LAS VEGAS — Leading today’s multi-generational and culturally diverse workplace calls for a combination of authenticity, transparency, passion, mentoring and some transformational thinking to succeed.
That was one of the key insights shared by a top executive panel speaking at the American Bakers Association’s NextGenBaker Global Leadership Forum during the recent International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in Las Vegas.
Several members of the panel such as Daniel Servitje, chairman and chief executive officer at Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City, described the management of today’s workforce as “complex” because it ranges from younger Generation Z and millennial employees to older Gen X and baby boomer workers.
“We see ourselves as a four-generation company,” Mr. Servitje told a packed audience at IBIE. “At the end of the day, what you need is an environment where everyone can feel accepted.”
He added that operating in 32 different countries across the globe adds another level of complexity.
“We’re a beliefs-centered company,” Mr. Servitje said. “What we’ve found is that our beliefs translate well in different countries and across the different generations. When you’re grounded by a strong culture, that eases generational differences.”
Bradley K. Alexander, chief operating officer for Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods, emphasized communication as the bridge in motivating today’s workforce and ensuring the leadership team is on the same page when executing the company’s strategy and vision.
“I like to meet with my team one-on-one to be sure they understand what we are trying to do and that we’re in sync,” he said. “I think everyone in our company wants to do the right thing, but sometimes they don’t know what we want them to do or what the vision is. We have to consciously help them with that.”
In those meetings, Mr. Alexander emphasized the conversation is a two-way street.
“I value their opinions, and I get a lot of great ideas from these meetings,” he said.
Roy Benin, president for category strategy and innovation at Weston Foods, focuses on developing a culture of authenticity to develop leaders at the Toronto-based company.
“People should be the same person at work as they are outside of it,” he said. “I think that is very important, and as a leader, I try to show up that way. We try to create a very authentic environment.”
He noted that authenticity drives the culture and values of an organization while providing a motivation for success in the workplace.
“Authenticity becomes a platform for personal growth and a reason why people want to work in an organization,” he said.
Mr. Benin added that the biggest role of a leader is to build more leaders in a business.
“We’re in the talent business, but we just happen to be in bakery,” he said.
Overall, Carrie Jones-Barber, c.e.o. of Dawn Foods, described the multi-generational workplace environment as “transformative” for the Jackson, Mich.-based baking company in recent years.
“We have many generations, and we have to find ways of communicating and connecting with those generations in our organization and find ways to connect them to our strategy and what our focus and goals are,” she observed.
Dawn Foods, for instance, launched its internal Workplace by Facebook to interconnect employees of all ages and develop a platform for training, education and exchanging a myriad of new ideas.
“We thought it was going to be a lot of fun, and really give us a great way to communicate across our organization, but we found every generation is using it,” Ms. Jones-Barber explained. “The baby boomers are using it just as much as the millennials and the Gen X, and that is what we didn’t expect.”
She noted the interactive platform can be used for sharing photos or messaging information ranging from technical advice on proofing to effective merchandising displays at the store level.
“We are just using it for communication in so many different ways, and it’s connecting all 5,000 of our team members to each other — and that’s transformative,” she said.