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‘Talkin’ ‘bout my generation’ with TLMI

By Steve Katz, Editor | October 22, 2013

The 2013 Annual Meeting addressed generational divides in the workplace, as well as strategies to get the most out of people and technology.

The Who’s seminal hit “My Generation” was fitting entrance music for the hundreds of label converters and suppliers gathered in San Antonio for the TLMI 2013 Annual Meeting. The event, themed “My Generation – Leading Strategies for Multigenerational Trends and Technologies,” took place October 20-23, at the JW Marriot Hill Country Resort and Spa.

TLMI Chairman Dave McDowell, of McDowell Label & Screen Printing, kicked off the proceedings by mentioning a few key TLMI milestones. He pointed out the association’s membership is higher than its been in two decades, and September’s Technical Conference attendance matched the record number set by the 2011 event.

McDowell also proudly pointed out that an upcoming LIFE certification brings the number of TLMI LIFE-certified converter and supplier facilities to 50. Next, keeping with the sustainability theme, Calvin Frost announced the winners of the TLMI 2013 Environmental Awards – The Label Printers took home the prize for the second consecutive year in the converter category, while Avery Dennison, with its CleanFlake portfolio that improves PET recycling, won in the supplier category.

Meeting Chairman Rob Hutchison introduced the event’s theme and Monday’s keynote speaker, Cam Marston, an author and expert on the impact of generational characteristics and differences in the workplace. Of the Annual Meeting’s theme, Hutchison said, “This meeting brings together presenters and speakers who will show us ways to effectively bridge the generation gaps within our businesses. Their insight will show us how to make sure we are getting the most from our people and creating a business environment of continuous innovation and open communication."

Cam Marston’s firm, Generational Insights, provides research and consultation on generational issues to hundreds of companies and professional groups, ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, as well as professional associations. With the wide variety found in the sizes of TLMI member companies, Marston’s insights resonated with all attendees. 

Marston began by classifying the different generational groups within an organization – Matures (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-64), Gen X (1965-79), Millennials (1980-2000) and iGen (after 2000). He paid special attention to the two most prominent groups present in the room – Baby Boomers and Gen X. 

Baby Boomers, Marston said, are the workaholics of a company. With ethics steeped in history, these workers have a deep respect for visual recognition of success – trophies, plaques, certificates – and they also appreciate tenure. Baby Boomers, Marston said, prefer face-to-face communicating, as opposed to texts and emails. “And when they do email,” he added, “They like full sentences, few abbreviations, and an opening and closing.”

Gen X, Martson said, is comparatively more cynical, and even pessimistic. They are immersed in technology, as they’re the biggest online shoppers and bankers. “But they don’t simply buy something,” Marston said. “They stalk and they hunt products and information. This generation is cautious and conservative.”

Gen Xers are also significantly more self-centered than Baby Boomers, Marston explained. “When you have a society that goes from struggling to affluence, the children take on a more self-centered ethos,” he said.

While Martson noted that Baby Boomers are the last generation that will define themselves by their work, it is the “tweener,” the employee on the cusp of being either a Boomer or Gen X, that is often retained and valued for being an “interpreter” within the workforce, providing explanations to the other generations.

While Baby Boomers are the outgoing generation of workers, Marston emphasized the importance of succession and transferring their knowledge. He said, “Boomers need to be cajoled into transferring their wisdom – their knowledge of machinery and customer relations. This is a challenge.”

The up and coming generation of workers are the Millennials, also known as Gen Y. Born between 1980 and 2000, Marston characterized this group as group-oriented and optimistic, though they have a hard time focusing. “For Millennials, the future is very short-term, and this group, at a young age, is busy and stressed,” he said.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker, “back by popular demand,” as Hutchison introduced him, was Scott Klososky, a former CEO of three successful startup companies who specializes in looking over the horizon at how technology is changing the world.

Klososky focused on the crucial relationship between leadership and technology, and the factors at play that are rapidly affecting business today. “Tech savvy customers, business processes like Lean Manufacturing, digital marketing and mobile device usage are all reshaping forces "dramatic game changers,” he said, adding that mastery of technology requires leadership to blend industry knowledge and tech savvy.

Klososky also talked about Tech Darwinism, referring to the pace of change and the need for speed when marketing innovation. “When you move too slowly, your products may not be relevant to customers,” he said.

Challenges abound, as the business world is now “dog-eat-dog,” Klososky explained. “There is increasing competition from overseas. And technology has sped up awareness of ideas. Today, customers can more easily identify other suppliers,” he said.

“Technology is all about connecting things that have never been connected before,” Klososky said, suggesting that press operators and production personnel wearing Google Glass can have many benefits. “It’s about ‘profit amplification’,” he said. “Tech mastery raises top line revenue while lowering bottom line costs.”

Big Data was another topic of focus. “Data is an asset,” Klososky explained. “A data-driven organization gathers a much larger database of information than its competitors. This company constantly searches for new analytic trends, and uses the understood data to make better decisions or provide more value.”

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