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Musings from the Ledge: The generation game

By |  December 4, 2020 0 Comments
Alan FitzGerald (Photo: Fernando Gaglianese)

Alan FitzGerald (Photo: Fernando Gaglianese)

In Pennsylvania, the unofficial signal that the season has ended is the Penn State Turf Conference — a fact proven, when in the middle of the dog days of summer, every superintendent in the area says, “can’t wait for Penn State” — a time when the mowing is done and the last battles of blowers versus the wind are occurring.

Except for 2020, which due to form, has managed to “cancel” the Penn State Turf Conference (at least in its traditional form). While struggling over the fact that I won’t be going to Happy Valley for education or football this fall, I reminisced over the good trips of the past and one class in particular that stood out. It was a preconference seminar on managing the different generations. To this day, it is one of the best educational events that I have participated in. Learning each generation’s mindset showed how it influenced the next, and once you understood where they were coming from, it showed how each should be managed.

The general consensus at the time was, “Millennials are lazy and don’t want to work,” but the class taught me something different. We definitely had them all wrong, and as managers, we were generally failing them — not the other way around. I think superintendents overall have adapted their management styles in some way or another over the years, especially as nearly all millennials are now in the workforce. Now millennials are becoming the managers, so it was going to change whether we liked it or not.

This brings me to Generation Z.

I had not realized there was a new generation entering the workforce until this year. While 2020 dealt a lot of bad, I had one of the biggest turf teams I’ve ever had and one of the best, largely due to three interns joining the team in the spring.

They all have varied backgrounds from this being their first greenkeeping job to having spent some time in various capacities at other clubs. I’m also fortunate to have two second assistant/spray tech/irrigation tech/gofers and a Matt (who doesn’t know it yet but he will be a successful superintendent). All six of them (along with the other high schoolers and college kids who worked here this summer) continually impress with their abilities, and the difference to similarly aged staff from just a few years ago is amazing.

Millennials are not lazy; it’s just that every step of a job has to be described in detail. Communication is very, very important, so it gives the impression of them needing hand holding, even though a lot of actual work is getting done. The fact that they sat between each step of a job waiting for further instructions didn’t help that lazy narrative.

So, what about Gen Z? While the older ones seem to have a mix of millennial and Gen Z characteristics, the younger ones show complete autonomy. It is interesting to see the transition. Overall, they are driven, extremely passionate about their work and they just get it. I quickly realized that they picked up new tasks quickly and then just got it done.

Their big test was rebuilding the turf nursery green. It started out a bit shaky as they worked out how to tackle it, but then it was done — and done well! And my proudest moment? Nursery maintenance is on autopilot. They have it mowed/rolled/topdressed/fertilized/ whatever it needs before my assistant schedules it.

So, after all of the negativity that the new generations are going to ruin the world, I’m seeing the very opposite. If this bunch of young turfers are anything to go by, then the future looks bright.

And, if you ever get an applicant with LedgeRock and 2020 on their resumé, hire him or her; you won’t be disappointed!

This article is tagged with , and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Golfdom's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at Golfdom, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.


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