Who are these people called the Millenials?

A robot woman head with internal technology

“The best crisis to manage is the one you prevent,” Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong speaking to the National Association of Environmental Professionals

You are hiring, like it or not, many members of the Millennial generation (The M-Generation). Most likely you are either a “Baby Boomer” or a “GenXer” doing the hiring. You are thinking that these people must not have grown up in the same world that you did. You think to yourself, we may have a crisis developing, and you have no idea why. You would be right in both assumptions.

Although some of what you read here will seem negative, try to maintain an open-mind. This description of the M-Generation is intended to be helpful and will show you how research and understanding is evolving to help us all better understand this generation.

Dealing with the M-Generation will be challenging, yet successful employers recognize the importance of learning as much about this generation as possible. Like it or not, they will be reshaping our world because by 2020 they will be 60% of our work force.

The basis of this series of six articles comes from the research, including “The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010) and from the Internet site PWC’s report Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World. We also have integrated the work from other consultants who specialize in the M-Generation and work with them daily.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if you get better informed about the M-Generation, you can prevent a major crisis from developing, or at the least, better understand how to deal with the crisis when it does. The idea is to understand and utilize the particular talents of the M-Generation because you will be hiring and/or working with people who have unique characteristics and challenging behaviors for years to come.

As a behavioral psychologist, I am fascinated by people’s behaviors and their responses to behaviors. The behaviors I see being exhibited by the M-Generation and the responses from the Baby Boomers and Gen X folks provide an extra dose of fascination.

Millennials are anyone of the 76 million young people who were born between 1982 and 2000. They are entering the work force at a rapid pace, and they are being hired by managers between the ages of 40 and 65 (the “Baby- Boomers” and “GenXers”). The hiring managers are somewhat bewildered by the people they are hiring, as well as learning that transitioning this generation into the work environment is rarely without issue and can be crisis inducing.

Why are there such generational differences between these three groups? Let’s look at the differences in the M-Generation’s cultural and historical memories. Just as World War II was only a textbook to those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, the Vietnam War was is only a textbook memory to the M-Generation.

In our generation, we were just beginning to enjoy the benefits of such advanced technology as pocket transistor radios; the M-Generation is technologically savvy beyond any of our wildest expectations. Just stop and ask yourself, whom did you call to program your VCR just a few years ago?

I would suggest that there are three significant questions we must answer and understand to work with the M-generation:

  • How do they see their world and how do they process the information they see?
  • How do they expect and choose to operate in the world of work and why?
  • What do they expect to receive from their work and what do they perceive as rewards?

Research, surveys and analyses by many people more experienced than I am suggest that the good news is there are answers to some of these questions. The bad news is that many of our generation can’t relate to those answers and the M-Generation perspectives.

Some key findings to be sensitive to when dealing with the M-Generation:

  • They will share information of all types and of depth across many different platforms and with many different people – discretion is not part of their typical vocabulary;
  • They require – read – must have – personalized attention;
  • They must be always winning and be recognized for even coming to work on time;
  • They use a variety of social media and social networking, unlike any generation previously, and their knowledge and use of this technology can be impactful to an organization, as well as society at large;
  • They are talented in certain areas of endeavors and less so in others;
  • They are critical and don’t hesitate to voice their views and opinions.

Seniority and your feelings are irrelevant to many of the M-Generation. For example, they may understand how to use Microsoft Power Point, yet invariably would explain to you how to use Apple iPhoto to get better results on the presentation that you spent hours on developing.

They have trouble dealing with lines of authority, and command positions are simply irrelevant to many of them. In fact, they would without hesitation go straight to a CEO and argue their case against a change in the organization’s protocols without your knowledge.

And their parents, well, they also can be an issue. Fathers and mothers (think “Helicopter” parents) of the M-Generation have been known to reprimand employers at social engagements over incidents their children just mentioned in passing to them.

Now, having laid this foundation, allow me to caveat it by saying not all M-Generation people are of this ilk.  However, research and experience show these generalizations are not that far from the reality of their behaviors in the work place. So then, how do we deal with the M-Generation at work?

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore!

Next: Part 2 – How do we deal with the M-Generation in our work place?

 

Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)

 

PWC.Com – Millenials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf

 

Part 3 – The Greatest Complaint – The Millennial Sense of Entitlement

Cheerful guy sitting in front of desktop computer

 “Yes, I am entitled to apply for a vice president’s job. I was a community organizer for two years and have been here a year already”!

