Want to Solve Millennial Engagement? Look Toward the Japanese: Try Kaizen Groups

The question most employers have about Millennial employees boils down to this:

What the hell do I do with them? Isn’t there a simple solution that can make them happy so I don’t have to engage with them?

Employers complain about Millennial employees being woefully unprepared for the workforce and lacking essential professional skills. But employers also need to keep their Millennial staff around to replace senior staff as they retire, help with knowledge transfer, and create the workplace of the future, all while avoiding the high costs that come with Millennial turnover.

How do you keep these fresh-graduates and future leaders engaged in their work, feeling valued, provide them opportunities to develop their skills, and allow them to make an impact on the company, all while minimizing costs?

One possible solution comes from Japan.

Kaizen, The Theory

Imagine a stereotypical mid-20th century manufacturing plant: A CEO or other heads of the company make decisions about how the plant runs and the employees on the production floor change their behavior according to the orders they receive from the top. Improvements in this scenario are often made through large-scale, expensive, and reactive changes.

But if you were to go to a Toyota plant during the same time period (and now), you would find something very different.

Employees on the production lines carry out their tasks much like their American counterparts, but there is an important difference: the employees on the production floor in Japan regularly meet together, identify issues, discuss suggestions on how to make the production process more efficient, and then they execute those small improvements.

This process of bottom-up continuous improvement is called Kai (change) Zen (good). Developed in Japan by Toyota after WWII, Kaizen can refer to any efforts where small optimizations are continuously made to produce large-scale improvements over time.

The idea is that employees closest to a given process are in the best position to make suggestions for improving that process. Individual employees are empowered to ask “how can this be done better?” or “how can we do this better?”  Employees are often then grouped in Kaizen Groups, which regularly meet to share the issues they have identified during the course of their work, present and discuss solutions, and then execute those solutions on their area of the business.

Over time, these small, proactive, incremental improvements across an entire company’s operations can make a big difference in quality and efficiency.

Though they were created as a tool to achieve lean production, Kaizen Groups can be repurposed to help engage Millennial staff in your workplace by creating Millennial Kaizen Groups. The rationale is that Kaizen is the ultimate form of Professional Development and that is exactly what Millennials need to stay engaged at work.

How to Create and Utilize Millennial Peer to Peer Kaizen Groups

Creating Millennial Kaizen Groups is fairly straightforward. A Kaizen Group is formed with a few younger staff and the group is tasked with developing lists of issues that they come across during the course of their daily work. The team regularly meets together to discuss the issues they identify as well as develop proposals for solutions to those issues.

Every two weeks (or however often is appropriate), the Millennial Kaizen Group meets with senior staff and upper management (as high up in the hierarchy as possible) and presents their list of identified issues as well as their solutions to those issues. Senior staff then have a chance to provide feedback and insights on the solutions presented and the group works together to decide which solutions are feasible and why.

Any solutions that are accepted by the senior management team are then executed by the Kaizen Group and the results of the optimizations are tracked and regularly reviewed. The cycle then continues with the group regularly meeting, making proposals, developing plans of execution with senior staff, and reviewing the results of those changes.

Why Millennial Peer to Peer Kaizen Groups Can Work

Forming Kaizen Groups in this way is a simple but powerful way of engaging Millennial staff and has a host of benefits for younger staff and the company as a whole.

Consider the potential benefits for Professional Development by participating in Kaizen Groups for Millennial staff:

  • Increased Engagement:

    Group members are more engaged in their daily work, constantly seeking ways that the processes or tools that they work within can be improved.

  • Real Feedback on Their Ideas:

    Group members have the opportunity to see how their ideas stand up to the scrutiny of senior management and learn from the holes that senior staff poke in their ideas.

  • Presentation/Communication Skills:

    The Kaizen Group regularly gives a formal presentation to senior staff. It’s an opportunity to practice their communication and presentation skills, two skills employers feel younger staff severely lack.

  • Sense of Value:

    Even if their ideas are rejected, the Kaizen Group has the opportunity to be heard by upper management, an important demonstration that the younger staff are valued.

  • Increased “Peer to Peer” Camaraderie:

    The Kaizen Group works together closely to pool issues, create pitches, develop solutions, and work as a team.

  • Sense of Purpose through Impact:

    The group enjoys a sense of making a genuine impact as a result of the proposals that are approved and implemented.

Millennial Peer to Peer Kaizen Groups benefit senior staff and the company as a whole as well. These groups are a chance for senior management to provide feedback on the group’s ideas and the presentation of their ideas, walk them through any areas where their ideas are lacking, and mold them for the mindset of the company. Millennial Kaizen Groups are a rare opportunity for senior staff to evaluate their younger talent (and their ideas) up close and critique their thinking, an important aspect of mentorship and training many Millennials crave but often lack in the workplace.

And, in the instances where the group presents a good solution to an issue, the company is improved in small ways that can have a large impact over time with little to no monetary investment.

