Blame The Millennials

Recently I had an amazing chat with a friend on Facebook. Our conversation steered towards her expressing that she has had quite a task with managing her team of young professionals. In an exasperated voice she said, “Young people today have no work ethic and they have a sense of entitlement.” I could hear the resignation in her voice and thought of how often I have come across managers who share the same perception. Their final analysis usually sounds akin to this, “I’ll tell you, this generation is the worst.” I have heard that statement used to describe my generation. How uncanny is that!

Retrieved from Google Images, August 4, 2013

My over 15 years of experience, as both a member of a team and as part of executive management is that we tend to over-reach in our efforts to have millennials conform to standards without fully comprehending what drives these tech babies. In this new dispensation, we have not prepared our managers/leaders adequately to treat with the needs of millennials. I have always stated in executive discussions that as our fantastic baby-boomers hand over the reins to Generation X and Y employees, we must also seek to appreciate that the world has changed dramatically and our combined vision must echo the traditions of the old as well as the excellent new age opportunities now available. The basic template of leadership is still in tact and is built on traditions like respect, fairness, nurturing talent and recognizing the efforts of others. However, within this bubble, innovation, strategy, co-operative engagements, interest-driven approaches to gain competitive advantage, technical and technological resources and other stimulants that encourage productivity, support opportunities to develop a team of knowledgeable, skilled, high performing, adaptable agents. The goal in all of this should be to seek a measure of balance between and among competing thoughts.

Retrieved from Google Images, August 4, 2013

Millennials have also shared their own challenges about the work environment. For many, there is inconsistency demonstrated by those who lead.  Rules and regulations, designed to keep the team in line are routinely trampled on by those in authority. In my discussions with this group, they express deep concern for the behaviors that corrupt an organization. They admit that many of their peers are unfit employees and would hastily point fingers at the hiring practices of the company. So all around, in both camps, there are expectations that have not been met. What to do?

Be reminded that organizations are structures. Simply put, there is an order, a pattern that is so designed to support the business being undertaken. It is necessary, to define what is the core business. Your business has to have the kind of resources that will help it to succeed. What’s on your checklist and how important are each variable? Your list may incorporate external resources. When we think about resources off the cuff, our mind goes to financial, equipment, human talent. However, external resources to support success will also include, state agencies (tax boards, other state legislative apparatus) as well as non-state organizations/actors.

Within your model, think about the type of team you are building. I liken this approach to a conductor with his mix of talent on an orchestra. Each holder of an instrument contributes to the beautiful arrangement of music set to delight aficionados. Arriving at the best talent takes time. Auditions are auditions are held. The established criteria leaves little room for error. Each prospect understands the level of competition and must prove to that they can meet and surpass the expectations of the musical directors. The standards that underpin the orchestra is lived and breathed by those who aspire to greatness. Those who fail to live up to the standards are quickly showed the out.

As I explained to discussion partner, we have the tools to help us succeed but we fail to use them. Any established organization will tell you they have a disciplinary code and the most famous line, “our code is found in the team members handbook.” If employees seek to be honest with you, many will tell you they have not read the book since being employed. With this knowledge, the organization must continually refresh in the minds of all workers, the core standards that are in place. The Ritz Carlton brand does this beautifully. Your team notice boards, should echo the principles that drive the company’s success. Frequently update your boards with eye-catching material that reinforce the values of the organization. Here is a suggestion, prepare a segment called value of the week. Take one of the values that is attached to a behavioral component and create a competition around that specific value which will allow your team to earn incentives. Do not be afraid to “think outside the box” and for heaven’s sake, do not be stuck in one method. Your team needs stimulation and it is your responsibility to keep them engaged.

Finally, put your diverse team to work. Allow them to get involved in cross-departmental projects. You are orchestrating co-operation and engagement by braiding this into the fabric of the organization. You will be amazed at how much conflict is managed when there is a surgical strategic intent that drives action. As organizational leaders, we are aware of our talent base. Take a little more time to understand what makes them work. Get help from external facilitators and coaches if the signals are evident that you are losing your team.  After all, you hired them.

Copyright 2013 Suzette Henry Campbell

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