What is the singular greatest complaint leveled against Millennials?

Many employers would say that this generation sees each new undertaking with a “sense of entitlement” that is entirely out of proportion to their age and experience. After all, as the M-generation sees it, shouldn’t they at least be allowed to apply for a vice presidency of the company where they have worked for one year? After all, a community organizer can become president.

They are not taking into consideration that this president had a law degree and was a law professor for 12 years before he was a three time State Senator, and a U.S. Senator for two years  before he ran for the office.

Simply, from childhood the M-Generation has developed a reputation for “being overconfident and spoiled”. They expect praise (even coming to work on time to them is an important recognition) long before they have earned it. Also, remember they probably have no understanding or appreciation for the reporting and accountability hierarchy in an organization.

As the authors of “The M-Factor” say, “This generation shows signs of being far too impressed with their own value and importance”.

Now, before you beat me with the proverbial wet noodle of indignation, I acknowledge this trait is tempered by individual personalities. While one Millennial may exude “cockiness and arrogance” that turns off even his/her peers, another one is a model of humility.

Authors do say that anecdotal evidence, along with the general trends, suggests that at some point you will shake your head in disbelief at the unreasonable expectations you have just discovered in your new employee.   Despite their intelligence and competency in many areas, the Millennial has a lot to learn.  But, in a different time in a different way, didn’t we all?

Let’s examine a few generalized expectations you may encounter so you will be prepared:

Millennials may expect to advance quickly. Once they have mastered their current responsibilities, they want to be promoted to higher positions or greater responsibility NOW.

They often have a very low tolerance for the mundane work that usually falls to the lowest rung of the workplace ladder. They don’t understand the concept of seniority, and to them that is an anathema of their value system. They value capability over experience and believe that a fresh, young perspective is always more valuable than the tried and true methods of the “old gray heads”.

The ideas of “doing your time” within a role and job and “paying your dues” just do not make sense to them and are at odds with their expectations.  The kind of work and status that M-Generation new hires are likely to encounter in any job may not be to their liking.

Many employers, when they encounter the M-Generation employee’s high expectations and impatience with their low status, are tempted to conclude that he/she is just plain “spoiled rotten”.

As a path to understanding, let’s consider how we acted out our own social norms of the 1960s and 70s and were complacent to “climb the ladder” appropriately by gaining experience and education.  The M-Generation new hire and his peers are simply acting out the social norms and experiences and examples that have thus far shaped their lives.

Many behavioral psychologist and sociologists have concluded that one prevailing norm for the Millennial has been the constant availability of choice. Simply, in all aspects of life, at home, at school, in extra-curricular activities and even the marketplace, they often could choose their experiences. Everything from what playlists they might load to their I-pod to what reading list they preferred in high school or college was a personal choice. For them, their world has been easily customizable.  It is going to be a shock to some of them to find out that life is not always that way.

In my mind, members of this generation can be overly-sensitive. This can certainly be a factor in their  employment lives. For example, there were college students who were appalled at “chalk drawings of presidential candidates” on the sidewalks. Few employers are expecting or prepared to deal with an employee reduced to crying over inanimate objects and even fewer are going to provide “safe spaces”, cookies and hot chocolate when something upsets one of their new hires.

Let’s remember that many of the parents of the M-Generation believed and practiced that praise and self-esteem were the first priorities in parenting and teaching realms. The child learns that if you play on the little league baseball team, you get a trophy for showing up. Turn in your homework, and get a gold star for turning something in with your name on it regardless of the content.

While effort is important and trying your best is important, life, and certainly the business world, does not necessarily hand out trophies for these worthy attributes.

Millennials often hear “You can accomplish whatever you want in life” hundreds of times by the times they are adults The flip side of that coin is that hard work, perseverance and some luck are usually the prerequisites.  And, even with all that in place, there is still no guarantee.  Millennials may have a hard time grasping this.

Granted it will be difficult to alter the high expectations about choice, and the need for quick and constant affirmation, of the typical Millennial.   Many employers may see it as impossible!  But fear not – there are ways to approach your new hire’s expectations that will minimize conflict and frustration while utilizing their potential.