American and British car companies, sick of playing catch-up to the Japanese, were eventually forced to adopt Kaizen into their own production processes. Companies struggling to keep their young talent from walking out of the door should feel a similar pressure. Millennial Peer to Peer Kaizen Groups have the potential to ease generational tensions and develop young talent at little to no cost.

And that is a damn good deal.

Need help setting one up? launchbox365 knows how.

Defining Diversity as Millennials Do: Is Your HR Department Really Ready?

Both your HR department and your Millennial staff will undoubtedly agree that diversity in the workplace is important for the well-being of individual staff and the company as a whole. But when each says diversity, are they both describing the same thing? Do they agree on what makes for a diverse  workplace?

After 25 years working with both Human Resource leaders and the last 10 with Millennials, I know they probably don’t share the same definition of diversity. And with 50% of the workforce currently made up of Millennials who directly connect diversity–as they define it– with their engagement at work, it is critical to the health of any organization that Human Resource leaders and Millennials are on the same page about what “diversity” means.

Rather than seeing diversity as something to merely tolerate, or tip toe around, Millennials are demonstrating that they believe that there are tangible benefits to proactively seeking out minorities and people of diverse backgrounds to share ideas and ensure everyone’s voices are heard equally.

But, it isn’t enough for Human Resource leaders to understand how Millennials define diversity. They also need to know how to implement the right strategies for promoting diversity effectively and in ways that Millennials will respond to favorably as we develop the workplace of the future.

For Millennials, Diversity is Not Limited to Race

For Baby Boomers, diversity largely refers to race or gender. or the last 30 years Boomers have supported efforts that promote workplace diversity and reduced racial discrimination. Those efforts have helped make big strides in the racial diversity of offices across most, but not all, industries.

Millennials are the most diverse generation and consider having friends and coworkers from different races as expected. As a result, Millennials have widened the net of those who are included in “diversity” initiatives. Racial diversity is still important, but they also want their workplace to be diverse in terms of socioeconomics, sexual orientation, life-experience, and even where their colleagues grew up.

For Millennials, a multiracial workplace is good, but if all their colleagues come from the same suburbs and ivy league schools, they will still see your workplace diversity as lacking.

When it comes to diversity, Millennials want to be proactive. This means they don’t just want racial barriers of success removed, they want to actively collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds and learn from colleagues with different life experiences other than their own.

And to do that, they expect far more proactive efforts of inclusion by their employers.

From Diversity, Inclusion, and Millennial Engagement

For Millennials, inclusion involves opportunities that positively highlight differences, allow for the sharing of ideas, and facilitate teamwork between different groups.

And the reward for Human Resource departments who can meet Millennial expectations about inclusion? A more equitable and ethical workplace of course, but also far higher rates of Millennial engagement.  And, the sad truth is that the opposite of engaging them is losing them.  If you are Amazon or Toyota, each with 340,000 employees, that is a MULTI-BILLION dollar problem annually.  Even if you have 10,000 employees Millennial Turnover is likely an $87M problem annually.   (See our blog on the Staggering Cost of Millennial Turnover)

Human Resource departments who meet Millennial standards for inclusion see a 20% increase in engagement compared to those that fall short. With low-engagement costing the US economy 350 billion dollars every year, Human Resource departments have plenty of reason to look critically at their workplace diversity and asking themselves if it is everything it could be.

How Human Resource Leaders Can Meet Millennial’s Expectations for Inclusion

Diversity is a tricky issue for human resource leaders to tackle. Even genuine efforts to help promote diversity and inclusion can sometimes backfire.

So, what can be done to effectively promote diversity and help all staff members feel a sense of inclusion in the organizations they work for?

In the prestigious Journal of Applied Psychology, Downey, van der Werff, Thomas and Plaut, the authors of the paper “The Role of Diversity Practices and Inclusion in Promoting Trust and Employee Engagement”— which looked at the connection between diversity and engagement in the healthcare industry— describe three strategies that not only help promote inclusion, but also result in greater trust between employees and employers:

  • Mentoring Programs that help “…reduce social exclusion…” in the workplace
  • Management training to reduce bias’ in hiring managers
  • Diversity staff and task forces that give inclusion efforts traction by tracking results, follow-up on current initiatives, and implementing new programs

At Launchbox365, we train Human Resource leaders and managers in these exact strategies to help them ensure they are meeting the inclusion expectations of their Millennials staff. Through our work, we have seen first hand the boosts in trust and engagement that can take place when strategies like these are implemented properly to help increase the diversity and openness of organizations.

The Staggering Cost of Millennial Turnover

Imagine if there was something lurking in your business that was costing you hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars every year, was detrimental to your company culture, and negatively impacting every facet of your business. You would probably spring to action to fix it right?

Well, Millennial turnover is that “something”.

