One of the most significant challenges that every business leader faces over the course of a career is managing those under his or her care. On the surface, it can seem such a simple task, but people are not simple. Employees have distinct life experiences, backgrounds, upbringings, cultures, personalities, expectations and dreams. In short, each employee is highly differentiated and diverse in his or her way.
In fact, one of the unique areas of distinction from an employee’s background is the generational cohort to which he or she belongs. Most leaders, including myself, manage a workforce that is multi-generational. Understanding, respecting and appreciating our employees’ generational backgrounds are keys to effectively managing a workforce - a workforce that is in the midst of a radical transformation period with the Millennial generational cohort.
It is important to appreciate the previous generations and how they shaped both the world that we live in and American businesses to understand Millennials. Let’s explore a super high-level on the five generations that researchers have studied since 1900. Think of it as a fun little history lesson. While I am not a generational expert, there are critical takeaways that every leader, including myself, can and should appreciate:
The Lost Generation
The earliest, widely studied American generation was the cohort known as The Lost Generation. These workers were born from approximately 1883-1900. As of 2016, there are only three members of this generation who are still alive in the entire world. They are each 116-years-old.
World War I shaped this generation. As the first truly global war, most of these
Americans knew someone who had died. Such loss came with the unfortunate wisdom that enormous costs often balances victory. It left many shaken to their core and disoriented by the trauma of war.
WWI caused many to feel lost as to the direction life should or could take in light of global war - hence the cohort’s name. Notable author Gertrude Stein first mentioned the Lost Generation, and was later popularized by Ernest Hemingway in his work, “The Sun Also Rises.”
The Greatest Generation
After The Lost Generation, the cohort that came to be known as The Greatest Generation emerged. These workers, born from approximately 1901-1924, are currently 92 to 115-years-old. While data is spotty at best - and combined with the generation that followed - it is estimated that roughly 28 million people are still alive from these two cohorts.
Prominent news person Tom Brokaw is credited with naming this cohort in his
1998 book, “The Greatest Generation.” As young people, they grew up in a world of high unemployment, hunger and extreme poverty due to the Great Recession. As they came of age, World War II brought devastation, loss of life and sacrifice.
In a sense, the generation became the archetype for what many consider to be American - putting country before personal needs.
From the employer perspective, we valued The Greatest Generation for demonstrating frugality, patriotism and loyalty to the companies for which they worked. The Great Depression-World War II double whammy guided this generation down a path that placed a high value on employment stability and money as a means of protection to protect themselves and loved ones.
The Silent Generation
The years from 1925 to 1945 gave rise to The Silent Generation. When combined with The Greatest Generation, there are roughly 28 million people who are still alive from the two cohorts. At its peak, the cohort had around 50 million members. Those who remain are currently 71 to 91 years old.
Time magazine named this generation. Similarly to Generation X (see below), it was a relatively small cohort sandwiched between two much larger groups. On one side were the G.I. heroes of The Greatest Generation. On the other were the much discussed and influential Baby Boomers.
While most of the workers from this generation have either passed away or have retired from the workplace, it is important to understand them, because they were parents of the subsequent two generations whose members are still prominent in the American workforce.
Its oldest members fought in World War II. The Korean War was a central conflict for this generation. Its youngest members also experienced War in Vietnam. The Silent Generation are the children who were born during the Great Depression and World War I. Tight finances in those years resulted in fewer children than were typical in prior generations. Having more children would have likely meant starvation.
It is ironic that despite being considered The Silent Generation many of its members have become the most influential and iconic Americans. Persons of note have included Senator Bernie Sanders (1941), Martin Luther King Jr. (1929), Malcolm X (1925) and Elvis Presley (1935).
The Baby Boomers are where things get fascinating for those in American business today because, on average, these workers are the oldest employees in the workforce currently. Boomers were born from approximately 1946 to 1964 and are currently 52 to 70-years-old. Interestingly, and in contrast to prior generations that spanned 20 or more years, the Baby Boomers generation is only 18 years long. Despite this, they became the largest generation in American history until 2015. At its peak, the cohort reached a membership of 77.3 million.
