Bridging the generation gap

By Mark Dawson
May 1, 2007

Today’s workforce comprises four distinct generations, each with its own shared history, biases and core beliefs. Learning what makes each generation tick will advance your ability to recruit and retain technicians and other staff members.

Let’s take a quick look at each generation. Note these dates are approximate:

Matures. Born between 1909 and 1949, these individuals came of age during the Great Depression and experienced Pearl Harbor, World War II and Hiroshima. Duty and respect are the driving forces in their lives. Matures place great faith in the nation’s institutions and government, people and companies. They value quality over speed and efficiency.

Baby boomers. The “Me” generation, born between 1946 and 1964, is one of the largest generations in history. Significant events affecting boomers’ lives include the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy; as well as the Vietnam War. Baby boomers’ strong work ethic associates the number of hours spent on the job with success. In the end, they are searching for control and prosperity.

Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1978, the world promptly identified this generation as skeptics reluctant to grow up and conform. During a time when the failure of national institutions appeared to be the norm, Xers embraced an attitude of making the most of every opportunity rather than becoming pessimists. Productivity, not just the number of hours spent on the job, is high on their priority list. A search for the truth might cause them to move from job to job.

New millennials, echo boomers or Generation Y. Protected by their parents, the youngest group to enter the workforce was born between 1979 and 1988. Labeled as technology gurus, they have never known a world without cell phones, laptops, remote controls or space travel. As a whole, they have never known a depression.

This last group, in particular, reflects a shift in society that has greatly impacted auto glass companies’ ability to recruit technicians. In the past, high-school students took wood shop, metal shop, or even body shop. Today’s high school students take technology courses and focus more on higher education in pursuit of high-tech or multimedia careers. They seek out white-collar jobs instead of blue-collar or trade-related opportunities.

Remember, new millennials have not had the opportunity to do much for themselves. When I was young, I was able to watch my dad or granddad fix things with their hands. In today’s world, we don’t have time to fix anything around the house. The result is a working class with little or no trade skills.

This leaves the auto glass industry with a limited pool of technicians to choose from, often necessitating that companies hire qualified technicians from existing competitors. In most instances, you end up hiring someone else’s problem for more money.

Today, about 14,000 auto glass retailers in the United States service more than 240 million registered cars and trucks, but with a dwindling workforce. In 2006, auto-body and related repairers accounted for 233,000 jobs; about 1 in 10 specialized in automotive glass installation and repair. The lack of qualified  auto glass technicians is one of the biggest concerns among today’s shop owners.

As an employer, what are your options? Recruit, recruit, recruit. Following are seven rules to go by when recruiting new personnel.

1. Do not prejudge. Learn to see people in terms of who they can be.

2. Be active. When you find someone that you want on your team, go after him or her.

3. Recruit every day. You will always need good people.

4. Ask yourself: Would I want to work for me? As a boss, people need to know that you respect, honor and care for them.

5. Ask yourself: Would I want to work for my company? Is your business above board in the way it operates? Is it the company of choice in your community?

6. Paint an accurate picture of your company. You can recruit anyone if you articulate how employees can accomplish their personal and financial goals by joining your team. Share your story and background with potential hires. Author Zig Ziglar said, “If you help enough people get what they want in life, then you will get what you need.”

7. Hire salespeople and train them on the technical aspects of the job. Take advantage of the training institutions and tools at your disposal. At my company, we spend thousand of dollars and hours on training that our franchisees can use on a daily basis. Develop your own in-house training program to address rising labor cost concerns.


The author is president of Glass Doctor in Waco, Texas. Write him at