Yet, when I talk to CEOs, business leaders, and partners at law firms, they often seem unaware of the extent to which Millennial turnover impacts their business. When we talk about Millennial turnover, we are talking about historically low retention rates of young talent across industries that cost mid to large sized companies and firms millions of dollars a year and billions of dollars to the US economy. Millennial turnover is not something for CEOs or industry leaders to grumble about and sweep under the rug. It negatively affects company culture, staff morale, innovation,  productivity, and every other aspect of a business. The total impact on your business may astound you.

Direct Costs of Millennial Turnover

Millennial turnover costs the US economy $30.5 billion dollars every year. Yes, each and every year.

For individual businesses, the news is just as bad.  Currently, millennials make up one-third of the workforce, and 36% of them say they expect to  leave their current employer in the next 12 months. And in the US, each of those employees that is currently scrolling through job boards at their desk generates on average of $150,000 of revenue per year for their company.

And once those Millennials leave, they need to be replaced. That replacement process includes advertising costs, interview costs, training costs, and a host of other onboarding related costs. Depending on the industry, these direct costs of replacing millennial staff can add up to anywhere from $15,000 at the low end to 50% to 200% of an employee’s annual salary at the higher end.

Can you say “OUCH”?

Those are staggering numbers. And with Millennials continuing to enter the workforce over the next few years and Gen Z on the workforce horizon, the direct costs associated with employee turnover may increase.

Those are only the direct costs.

Indirect Costs of Millennial Turnover

What happens when an employee leaves?

For starters, their work still needs to get done, and it is usually passed on to other staff. This is often a source of stress for their ex-colleagues who are responsible for picking up the slack.  In the paper The Impact of Staff Turnover on Workplace Demands and Coworker Relationships, the authors outline the problem for ex-colleagues clearly:

“…Turnover causes financial strain on organizations while they recruit and train new employees… disrupts organizational efficiency…can threaten the implementation and sustainability of new initiatives… likelihood of turnover among remaining staff increases when stress is high and coworker support is low…”

Let’s appreciate what the authors are saying for a second. Millennial turnover causes increased financial strain, decreased efficiency, disruption of new initiatives, and increases in turnover of the staff who are still working there.

Basically, Millennial turnover negatively impacts every imaginable aspect of a business or company.

And don’t forget, even once the Millennial moves on, you are not out of the woods yet.

The people who replace the Millennials who leave your company need time to get onboarded, trained, and brought up to speed before they can start contributing at max efficiency. This process can take between three and seven weeks according to a Millennial Branding survey, causing months of suboptimal performance.

Once CEOs and business leaders realize the extent of the Millennial turnover issue, it is as if they just realized their gas tank has had a giant hole in it for the last 20 miles. They jump to action, asking us at Launchbox365 to help them to reshape retention and engagement..

And through the new training and development needed:  coaching and mentorship from the inside-out, our team is able to to help them connect with their Millennial staff and provide the professional development and work environment and experience Millennials crave, reducing their Millennial turnover.

But the first step to getting help is admitting you have a problem. Business leaders must first appreciate Millennial turnover for what it is: a million dollar issue that negatively impacts every aspect of their business.

What about you? Got this issue?

Solving the Professional Service Industry’s Millennial Challenge.

Houston, we, the professional service industry, have a Millennial problem. Millennials can expect their initial years in the industry to involve “paying their dues” through unengaging grunt work and brutal work hours with few opportunities for professional growth or training. The reward for surviving those monotonous early years is greater earning potential later in their careers.

Or, said another way, the professional service industry offers the exact opposite of what we know Millennials want from their careers.

And it is costing the industry millions of dollars every year.

On average, Millennials leave their employers after only two years on the job. This is wildly expensive for companies and leaves them with no talent in the pipeline to groom for future success in the industry. Though professional service companies must own some of the blame for their lack of appeal to Millennials, the issue is complex and it isn’t all the fault of the professional service industry itself.  So what is really going on with professional Millennials and what can be done about it?

To Invest or Not to Invest in Training for Millennial Talent

Millennial turnover is no small problem. For mid to large professional service companies, a high rate of turnover costs millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs.  

Employers are understandably frustrated. They feel that Millennials are graduating college without the necessary skills to succeed as professionals. Employers could close that gap by investing in training and professional development. But out of fear their young talent will leave anyway, they hesitate to invest in proper training and professional development opportunities.

This has created an endless negative cycle. Millennials don’t receive the training opportunities they value forcing them to look elsewhere for opportunities where they can learn and grow. This gives them a reputation for job-hopping, making employers even more hesitant to invest the time and money to train their young staff.

This is already playing out in law firms, which some think will be forced to break apart over the next decade due to a lack of up and coming talent to hand established firms over to after longstanding Boomer partners retire.

For companies, Millennials are an expensive and seemingly unfixable problem. But they are not alone: Millennials think the situation is hopeless as well.

Why Are Millennials Leaving?

We know that Millennials value work that is meaningful, provides opportunities to learn and allows them to make an impact in areas that they are passionate about. Yet, professional service companies continue their tradition of giving young talent long hours, dull work, a lack of opportunities to make a significant impact, and limited opportunities to work in areas of interest.