Consider the time frame Baby Boomers were born: these were the children of The Greatest Generation. This group exploded in numbers once our G.I. heroes had returned home from war and were ready to get on with their lives. Also, consider that The Greatest Generation “placed a high value on employment stability and money as a means of protection to protect themselves and loved ones.” They taught these values to their children - the Baby Boomers.
While Boomers came of age during the Flower Power hippie days of the 1960’s, this was quickly cut short by the savagery of the Vietnam War. It forced Boomers to reinvent themselves from the idealistic peace and antiwar values they knew, into one that needed to quickly grow up to not only make sense of a rapidly changing world but also to survive it.
The Boomers became known as workaholics; This generation valued long hours at the workplace. Non-Boomers question Boomers’ inequity in the work-life equation. However, once again consider who their parents were and the differentiated aspects this generation experienced. As means of protection, Boomers valued hierarchy - not flat management structures - in business. Climbing the ladder said visibility, prestige, power and yes, financial safety for their families. It helped to remove uncertainty in an increasingly uncertain world.
These workers valued stability and sticking with an employer for the long-haul. Again, this contributed to solidifying financial security for Boomers’ families. Research has shown that Boomers believe its strengths include organizational memory, optimism and a willingness to work long hours to get the job done. They value hard work - again, they are the children of The Greatest Generation.
Perhaps the most intriguing - and a point often misunderstood - is that Baby Boomers are ultra competitive. From the outside, this seems to counter the modern value of being a team player. However, it is much easier to understand why Boomers were so when one recalls that this was, at its peak, the largest generation in American history. They did not have a choice but to be competitive because competition for jobs was fierce.
To date, three U.S. Presidents have emerged from this generation: President Bill Clinton (1946), President George W. Bush (1946) and President Barack Obama (1961).
Next came Generation X - one of the most often misunderstood cohorts in American history. It continued the generational time frame shrink as its members were born from approximately 1965 to 1980 - a scant 15 years. Its members are currently 36 to 51-years-old. Collectively, it reached a peak of 55 million members.
In its earliest days, this “MTV Generation” was considered to be slackers - especially by ultra competitive Baby Boomers. However, Xers’ world was one that had undergone significant transformational change socially, economically, politically and institutionally. The world they had been taught to exist within became extinct by the time they had come of age.
As a direct result, Xers learned not to trust others - especially older generations. They required proof of what others told to them - personally and in business.
Interestingly, while Xers did fight in the Gulf Wars, they were not defined by this experience. War was simply another life shift to which to adapt amongst countless events they had experienced previously.
Consider what took place in their formative and young adult years: The boom and bust of the 1980’s economy and the stock market, the potential for nuclear war with the Soviet Union, the fall of communism in 1989, the rise of social and political conservatism, Watergate and the Rodney King beatings. They are the first generation to have mass adoption of computers and the Internet for personal and professional uses. Due in large part to the Great Recession, Xers will be the first generation who are not more successful than their parents or the generations that had come before.
Hell, even sex was not safe any longer due to the early 1980’s discovery of HIV that (at the time) typically resulted in an AIDS diagnosis and eventually death. Even today, LGBT Xers share stories revolving around a horrifyingly large percentage of gay men who died from HIV and left a significant number of LGBT Xers without mentors and leaders.
They were the first generation known as “Latch Key Kids”; Rapidly shifting economies and social norms led their mothers into the workforce in numbers never before experienced in the United States. Divorce became the norm, rather than the exception. These two factors forced Xers to learn how to be independent and to care for themselves.
In business, this resulted in a workforce that did not value hierarchy or micromanagement from its leaders. Further, Xers value workforce flexibility, telecommuting, independence and schedule adaptability, because Xers have shown their entire lives that they have an innate ability to self-manage and solve problems. Flexibility is, in fact, Xers number one job characteristic that they seek from employers.
Xers do not share Boomers’ loyalty toward their employers. In fact, on average they switch jobs every three to five years and are distrustful of corporate motives. Businesses that speak in colorful, flowery language, do not resonate with Xers. Employers who talk in proof points earn trust.
Generation X, like The Silent Generation, is a cohort caught between generations that are significantly larger, vocal and dominant due to size. This has the potential to frustrate Xers who barely had their “time in the sun” before being overshadowed by the generation that came after.
