Differences among the generations were front of mind at the Krisam Group Executive Summit, held September 6 to 9 at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach in Cancun. During a session moderated by Cindy Novotny of Master Connection Associates, the group split up and rotated among table discussions on managing Gen X and Gen Y staff, communicating among the generations, and using technology more effectively.

Attendees included meeting professionals from a range of companies, including Bristol Myers-Squibb, BMW, CVS, the Schwan Food Co., and Tupperware.

In the hotel industry, dominated by Gen X and Gen Y sales staff, turnaround has become a huge issue for managers, who find it difficult to motivate salespeople who they know will only stay with them for a couple of years. “It’s important to sit that person down when you hire them and lay out your plans for them,” said Tim Bugas, vice president of sales for the Hotel Hershey/Hershey Lodge. “Here’s where you’ll be in one year, two years, five years, and here are the opportunities we can offer you.” Other sales managers spoke about adding new tiers of positions so that younger employees can be rewarded with title changes and promotions more frequently.

On the meeting planning side, some baby boomer planners spoke of younger planners’ lack of responsibility. “I don’t want to generalize,” said one, “but there is definitely something going on here when it comes to attitude.”

The discussion, which was lively—sometimes even heated—came to many strong conclusions:

  • Boomer managers need to allow more flexibility with work hours and telecommuting, especially for twentysomethings, who often thrive under less traditional arrangements.
  • The idea of having to explain a gap in your resume is outdated in the meetings industry; good people come from diverse walks of life and career paths.
  • Electronic RFPs should be considered the starting point of hotel-planner negotiations. Younger generations, who rely primarily on e-mail, need to pick up the phone and have a discussion.
  • Work overload has squeezed people of every generation, creating a situation in which multitasking is the norm and as a result, people rely on their BlackBerries to an extreme. Meetings need to more strongly enforce BlackBerry rules.
  • Technologies, from instant messaging to e-mail, all have their place; the trouble starts when they are misused (for example, labeling all e-mails “urgent”). Boomers need to be open to tools such as instant messaging, which is used primarily by twentysomethings and can be very helpful when someone needs an immediate answer.
  • A poll of summit attendees revealed that few participants had ever received training about working with people of other generations. Companies should make multigenerational training a top priority, as the number of Gen X and Gen Y people in the workplace will soon outnumber those of the boomer population