Millennials also rank salary below training and schedule flexibility when it comes to workplace perks. Yet, most companies continue to pay high salaries, are unbudging when it comes to flexible work hours, skimp on providing valuable professional development opportunities, and then throw up their hands in exasperation when their Millennials walk out on them.  

It really should not come as a surprise that Millennials are quick to leave the professional service industry given that companies have shown little willingness to cater to the needs and wants of Millennial talent. Senior Boomer staff who have spent their lives working their way up the industry hierarchy will exclaim that this is how it has always been! These Millennials need to toughen up!

This is a losing mentality for individual companies and the industry as a whole.

The professional service industry simply cannot afford to pass up on entire generations of talent because of an unwillingness to adapt to the needs of up and coming talent. Just like in any other industry, companies can (and must) make small adjustments to how they operate and invest in young, up-and-coming talent.  

How The Professional Service Industry Can Retain Millennial Talent

If current trends continue, many companies in the next decade are going to be forced to deal with a shallow talent pool as the most talented Millennials become frustrated and move on to other more Millennial-focused industries. Thankfully, there are practical strategies that companies can use to satisfy Millennial’s professional development needs, keep them engaged in their work and increase the likelihood that they stick around long enough for companies to see a return on their investment in young talent.

Pay Less and Train More

This bears repeating: professional development opportunities are the number one workplace perk among Millennials across all industries. It is possible for companies to invest more in training and decrease their risk of losing that investment simultaneously. To do this, some companies are lowering starting salaries and offering an increased emphasis on training opportunities as a perk to attract young talent.

At the end of the day, indulging Millennials in their desire for professional development is hugely beneficial for companies. Providing training helps close the skills gap, increases Millennial retention rates, lowers turnovers costs, and helps attract top talent that companies can groom for success in the industry.       

Alternative Career Paths

Not everyone needs to pop champagne on a private jet to feel fulfilled by their career. Companies need to provide alternative career paths for Millennials who may not be striving to summit the peak of the industry in terms of money and status, but who are more than capable of bringing value and passion to an organization.  

Creating alternative career paths often involves offering more diverse positions than were previously available. These new roles provide more opportunities for Millennials to focus on areas of the industry that interest them most and where they feel they can make the biggest impact. This is a draw to Millennials, even if that means they will be working for a lower salary. These alternative career paths may not offer the glitz and glamour of “making partner”, but they allow companies to appeal to a more diverse group of young talent and benefit from the value and passion they bring.

Adopt More Progressive Work Policies

No one is suggesting axing professional dress codes or adding ping pong tables and craft peer as office perks. But the service industry needs to begin to admit that if it is going to succeed, it needs to come out of the 1960s. That includes making greater efforts of inclusion, supporting greater work hour flexibility, and continued integration of digital and online tools that improve the experience of both the young staff and the company’s clients. The industry doesn’t need to be turned on its head, but it does need to work towards reflecting the world that its associates and clients live in.

The next decade is going to be critical for the  professional service industry. Gen Z, the generation after Millennials, has the job market in its sights, and the talent in Gen Z is going have similar expectations about the workplace as their slightly older Millennial colleagues. The professional service industry needs the best and brightest to succeed, but if it does not begin to evolve to appeal to young talent, it is going to be left fighting over the leftovers of the talent pool.

And for industry built around professionals, that is a scary thought.

launchbox recognized as top Millennail blog

launchbox365 was recognized as one of the Top 100 Millennial Blogs and Websites for Millennials.
See the complete list here.

launchbox recognized as top Millennail blog

 

The “M” Word (Millennial): Reverse Ageism at its worst…

We know that making sweeping generalizations about any group of people being “lazy,” “unprofessional,” “unreliable,” or “narcissistic” is repugnant. Unless we are talking about the dreaded “M” word,  Millennials. Then, apparently, it’s okay.    

After years of having their generation smeared by Baby Boomers, Gen X, and the media, Millennials are perceived negatively as professionals at first glance.

Millennials often enter a workplace climate in which it is okay to make negative assumptions about the quality of work they can produce, the professionalism they will display, and their dedication to their job.

It is called Reverse Ageism and it presents a serious hurdle to young talent in your office no matter how capable they actually are.

And the problem is not cost-free. The impact of these negative stereotypes contributes to high turnover rates of Millennials, costing the US economy billions of dollars every year and negatively impact the productivity and culture of individual organizations.  For an organization with 50,000 employees, 40% of which are Millennials, this can be a billion dollar problem annually – billion with a B.

With generational tensions already high, it is important to understand the extent of the negative stereotyping of Millennial professionals and how you can help rid your workplace of Reverse Ageism.

The Problem of Reverse Ageism

Regular stereotyping of Millennial workers in pop culture and offices alike has led to socially acceptable age-discrimination against younger staff. According to a report titled  Discriminating Against Millennials in the Workplace Analysis on Age Discrimination Against Young Adults, Millennials face a perception in the workplace from older staff of being “entitled, hard to train, and uncommitted to their position of employment.”

