Monday, July 26, 2010

Leading Millennials: Inspire & Be Inspired (Part II)

[...continued] This post started as a response to Travis Robertson's blog post The Millennial Revolution: An Experiment. What evolved lies below. Please continue the discussion here or on Travis' blog.

A collaborative, diverse, interesting and fun culture play into some aspects of the Millennial Generation, but there is a need for so much more. In the slew of conversations I have with peers and direct reports each week, I hear resoundingly that the "job" at hand is a stepping stone to a greater passion. That is not to say that these individuals are disengaged from the work at hand, in fact rarely is that so. Remember, these workers were raised with high expectations for performance in the classroom, on the ball field, and at home. While privileged, many come with perfectionistic tendencies.

The challenge every organization faces today is to engage each individual according to their skills (to benefit the company) AND their passions (to benefit the individual AND the company). One without the other leaves both parties wanting, and the relationship is short-lived (but you might get a twitter marketing campaign out of it).

This provides both a challenge and an opportunity for organizations. Those that get this balance right will have a far more loyal workforce, will attract employee referrals, project a positive corporate image in social media, and have opportunities to couple company culture with world-changing opportunities and organizations. The hard work consists of building genuine relationships with EVERY employee, not just the perceived top talent, and not just because it is a checklist item, but because it creates a bond that a pension no longer makes. This relationship building takes a lot of listening, it takes asking meaningful questions, and pressing in to find the passion that each "millennial" clings to. It can't be faked, or you erect a relational curtain (Read more). Relationships take time.

In fact, I suspect that EVERY person has these passions, these dreams to save the world, and it is up to us, the business leaders, CEOs, and Executives, to listen, encourage, inspire, and lead. We lead now on two fronts, each requiring equal thought and action; 1) Our responsibility to our organization and driving business, and 2) Our responsibility to our people locally, and our people globally.

This does not put business leaders in the backseat just along for the ride. This is not an either or choice, it is a both and. The relationship goes both ways. We have an incredibly challenging and rewarding course ahead. Not only to listen, encourage, inspire, and lead, but to do all this while teaching through our own (and others) stories how devotion, commitment, and loyalty have led to great successes through the course of our own lives.

(Hope this helps Travis!)

I don't have it all figured out, but neither does PWC. It sounds as though they are still muddling through the details of managing millennials as well. Read more here.

Additional Resources:
The M-factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace

Leading Millennials: Inspire & Be Inspired (Part I)

This post started as a response to Travis Robertson's blog post The Millennial Revolution: An Experiment. What evolved lies below. Please continue the discussion here or on Travis' blog.

I find myself in an interesting position with a unique opportunity as both a manager and a "millennial," working from the "inside" to help my organization both recruit, train, develop, inspire, and retain the X,Y, Zs. I have been blessed to work primarily with two companies that may be a bit more forward thinking when it comes to this relationship due to their corporate cultures, but still have opportunities none-the-less. Both Starbucks and "a technology company" are known for their leadership, training & development, innovation, customer service, products, etc. as well as their culture-oriented environments. And both attract an onslaught of "millennials," as customers and employees alike.

Over the course of the last 6 years I have had the privilege of welcoming many college age workers into the workforce, as both of these companies provide incredible work opportunities for college students. In fact, that is how I found myself slinging lattes for 5 years (my first job out of undergrad). There were multiple times I fought the urge to leave for a "better opportunity," and those were pivotal times for my own growth and development, and also allowed me to better connect with and understand the challenges of my staff. It also provided deeply personal anecdotes about my struggles that I share in daily interactions with my team.

Since I am "one of them" I have embraced my role as an agent helping shape a portion of the newly rising workforce, and have worked hard to understand the needs and contributions of both sides (the company, and the individual). This discussion, in my opinion, hinges on fostering honest conversations between both sides, recognizing the needs of both equally, and working together to grow profits, encourage passions, and impact the global community.

First, let's begin with the socio-economic culture shifts that have happened since the generation of baby-boomers. With parents mired from the want of the Great Depression, many of our parents were reared with the expectation that a good job with a pension was the stability and "success" that was desired. That payed off delightfully for corporations (mostly), and allowed us to be raised without a need to save aluminum foil and Ziploc® bags. The expectation of higher education (and funds to attend) became more and more prevalent. Thus the generation of degree holding millennials has emerged more educated and anxious to save the world than ever (or so it feels). And without a fear of want.

Add to this, that pensions are fading faster than a black shirt without Cheer ColorGuard, the ubiquity of an information/communication revolution called the internet, and a slew of "world problems." The idea of walking lock-step with a single company for a decade is seemingly unpragmatic. It seems limiting.

There is no longer a cultural need to hunker down, get safe, and grind out 30 years with one organization to protect against depression-era fears. The greater fears now are the perils facing our world; AIDS, poverty, environmental preservation, clean water, curing diseases, etc. Coupled with the ease of promoting causes and rallying support, it is now not unfathomable to think that the idea of one person funded with only a few dollars and an incredible amount of passion and devotion can have an impact on a grand scale ( InvisibleChildren, Kito International, Charity Water, the list goes on). The perceived "need" to be a company man is fading. The millenials may be on to something...

[continued...Part II]

How does the millennial generation fit into the workplace? How do we engage them in the important work of serving our customers?
Additional Resources:
The M-factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace