CINCINNATITire Discounters Inc. executive Clarissa Niese finds herself at the crossroads of two generational mindsets regarding their jobsthe baby boomer stance of working hard to earn their pay and the millennial approach of looking for ways to make a difference.
From my age, I'm right on the cusp, so I grew up in that 'you work hard and you earn it' type of mentality. I grew up in that environment, said Ms. Niese, 34, the Cincinnati-based dealerships' chief marketing officer and executive vice president. But I'm right on the very top of the millennial age bracket so I can kind of relate to both worlds or at least see the merits of both approaches....
For the more experienced generation, the older generation, they're approaching (their jobs) as, 'These are my obligations. These are my responsibilities,' and I find the millennial approach is more about, 'Where do I feel I can add the most value? Where do I feel I can make a real difference?'
Based on these differing work ethics, Ms. Niese told Tire Business she has to approach employees in different ways to motivate them to participate in new programs.
It's about working with those individuals and finding out what motivates those individuals based off of those core beliefs. And both (age groups) bust their tails for any one project that we have going or objective or program or anything along those lines. But they're doing them for different reasons, so you can't speak to both groups in the same way, otherwise it could potentially be de-motivating.
If I speak to a millennial that, 'This is your obligation,' I can virtually see their eyes roll at me, she said. Where if I go'This is your way to make a difference. This is your way to make a real imprint.... Don't do it because it's your obligation, because it's on your work plan. Do it because it's awesome work to be working on.'and they'll work twice as hard as anybody you ever saw because of that motivation.
Ms. Niese also noted that it's a challenge to work with millennials' expectations of flexible work schedules while retaining them as employees.
It's a very real concern because if one of our experienced sales associates could go work in a retail environment someplace else and get their flexibility, then that's a potential retention issue for us. So it's not something that we can just stick our head in the sand over. So what we've been finding very successful is being able to provide flexibility with boundaries, she said.
We provide clarity as to why we need to do it the way we're doing it and then we put the challenge back to the individuals who are our employees and they come up with solutions.
For instance, working Saturdays. Obviously that's the busiest day of the week for us in tire and auto service. (We ask them) 'How would you propose to work that balance so that we can have you there every single Saturday?' And they come forward with recommendations, as opposed to us saying, 'Here's the way it is and here's your obligation.'
That shuts people down from a millennial standpoint, and they tend to be very frustrated.
From the other side, Ms. Niese said that as a younger person, joining an organization with older employees also presents challenges.
She joined the tire dealership in January 2014 after spending 15 years in marketing in other industries. She admitted she initially didn't see the tire industry as cutting edge, but Tire Discounters wanted her to establish a more innovative approach to marketing its business.
I found that awesome from a marketing perspective. There are so many wonderful innovations that have already been perfected across a lot of other industries that when applied to tires, it's super exciting, she said.
However, when it comes to presenting her ideas to older employees, she said she approaches them with the right amount of humility, as well as energy and excitement.
For me it was about appreciating the value that's there, but also bringing new fresh ideas to the table where there had been age-old problems that they've been dealing with or trying to manhandle through with other solutions that we could solve within a 24-hour period, she said. Within a couple of months, we've been able to put a system in place that leverages technology, for instance, to just solve things that we kind of had to accept or deal with in the past.
In any industryit isn't necessarily unique to tiresis you just get used to things as they are and you start accepting that that's the norm. It's hard to see a new way of doing things or potentially how it could solve your problems differently. So I think being young, coming in with fresh perspective, that's a benefit for any organization..., she said.
We've not only been solving communication challenges but also program offering challengesHow can we make the customer experience even better in the way we handle them? How do we handle the communication? How can we utilize all technologies?
Since she joined the dealership, she has developed the marketing department with a full-time staff of six that handles promotions, creates analytical reporting and oversees social communication platforms among other communication and promotion projects.
Ms. Niese noted that one of the challenges as a young person and a woman in a business that's predominantly older male is overcoming stereotypes.
You need to acknowledge certain expectations or potential stereotypes that are in place. And it's not necessarily just in the industry, it could be with customers, she said.
She recalled how her team of mostly women worked in some of the stores to understand the inner workings and customer interactions in the retail environment. One of the stereotypes they overcame with customers was expectations of not getting the same level of expertise from a young woman at the counter as they do from an older man tinkering with cars.
We did have a little of that expectation in place where they were a little hesitant initially, but then it's an opportunity we found where, because the bar of expectation is slightly lower, it's easier to surprise and delight them. 'Wow, you really do know what you're talking about!'....You can use a stereotype to your advantage, she said.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6127; Twitter: @kmccarr