And this perception has real ramifications for the young talent in your office.

In their paper Too Old or Too Young? The Impact of Perceived Age Discrimination, authors Ed Snape and Tom Redman cite a study which found that “being seen as untrustworthy and being given less responsibility were common” among undergraduate business students. And that is if they are hired at all; experts now cite a hesitancy in employers over hiring younger staff.

Even worse, this is happening at the beginning of Millennial’s careers, right when they need opportunities to learn, develop, and hone their professional skills the most. But too often they are never given those opportunities, forcing them to leave their employer —re-confirming the ‘job-hunting’ stereotype— and continuing the negative cycle at their next job.  

Reverse Ageism Is a Million Dollar Problem for Companies

Ageism isn’t just a bummer deal for Millennials. If you are a mid to large sized company, reverse ageism could potentially be costing you millions of dollars, your most productive employees, and ruining your company culture.

On average, Millennials stay in a role for 1.3 years, which Gallup estimates costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. That’s a ton of coin.

And money isn’t the only loss for companies. Recruitment costs, onboarding costs, loss of productivity from watching colleagues leave, and lower productivity of new hires all negatively affect a company, its culture and its bottom line. Not to mention these young staff that are leaving are often more productive than senior staff and almost universally less expensive to hire, hurting your bottom line even further.

These are real costs to your company, but they are fixable. They require thought, time, investment and a commitment to emphasizing the strengths of your Millennial staff and helping the five generations working together today to bridge the gaps between them and leverage their unique strengths.

Millennials Have Unique Gifts and Gaps

Unlike the other four generations in the workplace, Millennials have a unique set of talents and disadvantages: what they may lack in interpersonal skills they make up for in fast research through collaboration, for example.  They have real strengths as employees. It is certainly true that they may not have the industry knowledge of a 30-year veteran, but that doesn’t mean they can’t bring powerful value to your organization.

For one, while it may be true Millennials lack some essential professional skills, they are happier than any other generation to develop and hone their skills given the chance. Gallup found that 87% of Millennials believe “development is important in a job” and development opportunities regularly score higher than pay when Millennials rank the benefits of a job.

Millennials are also fantastic when it comes to problem solving using technology, are very strong collaborators, and are professionally curious. The point being, while they may not be walking into your office on the first day of work as perfectly polished professionals, they have the eagerness and desire to learn that should allow you to sculpt them into the exact type professional you think will thrive in your organization.

The catch is that they know when they are liked, wanted, respected and valued.

Investment really is the key. Employers who want to put a stop to both the generational tensions in their office and the high turnover rate of Millennials need to take the time to train the enterprise to bridge generational gaps. That process starts with providing Millennials with the training opportunities that develop their professional skills and make them feel that they are valued in the workplace and gives them a sense of progressing as professionals.

We suspect you might even be surprised by what they can do.  

The 4 Top Solutions for Retaining Millennial Employees: Teach, Learn, Listen, and Guide

As a coach of CEOs and business leaders on how to retain Millennial talent, I am often presented with the same problem: in a desperate attempt to appeal to their Millennial staff, business owners buy Ping Pong tables, kegs of craft beer for the office kitchen, free food, or setup an Xbox in their office common area.

And low and behold their Millennial staff continue to walk out on them, but why?.  

Senior or seasoned staff see this generation of 20-30 somethings as being vastly different than any generation that came before them. They complain of Millennial’s need to be taught industry skills, their laziness, their incessant attempts to have their ideas heard, their utopian ideas about work life balance and their peculiar craving for a sense of professional progression.  

Nonetheless, the great Millennial secret is that they are more similar to every other generation of young and ambitious people throughout history.    

Universally, what Millennials want is to be taught what they don’t know so they can grow and progress. They want the chance to teach others to help improve those around them. When they speak, they want to be heard and valued. And they want guidance on how to be successful from people who have already walked the path they’re embarking on.

There is no mystery there.

Recognizing this similarity between Millennials and all generations is the easy part. The real solution  to retaining your millennial talent is easier said than done and comes in establishing an intergenerational office culture founded on teaching, learning, listening and guidance. Here’s why and how:

 

Teaching Millennials Benefits All Generations   

PayScale’s 2016 Workforce Report revealed a stark contrast between Millennial’s perception of their preparedness for their job and that of their senior (and older) hiring managers. PayScale’s report showed that 87% of Millennials thought they were prepared for their job, while only 50% of managers felt their Millennial staff were prepared.

While managers are quick to pick up on Millennial’s unpreparedness, “they should just know it, the thinking goes, because the senior folks all learned it themselves.” Can you say …bull….

Nonetheless, they seem to turn a blind eye to a far more important Millennial characteristic: their desire for professional development opportunities.

According to PWC’s Millennials at Work Reshaping the Workplace Report, professional development is “…their first choice benefit from employers,” ranking above flexible hours and pay.

