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With 4 generations in the workplace, employers expected to juggle vastly different expectations

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For the first time in contemporary history, there are four generations in the workforce — baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and the first of generation Z — human resources experts say. 

With employees ranging in age from their late teens to their 70s, businesses must tailor management styles to the multi-generational workforce.

The wide age gap is « pretty unprecedented, » said Dalhousie University professor Eddy Ng, who teaches human resources management at the Rowe School of Business in Halifax.

« This can become a contentious issue when you have four generations at work with different value sets and expectations of each other. It makes it a bit more challenging for managers to handle. »

Ng said most company policies were written by boomers to reflect their own work style — a standard day at the office  featuring plenty of face time. « Then they had millennials come in and disrupt the workplace. »

They asked for things like flexible work arrangements, and progressive workplaces have adapted, he said.

Eddy Ng, professor and F.C. Manning Chair in Economics and Business at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business in Halifax, said there are some key differences in how millennials and Gen Z were raised that play out in the workplace. (Dalhousie University)

Now, the oldest of those millennials, born between 1981 and 1995, are in their late 30s, said Ng. They’re being joined in the workplace by members of generation Z, born between 1996 and 2010.

Bruce Mayhew, a human resources consultant and trainer, said the workforce of today is both « culturally dynamic » and wide-ranging in age. « Those things are really impacting the way that we communicate, the way we listen, and what we think might motivate the person sitting beside us. »

Different views on loyalty

Given the size of their cohort, boomers have always worked in environments where most people wanted the same things that they did, he said. Advancement up the corporate ladder and loyalty have been two big pillars of the boomer working life.

« When you’re looking at what happened historically, boomers were very loyal, » said Mayhew. « Globalization came and companies started letting people go. »

Some gen Xers and older millennials saw their loyal 50-year-old parents « have their lives completely erupted » by layoffs from companies where they’d worked for two decades or more, he said.

Mayhew said this led gen Xers to conclude: « If they’re not going to be loyal to us, why should we stay? » 

They were the first to move quite freely between workplaces, he said. « Gen Xers would leave for a better job. Millennials will leave and then go find a better job. »

Those experiences also shape the kind of hours and sacrifice younger generations are willing to make for a company.

More importance on lifestyle, impact

Aiman Attar sees that playing out in her work as a recruiter for the real estate industry, hiring mostly executive assistants and other administration staff to support realtors and brokers.

Between the tight labour market and the shifting values of potential hires, Attar said her company has had to do a lot of « re-education » around client expectations and management practices.

Boomer real estate agents are accustomed to working long hours — including plenty of evenings and weekends — with the payoff of big commission cheques in mind, she said. What’s changed is that they can no longer recruit young assistants to work those same hours for $40,000 per year. 

« There are certain expectations that they could get 10 years ago that they can’t get anymore, » she says. « Millennials want work-life balance. A lot of them would like to work from home. They don’t see the need to be at the office. »

Likewise, Attar said realtors would like assistants to stay with them for 10 or 15 years. « But that’s really old school. The younger generations can’t stay in the same position for 10 years. » 

Carly Silberstein is CEO of Redstone Agency, an event and association management firm that employs mostly millennials but partners with a mostly older clientele. She says that success collaborating across generations hinges in part on ‘open-mindedness on everyone’s behalf.’ (Mikaila Kukurudza/The Lace Lens)

Carly Silberstein is CEO of Redstone Agency, an event and association management firm based in Toronto where millennial staffers are partnered with mostly older clientele.

It’s important to understand what motivates younger generations, said Silberstein.

« Millennials and gen Z are just looking for purpose, » she says. « While yes, it’s a paycheque — and having that financial support is definitely important — I think that having purpose and working toward a larger goal of something that’s bigger than themselves is something they’re looking for … in the work that they do. »

Keeping that top of mind is key for attracting and retaining talent, said Silberstein.

Retirement age rising

On the other end of the age spectrum at work, the boomers have changed the way Canadians think about retirement. 

Since 2000, the average retirement age has risen from 61.6 to 63.8, according to Statistics Canada data, and that trend is unlikely to reverse.

« In thinking about this multigenerational workforce, the context of population aging is extremely important, » said Steven Tobin, executive director of the Labour Market Information Council, an Ottawa-based non-profit that helps Canadians navigate the changing world of work. « Our population is aging which means the labour force is expected to shrink. »

That’s particularly problematic given there’s already a labour shortage affecting business in many parts of Canada. Without a full complement of staff, part of the economy could slow.

« To mitigate that slow down, we absolutely must encourage a diverse mix of people to join and stay in the workforce, and age is a critical component of that diversity. »

Think knowledge exchange, not knowledge transfer

When the implications of the aging workforce first began to catch the business world’s attention about 10 years ago, Tobin said the focus was on mitigating the loss of knowledge in the workplace when boomers retire by ensuring that knowledge is passed down to younger workers.

« We thought about this being uni-directional — older workers transferring knowledge to younger workers, » he said.

There is an opportunity and potential to learn from one another, to complement each other and share that respective knowledge and expertise.– Steven Tobin, Labour Market Information Council

Instead, managers need to think about helping different generations of staff to exchange knowledge. One example: technology.

« Given that technology is changing, there are new and different skills being demanded in this economy, » said Tobin. Younger generations can share technical skills, while older generations pass on industry knowledge and overall wisdom about the workplace.

« There is an opportunity and potential to learn from one another, to complement each other and share that respective knowledge and expertise. Each generation brings a unique set of skills that others can benefit from. »

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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