However, it would be unwise to count Xers out - they have proven throughout their entire existence that they have an uncanny ability to adapt to revolutionary change whether in their personal lives or business.
Moreover, it turns out, the “slacker generation” actually was not. From Elon Musk (1971, Tesla), Travis Kalanick (1976, Uber), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (both 1973, Google) to Jack Dorsey (1976, Twitter), Xers founded and contributed to some of the most transformational businesses the world had ever known and over time, became the most entrepreneurial generation in American history.
The Millennial Juggernaut
At last, we have arrived at the Millennials. Born from approximately 1981 to 1996 and at 80 million strong, it is the largest American cohort in history despite its time frame spanning a scant 15 years. Despite common misperception,
Millennials are no longer children - nearly the entire generation can now purchase an alcoholic beverage legally. In 2016, Millennials range in age from 20 to 35 years. In 2015, it became the largest cohort employed by American business today and surpassed both Baby Boomers and Generation X.
Let’s pause here for a moment.
My name is Jaspar Weir.
I am the president and co-founder of TaskUs, a company that proudly employs 6,000 employees around the globe. Since our founding in 2008, TaskUs has regularly been featured in the top-300 fastest growing businesses and is the fastest growing company in the outsourcing space. By the end of 2016, my fantastic team will drive over $80 million in revenue.
I am 30-years-old.
I am a Millennial.
In fact, I am a stereotypical Millennial.
I buy my groceries from Instacart and pretty much everything else on Amazon. I swipe right on Tinder. I take Uber everywhere - even in Los Angeles. I judge my self-worth by the number of likes that my posts earn. In the workplace, I consider myself entitled. I crave feedback from my colleagues. I love our open office plans at all of our locations around the globe.
Growing up, my two younger brothers and I received so many participation trophies that my parents filled our garage with them. It is almost laughable.
Ok, it is laughable!
Our parents regularly told us that “we are all winners.” Our parents taught us that we could do anything and everything that we wanted to if we believed.
Our parents brainwashed us into thinking that we were the best and could do no wrong.
Now some of you might call me a brat, consider me entitled or even believe that I am an unrecognizable alien, but as business leaders, this is the number one thing you should know: Millennials are now the largest generational cohort working in American business today.
You may not like us. You may not understand us. However, to be successful in 2016, you need to learn how to manage and work with Millennials or your business will fail.
It is that simple.
Who are Millennials?
Like Generation X, this group of 80 million strong members has grown up and come of age in an era of significant change. We have been defined by the rise of technology - technology that has had many touchpoints in most areas of our lives. Older Millennials, such as myself, grew up with computers, pagers, flip phones in high school and smartphones by the time we went to university. Younger Millennials do not recall a time without technology.
We are the first generation to grow up without privacy. Over our lives, we have shared an astonishing amount of personal information on social media channels such as AOL, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. Older Americans find it odd that we do so; Millennials find it odd that other generations do not.
Similarly to all cohorts (except for Generation X), Millennials have been defined by war and violence. We grew up with schoolyard violence, Columbine, mass murders and daily gun violence. Terrorism and the post-9/11 world have created uncertainty and significant fear.
Like Generation X, our elders promised a life that is now extinct; The global Great Recession destroyed employment opportunities for us. However, unlike Generation X, the Great Recession occurred at the start of our careers.
Xers stayed on in the jobs they already had, instead of moving up the ladder to replace Boomers (who had also stayed in their jobs - instead of retiring - because their life savings had been destroyed). Because of this chain reaction, the jobs that would typically have been available for young people to begin their careers in had been kept by older workers. Despite being the most educated cohort in American history, our degrees were worthless; We worked in fast food restaurants and retail stores.
We watched in horror as the Great Recession ruined our parents and older siblings lives and, at the time, felt powerless to do anything about it. In fact, in March 2014, the national unemployment rate was 6.7%. For Millennials who had recently graduated from college, it was 12.2%. Of those that were able to find work, 40% of the opportunities did not require a college degree. We took anything we could find.
We were scared.
Despite all of this, Millennials have emerged as a generation with a set of solid core values that we embrace. Business leaders would be wise to understand these values that Millennials share. After all, we are a values-based cohort that seeks authenticity in our interactions with others - including our employers.
