When Generations and Families Mix in the Workplace

As a Generation X employer, hiring and mentoring millennials makes for interesting situations; but when that millennial is your son, it makes for an even more unique scenario. I struggled with the decision to hire my son after he finished high school. He interned at our agency previous summers, but being so young, he did more baseball stat watching on his phone than actual work.  Plus, he was off to California State in the fall; or so we thought.

Logan, however, concluded that college isn’t worth the time or cost.  He believed that spending upwards of $120,000 on college was a waste of money because, and I quote, “I’m just going to take over your agency anyway.” I couldn’t argue with that, but felt he needed to go experience life, see the world, increase his circle of friends and discover all that college life provides.

Being only 17 after his summer job, I agreed to hire him at least until he turned 18. This would give us a few months to see if we could work together on a full-time basis.

I’ve always been close to my son, but he is incredibly stubborn and wants to be in control all the time. And no, I have ‘no’ idea where he gets that from. 😊 I know too that building a business from scratch has made me protective about my agency. Although Logan and I share the same initials, only my name is on the door so to speak. So, I knew that he would have to concede to his mom, and I wasn’t sure how that would go over.

It quickly became obvious and even humorous that we see things differently when it comes to many topics including marketing, employees, and sales focus. Some examples of our generational gap perspectives:

Why are you spending marketing money on letters?   

Linda:  Marketing letters are a way to let people know who you are, and you can include brochures, business cards and other pieces to showcase your agency and what you offer.

Logan: Why would you advertise to people based on where they live compared to what they want?  When you want a new pair of shoes, it’s no longer logical to drive to a mall or department store where there are only a couple hundred shoes to choose from when millions are just a few clicks away on your smartphone.  So, when someone is looking for insurance, I would rather have our website appear at the top of Google’s results for the people who are looking for insurance rather than sending marketing letters to random people.

Why don’t you have a company Instagram page?

Linda:  A what? – Who? – Is that like Twitter?  (And here I thought he would be impressed that after 4 years I have a pretty active company Facebook page; you know that place he says all his friends left when their parents got on it.)

Logan:  Instagram is my favorite social media platform. It’s practically a resume; but for people to see and interpret as they want. I have just 25 posts since 2013 but have 3,300+ followers who know about the people I associate with and what I enjoy doing. Facebook is similar except it’s cluttered with what others do on a day to day basis. (I don’t care what you ate for lunch or your opinion on the president). A company should use Instagram as a tool to share who they are and how they can bring value to a potential client.

Why do you have an actual office?

Linda:  Some clients want that face to face interaction. When clients get frustrated over their insurance or need some guidance on a claim, many times they want to come in and sit down with an agent versus a 1-800 number where they get a different person every call.  Many of our current clients trust us, not a computer screen or someone they have never met.

Logan:  I understand that Mr. Williams is 75 and wants to sit down face to face to fully understand his coverages, but it doesn’t need to be done in an office anymore!  The number of clients who require face to face interaction is quickly dwindling unless you run a nursing home.  Offer to buy these clients coffee or lunch where you can set up your laptop if needed and ensure that they’re educated and happy with their insurance. It’s much cheaper than renting office space.  Today, employees can use apps such as FaceTime, Zoom, and GoToMeeting to communicate with their boss and coworkers. They don’t have to leave the comfort of their home, commute 40+ minutes, in fact they don’t even need to wear pants.  Remote employees are no longer side jobs or people choosing to be lazy. It’s the future of being able to work and live thousands of miles apart! I dream of the day where I can work remotely so I can be snowmobiling in British Columbia 6 months out of the year and then enjoy a tropical Island in Bali for the remaining 6 months. I believe that time is much closer than most think.

As you can see, our ideas are quite different and yet, as Logan said to me the other day, this working arrangement is turning out to be better than either of us thought.  Our strengths in business are almost identical, so I watch him and think with a few years of his mother’s learned knowledge and his ideas for reaching the next generation, this is going to be an experience that both of us will learn from, enjoy, and treasure for many years to come regardless how long it lasts!