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What We Think

Take a look in the mirror. The problem is not the millennials.

It’s important for 20-somethings to take some time to find themselves. At least that’s what baby boomers thought back in the 70s. What the Gen-Xers were allowed in the 90s. (My mother insisted I wasn’t lost, so why did I have to find myself?) Millennials increasingly are taking a “gap year.”

Many of our clients often lament the millennials in their firms. They are perceived as entitled, lazy, don’t want to put in the work…But if you consider the millennials to be the future of the firm, how will you ensure that the firm survives?

When we work with millennials, we find much of their thinking to be reasonable and intelligent, and very reminiscent of the views of the 20-somethings of every generation. In fact, they share a lot of views with employees of every age. The problem is not millennials. It’s the business culture, and the managers.

So here are our top 5 considerations for improving how to embrace the millennials on your team – and really, all employees–in your firm:

  1. Accept work-life integration: We don’t believe in work-life balance, but we do believe in work-life integration (see our blog about it here). Your employees are connected to work 24/7 – remember that email or text you sent Saturday morning and expected a reply within minutes? Millenials are ok with that, as long as they can also manage their lives in a similar way – the doctor’s appointment or maybe even a quick visit with a friend during work hours. If the bosses can do it, employees should be able to too.
  2. Let them help define and redefine the vision: If your organizations don’t continue to change, they will die. Remember the “phone companies?” They changed. The corner store changed. The giant photography and early computing companies, they changed or vanished. All organizations need to rethink their vision as well as their operational strategy. This rethinking should not stay the job solely of senior management. Embrace the millennials in your strategy sessions, and be open to their thoughts. They are the future. (read about ensuring successful change here)
  3. Forget about face time: In many organizations, and especially in professional services firms, the amount of time that people spend in the office subliminally affects how bosses rate them. In the office at 7PM? The person must be working hard. Working early or late when the boss does? The person must be committed. But do they contribute to the business? Is their quality high? Are they productive for the hours they are sitting in the office? Inc. magazine reports that “research suggests that in an 8-hour day, the average worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes.” Put that thought together with work-life integration and see where you might take your culture.
  4. Be transparent: “Because I said so.” Remember when your parent said that? Remember your reaction? When employees don’t know the reasons behind decisions, they balk. While most people want change, most people do not want to change. But understanding the finances or market stresses behind a decision makes the change a little easier and can be used to create a single engaged team rather than an “us vs them” environment. Transparency on an ongoing basis, not just at moments of change, helps to create a culture that can withstand the inevitable changes over time.
  5. Forward-looking feedback: Employee evaluations are fraught with unease. Instead of the awkward and backward looking annual review, try making timely feedback part of the manager’s job. Make it a forward looking exercise. Every week, at the end of every project, so employees can use the insights to improve. A Gallup study found that the variation between high- and lower-performing teams centered around one statement: “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” This one statement drove a 44% greater likelihood to earn high customer satisfaction scores, a 50% greater likelihood for low employee turnover, and 38% greater likelihood for productivity. You hired great people, give them ongoing feedback so that they (and you) can build on their skills.

What makes a great environment for millennials, makes a great environment for all employees. There are lifecycles to all things in life – whether it be our own lives, the management of an organization, or the way each generation approaches being in the workforce. Successful organizational cultures engage employees at all points in the cycle of life.

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