- Optimistic -
Millennials are an optimistic cohort. Our parents raised us in relative prosperity (at least until the Great Recession). Older generations drilled it into us that we could do anything that we want to do with hard work. Research has shown that despite our current financial adversity and crushing student loan debt, over 80% of Millennials are optimistic about their future economic prospects.
- Distrustful -
Similarly to Generation X, and despite our optimism, Millennials do not trust people. In fact, we are the least trusting generation. Pew Research shows that
Millennials believe that “only 19% of people are good, compared to 31% of Gen Xers and 40% of [Baby] Boomers.” Older generations believe that this distrust stems directly from Millennials living their lives through technology instead of face-to-face contact. Millennials view their distrust as having been lied to about life and being forced to pick up the pieces that remain after seismic shifts in society occurred.
- Education -
Millennials are the most educated generation in history. Our parents - Boomers and older Millennials - impressed upon us that education was the path to achieving the American dream. That did not exactly work out as planned. 47% of us have a post-secondary degree. An additional 18% have started one. We also have the highest student loan debt in history at $30,000, on average. Add that to why we have issues with trust.
- Diversity -
Due to rising birth rates, immigration, globalization and other factors, Millennials are the most diverse cohort in American history. As a percentage of the total population, Caucasian (non-Hispanic/Latino) Americans account for 10% less than prior generations. Furthermore - and because of the diversity that we grew up with - we find racism incredibly frustrating. We do not know anything but having a diverse population.
- Liberal -
Traditionally, younger demographics tend to lean more liberal, but with Millennials, we did not just lean, we threw ourselves to the left of the political spectrum. Because of this, research expects that Millennials will remain committed to Liberal/Progressive politics for the rest of our lives. We may not always be enthusiastic about our choice in candidates, but we tend to vote Democratic in elections. Over 70% of us support gay marriage (compared to 59% of Xers and 45% of Boomers). Only 15% of us subscribe to purely Conservative ideals. 44% of Millennials cherry pick from both sides of the aisle, while a full 41% of us express exclusively or mostly Liberal points of view. After All, we embraced progressive Bernie Sanders.
- Teamwork -
Millennials value equality. Recall: Our parents taught us that everyone was a winner. This resulted in my generation embracing teamwork as one of its core values. We value and seek out strong mentorships and constructive, continue feedback from both our peers (in our personal lives) and the same from our peers and superiors in our professional lives. It would seem odd for us to do anything else. It is what we were raised to do.
- Immediacy -
Millennials do not like to wait. We live our lives online and expect answers to our questions at a rapid-fire pace. We do not value “gatekeepers” as we view them as barriers to information that seems silly to keep private. Technology provided lightning fast answers to anything we wanted to know. Moreover, we expect the same from where we work. We are fast-paced and expect others to be the same.
Managing Millennials: Why It Matters
Smart leaders - like you - embrace marketing tactics to manage workforces. The simple fact is that Millennials are both similar and wildly dissimilar to any other
American generation in history. The largest segment of your workforce either currently is - or soon will be - Millennials. In the United States, Millennials became the biggest American cohort in the labor force around March 2015.
You must adapt, or your business will suffer as a natural consequence of inaction.
Marketing 101 teaches us that that understanding your customer is a critical component of success. Through the lens of workforce management, your new client is the Millennial generation. This is not to imply that leaders should force Millennial ways of thinking onto workers from the Baby Boomer and X generations, rather, adjustments are required to ensure that everyone is happy, productive and understood.
That is smart workforce management!
Understand: that despite the Great Recession, Millennials are not loyal to companies. They saw the adverse effects doing so had on Baby Boomers and Generation X workers. Millennials place a higher value on being good parents, good spouses and good friends above career and making money. Millennials - despite their student loan debts - are not as money motivated as past generations.
As in their personal lives, Millennials seek authentic engagements in their professional relationships. We are looking for employers that are values-based. If companies do not meet our values and needs, we will leave. We believe that life is too short to be unhappy.
“So what?” you say. “Why should I care if Millennials quit? Good riddance!” Smart leaders know that we are not in a “seller’s market.” It is a strategic differentiator to keep attrition rates low and institutional knowledge secure.