Next: Part 4 – Minimizing conflict and crisis when dealing with a Millennial

Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)

PWC.Com – Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf

 

 

Part 2: How to deal effectively with the M-Generation

Stress - woman stressed with headache. Female stressed and worri

Part 2: How to deal effectively with the M-Generation

In Part One of this series, we gave some general behavioral insights into the M-Generation, the people born between 1982-2000, who are currently entering the work place. In this article, we will look at the common characteristics that further define this generation and how to effectively deal with them.

As Baby Boomers and GenXers, our parents invariably worked hard and often long hours to provide us a better life. Parental involvement was limited, and our parents trusted us to our teachers and coaches, pastors and Sunday school teachers.

Parents came to ballgames, plays and special events. We knew that if the principal or teacher called our folks because of our unruly behavior during or even after school, we would suffer the consequences, and, yes, there would be some parental involvement at that juncture! This parental involvement did not include blaming any one else for our misdeeds. We were expected to accept responsibility for our behavior or accept the consequence.

Enter the “Helicopter Parent”

However, in the last 30 years, we have seen a major shift in the parental role as parents have become more involved socially and educationally with their children.  As a result of this era of “parents being the child’s friend”, the parent is no longer in a role of authority in their children’s eyes.

Millenials became their parents’ “colleagues” and “associates”, and with the proliferation of the cell phone, the kids were never far from the “nest” of the parents. So, enters the “helicopter” parent, and the parents, in many cases, enjoy this relationship because psychologist say it “gives them more meaningful lives”  and therefore they don’t choose to or want to “push the child out of the nest.”

The Millennials are fine with this because they are not seeking or striving for independence in many cases. Educators and others have observed this trend for years. Yes, it is the M-Generation that chose to live in their parent’s basements as long as possible while finding themselves and their calling whereas the Baby Boomers fought for and sought early independence from their parents the Millennials prefer the security of the nest.

Teachers, and counselors in some cases, have appreciated more parental involvement, if it was not “too much”. Employers, on the other hand, frankly have little to no interest in parents “helicoptering” their Millennial employees.

“Sadly, it is increasingly common for employers to receive phone calls from a parent wanting to discuss problems or a disappointment their (adult) child has had at work says.” Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, authors of The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” (Harper Collins, 2010).

Employers have even reported that Millenials have told them they have asked their “Mom or Dad as their colleague” to review their work or even do it for them. Just like they did in school and sadly, in this author’s opinion, many parents do so. These same parents maintain even more control of the M-Generation often by paying their bills, buying them cars, food or clothes and taking care of their children because after all these children are the “grandchildren” the Boomers and Gen-Xers always wanted.

Lancaster and Stillman note that one of the bigger surprises experienced in the work place is when the new hire millennial shares some feedback from a parent, who happens to be a senior vice president at a similar company. This feedback about how the parent could do things better, if they were in charge, is not solicited or appreciated by the employer.

Simply, the M-Generation view their parents as valuable resources whose counsel and input will be as vital for their work life as it was when they were students. When you hire a millennial, you will get the parents as part of the bargain, whether you like it or not.

Initially, I thought this was hyperbole or outrageous complaining until I actually observed such behavior from a member of my own extended family. Since I left home at age 17 and paid my way through college, I found this enabling behavior to be an antithesis to my idea of maturity, healthy self-reliance, and productivity.  I would dare to say that much of society feels the same way. But then, apparently there are a lot of helicopter parents who do not.

However, based on my own observations and research, I recommend that you forget about trying to change this perspective, or debate with the new hire (or their parents). Whether this perspective and behavior is appropriate, healthy, or mature is irrelevant to them. The reality is you must accept the fact that this “parental helicoptering” and the M-Generation’s social behaviors are now at least 20 years into solidification, and you are not likely to change that perspective anytime soon.

There are strategies, however, that can be deployed to deal with this M-Generation behavior. One is to articulate and clearly establish boundaries up front in the working relationship regarding your feelings about parental involvement.

For example, personnel records, including performance reviews, are generally considered organizationally confidential and are not open for discussion with anyone other than the employee and her supervisors. This is a distinct and most appropriate boundary that you should clarify to a new hire in case his parent wants to explore his child’s experience at your company.

However, some researchers say it might also help to understand the close relationship Millenials have with their parents by viewing it the same way they do – as an asset when it comes to “reflection” on work place issues.

Remember these Millennials are products of parental engagement. They have been sharing and processing their experiences with their parents from the earliest of ages.

If your new M-Generation employees seemingly have this kind of relationship with their parents, encourage them to involve their parents in reflection on their profession, roles, responsibilities and chosen vocation. Do not, however, allow them to think that you and the parents will be having this kind of relationship.

Remember that Millennials don’t readily grasp the concept of confidentiality, especially in conversation with their parents. Therefore, it is important to provide them clearly articulated and well-defined guidelines on what kind of information is inappropriate for such conversations.

Lancaster and Stillman note that a Millennial’s relationship with his parents is the template for interaction with other older adults and authority figures.

If you can objectively observe or ascertain from his comments how a Millennial interacts with his parents, you may uncover clues on how he hopes to relate to you as an older colleague.

If your new hire sees his parents as a perpetually available resource, he may expect the same from you. If he is open to their counsel and coaching, he may readily accept the same from you as his mentor.

Accept the fact that you will have to spend extra time and attention on the Millennials, which can be burdensome at times. However their enthusiasm for your input may leave you feeling more gratified than grumpy.

Next: The single greatest complaint about Milleninals from employers

Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)

PWC.Com – Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf

 

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to success

branding-art

Art source: www.aboutbranding.co.za

Most companies simply will not allow haphazard uses of their logos or brands. Break those rules and you are in serious trouble.

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to “branding” and maintaining controls around variance of messages.In fact, once we have standardized our systems (think purchasing,hiring, interviewing, community outreach, media engagement, crisis and issues management, communications) we are able to be more efficient, effective and save time and money.

When variances show up on the bottom line, we can check them against our standardized processes.This is what our financial people do on a regular basis. This brings standardization to the organization.However, most companies still don’t standardize their leadership best practices.

 

They may have dozens of ways to interview and hire, solve the same problem in five different ways in various divisions, and simply spend a lot of time and energy needlessly identifying and solving the same problems repeatedly in many different ways.

Those companies who do standardize their leadership processes and training create a path forward map to help every leader in the company to be successful. In simple terms: Develop your road map and follow it, or as I tell clients who seek strategic planning assistance from me, “Write your plan based on best practices and work your plan.”

Why don’t companies do this?

Research shows that many companies don’t have a unified leadership process in place because:

  • The leaders don’t have the training they need to succeed.
  • There is no objective accountability system.
  • The “dots are not connected” for employees in respect to purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.
  • The companies are not using a sequenced mapped approach.
  • There is no process for managing high- and middle-level managers.
  • There is no process in place to address the problems with low performers.

To determine if your company needs to standardize your leadership system, Quint Studer in his book, “Results That Last,” suggests we ask ourselves such questions as:

  • How many different ways do we have to interview a candidate?
  • How do we know that when our leaders have left a meeting we have accurately and completely conveyed the messages we want them to carry back to the employees?
  • When employees are asked tough questions, how do we know they are not giving us just the answers they think we want to hear?
  • How do we measure the performance of our employees in such a way as we can determine they are low, middle or high-level performers?
  • What process do we have in place to assess the performance of employees and their accountability against the overall organizational goals?

Six ways to improve our leadership programs

Leadership programs can be standardized and improved.

When we standardize our programs, we provide a path forward map for all our leadership, which saves time and money and makes organizations more successful.

How do we do this?

1. Use a common agenda. While Studer recommends that all agendas be organized around his “Five Pillars of Excellence,” (People, service, quality, finance and growth) even more important is that for every meeting there is a standardized agenda used by all leaders in the organization. By using such an approach, we can align all staff to our organizational goals, which then allows us to help them connect to the organization’s vision and mission. This approach also gives us the means to communicate to our team the critical success factors within the organization and in their individual work areas.

2. Align your evaluation process to Studer’s five pillars or the organization’s critical success factors. When developing goals for our organization, they must be objective, measurable, meaningful and aligned with the organization’s pillars or critical success factors. They must also be focused on results.

3. Provide consistent packets of information. When leaders leave meetings, they should have a prepared packet of information they can share with their employees so that everyone hears the same messages. Studer notes that many companies use “Flip and Tell” books to package the information.

4. Choose a single method of interviewing and hiring employees. All applicants should be asked the same three or four behavioral-based questions no matter what job they are applying for in the organization. It would be prudent to choose questions geared toward values and ownership.

5. Collect tough questions from leaders. Every leader should be asked on a regular basis to share with the team the tough questions they hear from their staff. Then work with your leaders to develop a consistent set of answers that will be used by all leaders. This develops a consistent message that can be communicated by everyone. Consistency builds confidence and provides employees evidence that the leaders have the information needed to answer their questions.