To begin developing a teaching culture, you need to ask yourself honestly: do your Millennial employees have regular opportunities to work with and learn from your senior staff?

If the answer is no, the time to start creating those learning opportunities for Millennials is now.

For senior staff, it means building a rapport and genuine relationship with their younger staff, a chance to pass on their expertise, and the chance to help the younger generation progress professionally.

For Millennials, mentorship opportunities provide a sense that their team and company are invested in them. Mentorships are a chance for younger talent to learn from the wisdom of those with decades of experience in their industry, to improve their skills in the areas they are lacking, and provide a sense of professional progress.

According to the data, if you want loyalty from Millennials, you have to provide them these opportunities to learn and grow professionally. This is a savvy and ambitious generation. Their hunger to learn and grow needs be fed by employers. Otherwise, Millennials are happy to pack up and find opportunities to develop their skills elsewhere.  

 

You’ve Got a Lot to Learn From Millennials

Though older generations may only view Millennials as 50% prepared for the workplace, that 50% can be incredibly valuable to senior staff who now face a strange and intimidating new landscape where email is seen as being a bit outdated and popular trends change on a dime.

Thankfully for senior staff, their Millennial colleagues present a unique learning opportunity on how to operate in the digital age.

From more efficient in-office communication tools, to new platforms to exploit, to understanding the ideas, motivations and mindset of 83  million of their fellow Millennials, the younger generation has a lot to teach the seasoned professionals in the office.

And Millennials want to teach.

They are aware that in the complex digital age, it is only those that innovate, adapt and evolve that survive. Millennial complaints about antiquated meeting schedules or dated sales tactics don’t come from a sense of entitlement; they come from a sense of urgency. They have taken part in the digital age since they were born. They know how fast the world moves. And they want you and your organization to keep up.

The reward for senior staff who take the time to learn from them? A crash course in the latest trends, tools, and platforms, in addition to that much sought after millennial loyalty.

But to learn, senior staff first have to be willing to listen.  

 

For Millennials, To Be Heard is to Be Valued

Millennial workers overwhelmingly enjoy working with the other older generations. In the same PWC study, 76% of Millennials said that they enjoyed working with “older senior management” and only 4% disagreed. It isn’t about being needy or entitled. Millennials want the opportunity to have their ideas heard, to get feedback on those ideas from senior staff, and to feel valued by the companies they work for.

And senior or seasoned staff may do well by listening.

Millennials are responsible for many of the recent positive trends in workplace environments. They facilitate more collaborative work environments, introduce communication tools that limit the need for inefficient meetings, emphasize the importance of having a sense of purpose at work, and have made CSR an essential company perk.  

They also represent a huge chunk of the US economy, “spending more than $650 billion each year and influencing upward of $1 trillion in total consumer spending.” Listening to how they think, the things they like, and the values they hold can help senior staff with decisions on everything from marketing strategies to product design.  

How to Recognize Your Skills, Passions, and Values to Kick Ass in Work and Life

In last week’s article, we talked about how to identify your strengths and lead with them. Leading with your strengths is the first part of the equation to providing maximum value to others. The second part of the equation involves your skills, passions, and values.

Strengths + (Skills + Passions + Values) = Value to Others

As opposed to strengths (which are natural attributes), a skill is something you have actually learned, honed your ability, and have experience doing that provides a benefit. Skills can be difficult to articulate because it’s not necessarily a natural strength, but something you’ve spent time and energy developing to the point where it is of value to someone or something. A great way to think about a skill is the question WIFT:

“What’s in it for them?”

When somebody asks you what skills you have, you want to respond in a way hat expressed the answer to the WIFT question. By doing so, you go beyond just thinking about yourself, and consider what tools you have and how they are valuable to others (your company, the marketplace, the world, etc.)

For example, when asked what skill someone has, a common response is that they are a “people person.” That answer is weak. It provides nothing about how that skill is of use or value to somebody else. A better way to articulate being a “people person” as a skill is to say “you connect with other human beings immediately, which leads to stronger teams and client relationships.” That is communicating your value. That is a skill. Again, instead of saying you are “punctual,” explain this skillset in terms of WIFT: “I am calm, reliable, and always available to offer support. I am the type of person who is up to speed on deadlines and meetings. I’ll never make you wait or stress, which will allow you to focus on the things that matter most and increase effectiveness and productivity.”

As a business, using the WIFT method to describe skills allows you to communicate clearly to your customers and clients, while also authentically aligning your personal skills to connect better with others and get results for your company.

Passions—They Matter

At launchbox, we don’t believe in hiding your passions and personal interests in the workplace. What defines you at work, defines you personally, and vice versa. The people who are disconnected from what lights them up and makes them hear sing (passions) are the ones who are unfulfilled, stuck, and/or disconnected from their work, organization, or life in general. Identifying and understanding your passions is important because in order to have a great career and be of maximum value, you must align your work with what drives you personally. By seeing where your passions and work/life are out of alignment, you can gain clarity on what you need to do to fix this, and therefore make the changes to increase your happiness and drive.

Often times, people say, “What if I don’t know what my passion is?” I encourage you to forget the word “passion.” Instead, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you curious about?
  • What makes your heart sing?
  • What makes you lose track of time?
  • What would you do if money was no object?

Answer each of these questions. These are your passions!

Values

Values are your real-deal-no-BS-what-you-are-made-of principles or standards of behavior. Here are some examples of my own personal values:

  • Empowering others to make a difference
  • Creating value for others and enabling their growth
  • Making meaningful connections

The best path toward shaving a great career is aligning you personal values with a company’s values. The best companies that stand the test of time are the ones that have a clear set of values they live and die by. For example, look at Zappos. They have their “Zappos Family Core Values,” which the company continuously uses to develop its culture, brand, and business strategies.

Zappos Family Core Values

  1.  Deliver WOW through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and learning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.

Don’t you just love these values? It makes you want to say “duh” when you read the list. Many of these values overlap with mine, and so many others, which have allowed me to have a great career. However, as great as the Zappos values are, you don’t want to adopt theirs. You want to look within yourself and think about what makes you and your company the best versions you can be. Those are your values.

Take the time to identify your values. Pay attention to what you personally care about—what drives you—and use them to express your business values. That’s how you articulate your real-deal-no-BS-what-you-are-made-of principles and standards of behavior. Now, you have the ultimate equation for providing value to others. Whether it be family, friends, bosses, colleagues, business partners, etc., it doesn’t matter…the equation works: Strengths + (Skills + Passions + Values) = Value to Others

Want to know more about how you can kick ass in work and life?

How to Tell Your Story

“We all have a life story and a message that can inspire others to live a better life or run a better business. Why not use that story and message to serve others and grow a real business doing it?” – Brendon Burchard

What do the most powerful movies, influential books, and engaging communicators all have in common?

They tell a great story.

From ancient cave drawings and religious texts, to Shakespeare and the best series on Netflix, we learn from, and are inspired by, the art of storytelling. The best businesses market through telling stories. The best public speakers connect with us through telling stories. And in order for all of us to be our best, we must be in the story business.

No matter how charming or charismatic you are (or are not), no matter what industry you’re in, being able to tell your story is a must to perform at your best. The art of story telling allows you to convey who you are, what you stand for, what skills you have, and how you can help others in an engaging way so that people want to listen. In order to connect deeper in your personal and professional life, you must learn to communicate who you are in a way that’s interesting and authentic—a.k.a. through delivering your story.

In the past few articles in this series, we have identified your skills, values, passions, and personal brandstamp. These are all the important elements that will help you define your story so you can create relevance and connect deeper with others. The secret to success in building relationships (the #1 most important skill in business) is sharing clear, concise information that conveys your values through a great story. This allows you to build connection and rapport with anyone—customers, managers, employees, coworkers, etc.

Boring presentations are bogged down with dull information. Fascinating presentations have drama and arcs. If you look at the most popular TEDx talks, you’ll notice they have many common threads:

  • They build trust and credibility
  • They create common ground and connect on a deeper emotional level (humor, awe, inspirational, etc.)
  • They give meaning to their journey and make us feel like we’re on it too
  • They show humility and wisdom
  • They inspire action

You can take away some of these common traits to tell your own great story using emotion, humor, irony, self-deprecation, and drama.

I probably tell 50 stories a day, using each one to make a point to the audience or person I’m speaking with. Whether it’s a Q & A for a corporation, I’m out at dinner with a friend, on a phone call with business partner, or simply out and about, there is a right moment to tell a specific story. You don’t just want to spill out any random story, especially if it’s the wrong situation.

Whether you’re speaking to a room of 100 people or your friend at the park, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Take the temperature before sharing: who is my audience and what’s the vibe like?
  • What does this person need? How can I share something they will understand, relate to, and as a result lean in…Is it info about a customer? A cool project? A meaningful solution?
  • What is special about you and them in the moment? What brings you to together? What bonds do you share? How can you connect to win them over?

The key is using what you have in the moment, and making it relevant (whether it’s a news story or a funny incident that happened during breakfast, it doesn’t matter.) If you’re struggling, there are some common topics that are almost always winners: kids, puppies, sports, and culture.

You can practice the art of great storytelling by paying more attention to the events in your everyday life and asking yourself, how can I bring the things that happen in my life and share them through story-telling to create connected relationships? The more you practice, the better you get. And the more skilled you get, the better you will be able to deliver your own story.