Did you know that 31% of new hires quit within six months of joining a company? Whatever you feel about Millennials that statistic should frighten you because higher attrition rates lead to higher recruitment and training costs and lower productivity levels until new hires develop to the point of matching or exceeding the employee he or she replaced.
On average it takes 1-2 years for a new hire to match the productivity of a former employee! For roles that pay $50k per year, it requires approximately 20% of that salary to recruit, hire and train that new worker. If you are only replacing one or two workers per year that might not seem like much. Multiply that out across dozens of hires, and it quickly adds up to the point where it will ruin your business financially.
Managing Millennials effectively thus becomes a differentiator from your competitors. It certainly is so at TaskUs. In the Philippines, our attrition rate is 35% (voluntary is a scant 11%). Our industry averages 80% annual attrition.
Care to guess why we are the market leader in our segment? We manage our workforce successfully and have adapted to the generational shift.
How We Manage Millennials at TaskUs
- We Communicate -
Communication is a critical component of our success in managing a Millennial workforce. Every employee has a weekly 1:1 meeting with their direct superior to touch base, receive feedback, voice concerns and review current deliverables.
These are not the “gotcha” 1:1 meetings of eras’ past. Rather, they are authentic listen and receive information type meetings that foster growth, collaboration, teamwork and corporate success.
Each TaskUs employee has a display stand that sits on their desk that showcases for everyone to see what his or her individual quarterly goals are. Every teammate receives regular feedback, in addition to both yearly and quarterly reviews. These are not “checkpoints” or an excuse to dot i’s and cross t’s. TaskUs leadership views goals seriously - and more importantly, so do our employees.
Throughout the year - and particularly during quarterly review meetings - leadership meets with their subordinates to discuss career paths and goals. We are committed to developing the next generation of superstars from within our organization whenever possible.
TaskUs goes beyond regular email to communicate with our colleagues - and especially our Millennial talent. We use the Google Suite of solutions to encourage collaboration with colleagues in real time online. We test. We call. We use Google Hangouts video. We use Highfive video. We use apps on our mobile devices - Google Hangouts, Slack, etc. to collaborate effectively with colleagues.
Our Millennial workers love the flexibility that such technology delivers. Our Generation X and Baby Boomer talent have embraced these communication tools that have helped to make their professional lives easier and faster.
- We Are Transparent -
Transparency is not a buzzword at TaskUs. It is our reality.
Every Monday, we host a mandatory TaskUs University, a TaskUs Town Hall or a TaskUs Breaking Bread (team lunch). During each Monday event, leadership reports on the inner workings of our company - the nitty gritty and often dicey stuff that other companies sweep under the rug and keep secret.
We believe that it is important to be completely transparent. Doing so fosters trust. Trust promotes longer-term employees that in turn lowers attrition and operating costs.
Our Executive Team regularly sends out widely read communications to our staff. One such communication - Mr. Carter’s Clear Communiqué (aptly named after my co-founder’s French bulldog who rules our dog-friendly headquarters) - is distributed weekly. It contains a high-level “this is what is happening at the moment” from every team in the company.
We believe it is pretty important stuff, but transparency does raise shortcomings as well. These deficiencies, when they occur, helps us to foster trust.
TaskUs employees know that we are not trying to hide anything. Ever.
Additionally, we regularly report on focus group discussions and employee satisfaction (ESAT) surveys. We distribute - and discuss - the results quarterly.
- We Empower -
Empowerment is another form of trust. Why should we expect our employees to believe us if we did not return that confidence? We do not subscribe to that old model of leadership.
At TaskUs, we empower our employees to do the right thing. This is not to say that we do not verify – trust, but verify, as the saying goes - but we refuse to lead from a place of negativity and mistrust. It is not impactful. Moreover, for Millennials, it would be a reason for them to leave that in turn would increase our attrition costs.
Our leaders are not going to flip out if an employee is running late. We trust they will make up the time and empower them to make the right choice. Our teammates work hard – often late into the night to meet a tough deadline. It is not logical to appreciate an extra couple of hours of work in the evening, only to turn around and punish someone for being a few minutes late.
