externally are her senior. “I feel very confident offering my clients public relations counsel because I have become so intrinsically involved with their businesses and have, in a sense, become a member of their internal teams,” she says. “At HLDB, I work very closely with two managing partners of the agency and have never been made to feel as though any of my ideas are inferior due to my age.” Her opinion, she asserts, “is always valued,” and this open environment has enabled her “to feel totally at ease when working with top management.”
Organizational research illustrates that most people communicate based on their generational backgrounds. Because each generation has its own distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational factors, a smart management team with learn how to best communicate with the different generations -- eliminating unnecessary conflicts.
Creative leaders acknowledge that it comes down to respecting and appreciating differences. “I have always found it stimulating to work with employees of different ages and diverse backgrounds,” states John Harrison, CEO of Harrison Leifer DiMarco. “Throughout my career, as both employee and employer, I have always treated fellow employees with the dignity and respect that they deserved.”
The multi-generational creative workplace is rife with idiosyncrasies. One of my own former bosses -- always on the bleeding edge of creativity -- believed that a good idea starts on a napkin (a Boomer). Another was light years ahead of anyone in tech savvy (a Boomer). Another wrote sales letters in longhand, in pencil (a Veteran). Most unforgettable was my young officemate and buddy, a self-proclaimed “rain maker” (Gen Y).
Understanding the pronounced differences – and similarities -- between the generations can help staffers of all ages tailor their messages for maximum effect, regardless of the task or project. Good business is based on empathy -- the commitment to accept and respect the unique characteristics of every individual.
Everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn.
WHAT’S NEW IN PRINTING: The Digital-on-Demand ‘Silver Bullet’
By Sharon Cohen
There is hardly a question that the printing industry -- the second largest manufacturing industry in the U.S. and the third largest industry overall -- faces great challenges. But of all the potential obstacles to future growth, the availability of alternative communications media -- coupled with the lack of buyers’ knowledge as to how print can be most effectively used in a multi-channel media mix -- is the real adversary.
"On-demand printing" and "short-run printing" have been buzzwords for several years. Though the technology to perform digital printing has been in use for some time, each year brings greater ability to produce higher quality results.
Shorter Runs, Customized Results Short-run printing has always been an appealing concept, as it allows publishers to print one or a few hundred copies of a publication at a fraction of the total cost of traditional large offset printing runs, thus eliminating waste. Companies can print high-quality corporate literature tailored to immediate requirements. The affordability of short runs with targeted messages for specific clientele is one of the key benefits of this technology.
Digital printing provides the ability to customize a few pieces, or even every individual piece of a print run -- a capability that simply does not exist with offset printing. According to Adobe, educational publisher McGraw-Hill recently produced 65,000 entirely customized workbooks via database-driven digital printing with very short runs. Each student who failed a statewide test received a unique workbook with remedial exercises for weaknesses revealed in their test results. The customized effort resulted in an 85% retake success rate compared to the previous 72%.
Expanding on the digital phenomenon is what’s next on the printing scene, believes Ron Daris of Ronkonkoma-based Ocean Printing. “The benefits of digital are truly amazing -- the quality, quick turnaround, ease of electronic files and the exactness of the printed proofs. The press is actually making the proof, so the client sees exactly what they will be getting,” he explains.
A true printing technician, Daris notes, understands “the entire printing trade,” not just the computer technology. “When clients are paying top dollar for printing, it’s about quality control and excellent service,” he says. “It’s not just about competitive pricing, but about ‘key drivers’ -- the ability and agility to provide solutions and value. We help clients manage the technological change that will eventually grow their businesses.”
For the past several years, an obstacle to the broader use of digital printing has been skepticism about print quality. A recent survey by Graphic Design USA revealed that designers are now specifying digital printing more often than ever, and are happier with the results. Though the results denote a significant gain in acceptance from prior years, some designers are still unconvinced of digital color accuracy -- the benchmark of quality.
“To that end, calibration is key,” says Daris. “To lift the quality of the end product, the photographer, designer and printer all must run their equipment on the same calibration. This will ensure better quality with fewer hassles.”
Futurists such as Frank Romano, professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology, find digital printing to be doing very well but “is a long way from widespread acceptance.”
Project managers at Parsons School of design agree, adding that acceptance is contingent on “routinely reliable results, appropriate pricing and excellent customer communications.”
The digital-on-demand phenomenon is making inroads in all facets of the graphic arts industry. With indisputable consumer benefits, high-quality color output, and growing acceptance by industry professionals, the technology is slowly earning its place as the industry’s new darling.
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