Putting together the puzzle pieces of your story

At launchbox, we’ve trained thousands of millennials and managers on how to tell their own unique story through exercises, workshops, and coaching. Here are three essential questions we’ve distilled that can help you put together the foundation of your own story:

  1. Who am I? Where was I born? Where do I come from? Who is my family? What is my background—my family identity? What am I grateful for? What and who have made me who I am?
  2. What is my experience? What work have I done? What am I inspired and motivated by? What am I passionate for and about? What have I had to overcome, and what are my triumphs?
  3. What value do I bring? What am I good at? What are my special skills? What has made me unique and special? Why do people love me, and what do I do to maintain that? What kind of attitude do I have? What can I do for others? What about me makes me successful that is not about my technical experience?

Look for overlapping connections with your skills, values, and passions. And remember: your story is not a word-for-word script. It is simply a framework for understanding yourself in a manner that allows you to interact with people and communicate who you are. It is a human connection currency.

Obviously, you don’t want to puke out your entire life story and bore somebody to death. You will probably share little parts of your story here and there when communicating with someone. Always keep in mind the specific situation and gauge how much you feel called to share. It’s like building a block tower. Start with the base blocks, and as you connect deeper and talk more, you can add the middle and top layers of your story.

Lastly, understand that telling your story is not bragging. In fact, the secret sauce to telling a great story is exactly the opposite. A powerful story communicates in a way that allows others to resonate with what you’re sharing. It builds trust and connection. When crafting your story, keep that in mind. It’s not so much “what” happened to you, but learning to convey the significance of events and allowing others to feel your emotions (the common ground that ties us all together.)

Curious to learn more about how you can deliver a kickass story in the workplace and life? Check out Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace .

Start Doing This to Benefit from Millennial Engagement

Engagement. Engagement. Engagement.

It’s all the hype these days, especially with the workplace changing and remote working situations on the rise. And rightfully so.

A five-point increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% growth in revenue, according to a recent report by Aon. The study also revealed that global employee engagement levels dropped for the first time in five years. This isn’t good for businesses. As engagement falls, so does financial performance.

This isn’t due to a lack of engagements surveys and information. We spend at least $1B a year on employee engagement surveys.[1] Yet accordingly to Forbes, most companies say they aren’t getting the value they want.  The Workplace Genome Project estimates that 40% of HR professionals rarely do anything meaningful with engagement data results. Why?

Because these studies don’t measure underlying, root causes. These studies measure symptoms and outcomes. So, while the data may be interesting, it gives no insight into where a problem should be addressed, or what to do about it. Engagement doesn’t necessarily mean employee satisfaction. However, by understanding your millennial employees and getting to know them, you can engage them in ways that lead to feeling satisfied in the workplace.

According to research by the Teleos Leadership Institute, employees want 3 things:

  1. A meaningful vision of the future
  2. A sense of purpose
  3. Great relationships

An effective system of monitoring employee engagement will measure all 3 of these components. There are a lot of different factors and data points that can be analyzed and dissected. You want to make sure you are measuring the ones that are relevant and have a direct relationship with your employee engagement. Gallup has what they call the Q12 to measure engagement which include the following questions:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Once you understand engagement levels, you can then work to improve them. The only way to do that is by understanding your millennials employees, and what specific strategies lead to better engagement. Here are some strategies that will improve millennial employee engagement.

Ask Tough Questions to Understand Your Millennials

While perks and benefits may appeal to millennials, by themselves they will not engage and keep them over a long period of time. From the day you interview your millennial employees and onward, be proactive. Ask them questions in order to understand what drives them personally. Why does this matter?

Knowing what motivates or demoralizes certain employees allows you to create an ideal workplace environment and keep an eye on your employees. You can be strategic in what tasks you give to who, how often you show appreciation, whether or not to give them tough love, and when give them more space. Some of your millennials may value flexible hours over pay, while others are more motivated by commission opportunities. You can increase engagement among your millennial employees by asking tough questions. Learn what drives them.

Some examples of questions to ask are:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Do you prefer working in a structured, or more casual environment?
  • Where do you think you can add the most value?
  • What are your goals?

Provide Feedback on a Regular Basis

Performance management and senior leadership were the two weakest engagement points for companies in North America, according to Aon’s 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement. Focus on improving these “weak points” by improving your communication with millennial employees. Consider designing a system or schedule to ensure you are proactive in engaging with your millennials. A feedback strategy is a great way to stay updated with your millennials. By doing this, you can better recognize pain points and solve them, address certain needs, and more.

Leadership and management can be improved by providing consistent feedback to your millennials. A feedback strategy will make it 10 x easier. This isn’t to say you will only engage with them when your schedule says too. However, it will help you stay relevant and engaged in your relationships, which will therefore improve your leadership and management, which will improve engagement.

Data is useless if you don’t know what it means, or don’t know what to do with it. Understand that millennial engagement in the workplace is directly correlated with revenue growth. Make an effort to engage your millennials by measuring the aspects of engagement that matter most. Learn about what drives your millennials. Get to know them by asking tough questions. Communicate with them on a regular basis. Be strategic and create a feedback system to make sure you’re on top of it. By focusing on your millennial engagement, your company will benefit.

 

[1] http://www.workxo.com/blog/post/177-engagement-not-about-how-you-work