In many respects, empowering our employees supports a strong work-life balance. Some of our team members might take an extended lunch break to hit the gym. Those same employees do not even blink twice if I need them to stay late. Empowering Millennials equals increased trust equals a strong work-life balance and equals that everyone comes out a “winner” at the end of the day.
Unlike most outsources, we do not place undue restrictions on our teammates’ computers at our call centers. Most large outsourcing companies lock down computers, install ludicrously restrictive IT programs on computers, dismantle chat or Facebook and in extreme cases, remove a keyboard’s ability to copy/ paste.
Such an approach does not empower – it breeds mistrust. For Millennials, this is akin to a professional lobotomy. They will quit in spades. Our industry has an average attrition rate of 80%. TaskUs has a scant 35%. That is a 45% delta.
Guess who’s the global outsourcing leading company for growth businesses?
Millennials want to be empowered to make decisions. Their parents – mostly Boomers & early Xers – relied on Millennials early on for insight into tech. In later years, they turned to their children to help them big decisions – or in many cases – THE decision, to take it off of their plate. It has not been unusual for Millennials to help their parents with purchase decisions such as major electronics (TV, laptops, etc.), vacations, and home purchases.
- We Value Culture -
We are doing something right at TaskUs. 71% of our hires are from employee referrals! That is huge!
We have increased our competitive advantage by aligning strategy with talented people and a culture of engagement, fun and learning. Our employees stay for the long haul because they love what they do and for whom they do it.
Happy, motivated and hardworking employees produce high-quality work that feels like an extension of our partners’ businesses. Our partners require teammates that have empathy and are empowered when handling customer service. They need highly skilled and focused people to oversee critical back office operations. TaskUs delivers because we are hyper-focused on culture!
We bring the work to our teammates. Our offices are beautiful, safe, located in accessible areas that are close to where employees live (so it is easy for them to get to and from work).
Doing so provides our partners with real business continuity. Teammates can get to work no matter what else is going on in the world. This offers our partners a consistent workforce of high-quality teammates that are always available. It is this type of approach that keeps our attrition rate far lower than the industry average.
Unlike most companies, we LIVE, discuss, and hire for alignment with our Core Values. I cannot tell you how many times, I have heard, “Hearing about ‘Core Values’ used to make roll my eyes at previous companies. TaskUs MEANS them. This is essential for not just Millennials – but Generation X’ers as well!
Our Core Values:
- Inspire Other By Believing in Yourself
- Do More With Less
- Always Strive for Excellence
- Exercise Emotional Intelligence
- Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
- Continuous Self-Improvement
- Work Hard, Have Fun
- Be Ridiculous
- We Learn -
One of TaskUs’ Core Values – Continuous Self-Improvement – comes alive through our TaskUs University program where colleagues meet to learn from each other, outside speakers and leadership on the Executive Team. Also, it is not unusual for non-executives to take the reins of these meetings to share knowledge with their peers and superiors.
TaskUs provides a handsome tuition reimbursement to our employees. High tuition costs have zapped Millennials. Most can’t afford continuing education. We help to make it possible.
It is a bonus for TaskUs as well – employees keep their skills fresh; We become more impactful as a result, and our partners reap the benefits of an even more educated workforce in the organization!
- We Include -
Adapt or Die. The world has changed whether we want to admit it or not. You can either roll with the punches, adapt and embrace change. Alternatively, – well – there is not an alternative at TaskUs. It is not who we are.
In line with our desire for full transparency, our offices feature open floor plans, conference rooms with glass walls/doors and teammates who work next to each other without doors closed or walls preventing everyone from seeing EXACTLY what is happening throughout the office at all times.
We have nothing to hide – and our teammates know it. Embracing this change in workplace layouts and conditions has helped us to connect with Millennials. We have gone beyond an “open door” policy. We did not want our employees ever to doubt whether or not it was OK to knock. We have an “open office” policy.
It is what works for Millennials!
Millennials – in their capacity as tech mavens – appreciate that TaskUs does not subscribe to outdated legacy systems or old processes. We believe that cutting-edge technology enables us to revolutionize the customer experience. Using such tools allows us to align, enhance, boost and/or reinvent companies’ outsourcing needs for the modern age.