6. Make sure your leaders are trained in basic competencies to perform. Many leaders are not comfortable delivering messages without appropriate training.

Those companies who annually train their leaders in such competencies as meeting facilitation, negotiations, conflict prevent and resolution and presentations skills are more successful because they are providing the essential training all leaders need.

Research shows that repetition is essential to build integrity and credibility within an organization. Great leaders never tire of repetition. When leaders become better at using their skills, they become more efficient and effective at doing it. They will get better with practice.

Organizations that use this six step approach have longer lasting results, improved organizational efficiencies and greater innovation.Key points to remember:

  • Stop the variances. When an organization has variance in its leadership approach it produces inconsistencies within the organization making it more difficult to achieve excellence. Alignment among the managers and employees improves performance and enhances customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Standardize behavior. Leadership behavior is challenging to quantify and many organizations find it a challenge to standardize behavior. Many organizations fear that by doing so they will intrude on the leader’s autonomy and creativity. However, organizational goals come down from the top and include clear visions and missions. Any single leader’s independence is less important than the organization’s mission.
  • Eliminate barriers. Barriers that can get in the way of standardizing leadership behavior include: Lack of critical mass; lack of a balanced approach; insufficient training; no objective accountability; no path forward map which connects the dots; no process in place to manage middle and high level performers; no system to address quickly and efficiently low performers; an inability or unwillingness to standardize best practices across the organization. These barriers must be systematically eliminated.n Identify and eliminate inconsistent practices.

Carefully scrutinize all your practices in interviewing systems, messaging to employees, leader responses to crises, varying leadership performances and ineffective leadership evaluations.

Every organization should strive to create a self-sustaining culture with energy and vision to achieve excellence, Studer says. This can be accomplished by renovating your leadership evaluation system, applying key leadership behaviors, which will inspire self-motivation (the most powerful motivator of all), and developing standardized processes which will hardwire excellence into your organization.

Sources: “Results That Last” by Quint Studer

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or http://www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

The “Leaders” Decision-making Process

A recent situation at the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville, Kentucky shows how when team members understand that it is okay to assume leadership and take action that the end result is a better product for the customer.

Taylor Hayes, the Publisher and CEO recently sent the following note to me and his staff about the actions of Windy Ezell, an employee in the business office who turned reporter/photographer for the day. Taylor’s commendation places it all into perspective and is an excellent way of drawing attention to such meritorious service. We have been working with Taylor and his team for several years now teaching and coaching the management and employees about team collaboration and participatory management. The learning seems to be well underway. We are very proud of all of them.

“I hope everyone saw where Windy Ezell had provided the news department with a photo of a wreck last week on the Boulevard.

Everyone knows Windy works in the business office which provides all the necessary administrative support our organization needs and not the news department. She could have been like most of us working outside the news department and simply driven past the accident not even realizing there was an opportunity.

I am thankful she was thinking beyond her everyday routine to see the need and opportunity to take a photo that our audience may have interest. This action should be a lesson for all of us, including myself … just because a task does not fall under the scope of our everyday job, does not mean we cannot assist and provide ideas and service for other areas of our operation.

In fact, for our company to be competitive and successful today, we all must be thinking in a more unconventionally sense … be thinking about how to build our audience and build onto our customer base. Whether it is stopping to take a photo, turning in a news tip, soliciting someone to become a subscriber, communicating with advertising about a new business, or simply forwarding an idea that could generate revenue, cut expenses, or save time.

As I have said so many times over the last number of years it will take all of us to meet the challenges and seek out opportunities in today’s business world … not just me, Chuck or your department head. I thank Windy for recognizing a need and taking action.”

The “Leaders” Decision-making Process

Research shows that leaders follow carefully a 5-step process when making decisions.

1.   Leaders analyze the overall situation before making tactical decisions. They objectively review ay situation and leave their emotions out of the model.

2.   Leaders set specific understandable and actionable objectives. They focus themselves and their team on the mort important things to get done first.

3.   Leaders develop alternative actions. They understand that all options and actions must be explored, considered, discussed, pros and cons assessed and only then do they narrow down their tactical decisions,

4.   Leaders identify the adverse consequences of their actions. They are capable of thinking through the worst while planning for the best.

5.   Leaders select solutions and resolutions that are actionable. They understand that they must focus on those actions that are attainable with the resources they have.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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