Hellen Ward on managing different generations in your salon

Although managing different generations can be challenging, age-diverse teams bring different skills sets to the workplace, making them more effective and sucessful, says salon owner and PB columnist Hellen Ward

They say that only a fool mixes business and pleasure yet it’s a lesson few employers learn. How many potentially lucrative business opportunities have I tried to push the way of friends and family only to wish I’d listened to my intuition, forgotten my good intentions and not created a headache for myself. Because it is true – like a lot of old wives’ tales – business and pleasure just don’t mix. 

Recently a company chief executive in the public eye was fired for having a relationship with one of his employees. Much was made in the media about whether this was the right course of action, and I believe it was. No boss should be carrying on with the staff and it surely compromises the workplace integrity for both parties involved if a person is reporting into somebody they have – or worse, used to have – an intimate relationship with. 

How to manage the generation gap

With many people meeting their future partner through work, how as a boss do you cope with the fallout when love turns sour? It comes down to how we deal with the generation gap in general. Ask any 50-something director about the most challenging elements of their role and HR will undoubtedly come up. It’s hard to communicate just how fundamentally things have changed since I was an apprentice. My young team, like my children, are very aware of their rights, and that can’t be a bad thing, but in the real world, life throws us curveballs and emotions get in the way. 

Being a baby boomer trying to understand millennials or generation Z can be enriching. There have been a number of studies that say age-diverse teams are more effective and successful, with each generation bringing different skill sets to the workplace. 

Lots of my cohorts would agree that business for them is fundamentally H to H – human to human. Most of our key associations are relationship based – think of your favourite company, supplier or manufacturer – normally it’s the people that are the reason for your loyalty. 

As this might not be so relevant to tech-based young people, we can help them learn to value the H to H element. And, they can teach us a thing or two about technological advances (as well as keeping us acting and feeling younger). 

Building those relationships

A recent study from the University of California found that there are two distinct forms of intelligence: fluid, which is our ability to think logically and process information; and crystallised, which is gained through accumulated knowledge and experience.

Researchers found that increases in crystallised intelligence were roughly twice as valuable as increases in fluid intelligence. Crystallised intelligence is more prevalent in my age group, while fluid intelligence, like reaction time, typically peaks in young adulthood and then steadily declines, so is more innate in younger generations. The conclusion? Both types need to come together to build a balanced work environment. 

By its very nature, H to H always means boundaries may be crossed, and in the workplace, somebody has to make sure that doesn’t happen. Or if it does, valuable team members don’t let their private lives interfere with their career potential – sounds like the perfect job for a baby boomer like me. 

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, one of the most profitable independent salons in the UK. She is beauty ambassador for the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF). 

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