Whether through AI integration, advanced Learning Management Systems (LMS) for training and/or big data analytics, we help clients to realize efficiency improvements, to strengthen the ability to be adaptable in the rapidly evolving marketplace and to rocket past the competition.
Millennials love it.
- Adaptability -
The “old way” of doing things does not work for Millennials. As each employee - across multiple generations - has needed to adapt to changes in the American business environment, so too do businesses and leaders need to adjust to the radically shifting changes in practices, standards, expectations and societal change. Doing helps to ensure validity, trust and survival. Failure to do so will result in increased operational costs and a struggle to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Simply put: Baby Boomers are retiring in greater numbers each year. To maintain the status quo in either process or practice would not be forward-thinking. It is a path toward failure.
Economically, it will not work to remain steadfastly committed to past success initiatives and practices. Doing so will lead to higher attrition rates that will, in turn, decimate your organization’s P & L.
Leading your team exactly like you would lead a predominantly Generation X team – despite respecting both X’ers and Millennials desire for greater levels of work-life balance - will frustrate Boomers who feel that putting in “face time” helps with job security, especially in the leadership ranks. Boomers fear that a focus on the “life” aspect simply makes it easier to push them out for less expensive Millennials. Moreover, they will resent you and the organization at large for it.
Therefore, adaptability is key. Every successful generation understands flexibility. In a sense, adaptability equals compromise. Compromise in business, as in life, is a value that all American generations have shared. We know that we do not get everything we want in life or business.
Adapt to compromises that are equitable and shared among your employees across generations. What separates them is not as strong as what unites them in agreement. Ask yourself: Do you want an employee around who is unable to adapt to change or lacks the ability to compromise?
- Listening -
Listen to your employees. Often, communication nuances are subtle, so be sure to pay attention.
Regardless of the generational cohort – but ESPECIALLY with Millennials – leadership needs to practice strong listening skills.
Think about your life for a moment. Are you more likely to respond positively to someone if they do or do not listen to you? I am certain it is when “they do.”
The same is true in business. When leaders listen to their employees, employees more often than not respond in kind.
Do you want to know what listening is? It is doing your part – as leaders – to engage in effective communication. I promise you – if you communicate effectively with those that work for you, misunderstandings will decline, employees will feel empowered to return the favor and they will share and talk with you too. And perhaps most importantly, they will trust you and your leadership.
- Don’t Get too Comfy -
A word of caution: Don’t get too comfy. Adaptability is one spoke in the wheel of your success.
At the start of this article, I wrote that “I am entitled” and that “I crave feedback.” Like most Millennials, if a company is not meeting my needs, reflecting my values or engaging in active communication with me – I am out!
When leaders become too beholden to the past, they reflect the saying, “It worked in the past so it will also work now.” That is not forward-thinking leadership, and it is not reflective of Millennials’ values today.
Throughout this article, I have shown that with each passing generation, not only has the business world has shifted, the entire WORLD has changed also. This is not a generational challenge that is Millennial-specific. In actuality, it is the history of humankind and our humanity.
With each passing year, we have gotten better, smarter, more inclusive, more strategic, and more diverse. These are not realities of the past – these are aspirational spotlights that we can, and should strive to achieve today because you, your employees and your businesses are worth it.
Don’t get too comfy, or your competitors will spot an opportunity to recruit your staff away from you. If nothing else: should values not resonate with you, recall how high attrition will negatively impact your P & L.
- Generation Z is Coming… -
Some of you - most of you, I hope - already embrace adaptability, listen to your employees and refuse to get too comfy. To you, I say - YOU ARE AWESOME!
I promise you that if you adopt these values, your Millennial workers will respond to your strong leadership over time.
However, here’s the rub: fostering adaptability, listening skills and a refusal to get too comfy are not just organizational values that will help you today with Millennials; Embracing each of these items today will strategically position you to get a significant head start for what is to come.
Actually, that is a lie.
What’s to come started two years ago. Right this moment, you might have 18 and19-year-olds working for you.
They are not Millennials. Those workers are members of the next generation - the so-called “Generation Z” - a generation that is expected to be even larger than Millennials.
As fantastically different as Millennials are from prior generations, the greatest changes to the American workforce are yet to come with Generation Z.
Moreover, businesses - your businesses - are about to get a HELL of a lot more interesting!