Posts

In my previous post in the Millennial Code series, I discussed the first factor involved if companies want to retain their Millennial talent: giving them a clear picture of their career prospects with the organisation.

In this post, I want to outline the next important element in engaging Gen Y and keeping them on payroll.

And that’s listening to their input, their suggestions and their insights.

Gen Y, also known as Millennials, are the generation born roughly between 1981-95, and their unique traits and preferences are slowly but surely transforming the workplace.

If companies are going to thrive in the fast-moving era of organisational disruption and especially if they are going to hang on to their A players, they need to keep their ears and channels of communication open to the younger members of their team.

You may have noticed that Gen Y hangs in packs. They’re tribal, and they share. They like being listened to.

This doesn’t just go for publishing snaps of their morning workout or weekend brunch on Instagram, as the stereotypes have it.

It also goes for discussing life, tech and business innovations, warning each other when crisis or change is around the corner, and inviting suggestions before taking a decision or committing to a course of action.

Tips on where to have dinner in town? Most efficient car-sharing experience? Hottest app for better sleep management? Best city for computer engineers to relocate to? Friendliest company to work for?

Posing such questions and the hive of data that returns in the form of answers and responses is both natural to Millennials and yields a wealth of insights for those willing to listen and interpret.

Meanwhile, what Gen Y learns, recommends, reviews and builds excitement around very quickly builds significance across other age groups because, as a generation, they are constantly connected community of peers and are therefore influential.

They’re also used to being listened to by friendly, on-their-side authority figures – keep in mind that, growing up, there were none of the traditional distances between them and their elders. ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ were not simply there to tell them what to do. Consequently, Millennials participated in family decisions and voiced their preferences or opinions from an early age.

And they expect a similar experience in the workplace.

This is good news for companies of all sizes – after all, Millennials’ interactions with each other means companies have an ongoing, real-time research and development team, learning, experiencing, discovering and creating new social and innovative opportunities that can enhance their services, products and work culture in general.

But Gen Y’s interest in sharing their opinion or soliciting peers’ points of view or input could also be a challenge. This is because ‘being listened to’ traditionally came only after an employee had ‘paid their dues’, ‘worked their way up the ladder’ and ‘put in the time’. In short, it was a perk of seniority.

However, take it from me, as someone who trains Millennial recruits across a range of industries on a weekly basis… this kind of thinking should be relegated to the past by any organisation hoping to keep their best employees on board for the future.

Because if you don’t allow your Gen Y hires to voice their suggestions, their insights, you will not just lose a valuable opportunity to gather data about your target market, you will also alienate your human capital who will be only too ready to accept an opportunity elsewhere – perhaps with one of your competitors – who will value and engage with what they have to say.

Everyone, irrespective of age or experience, feels empowered and appreciated by having the chance to share their observations – to be given a voice. And we live in an age where if you have something valuable to share, it’s easier than ever to do so.

The key for companies who want to retain their Millennial talent is to ensure such insight is shared with the blessing of the organisation, as opposed to being marginalised and banished from it.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

When did the big boss in the big office with the big cigar at the top of the corporate organisational pyramid start to go out of style?

One answer is: probably since the rise of the internet and the early 2000s.

The online world made easy access to information a new source of empowerment for the global workforce and… given that this was also the time that the Millennials (also called ‘Gen Y’ – born roughly between 1981-95) were hitting the job market… it signalled a slow erosion of the traditional, top-down vertical, command and control organisational structures.

Of course, in large-scale, legacy businesses, pyramidal structures are still in use and will take time to evolve into a more decentralised form.

But with the numbers of Millennials now having surpassed those of the Boomers (1946-64) and Gen X (1965-80), it’s clear that this younger generation’s preference for horizontal structures should be taken seriously.

What are the reasons for such a preference? Several, as it turns out.

Gen Y is by now famous for:

  • their collaborative, teamwork-loving ways,
  • their lack of familiarity (and reluctance to accept) traditional rank and age-based authority (their parents and teachers were their friends and mentors),
  • their desire to have personal impact in implementing a company’s mission and
  • their need for individual self-development and feedback throughout their time with an organisation

These characteristics make them feel far more at home working for organisations that have flatter organisational structures. Which is why start-ups have been so appealing to the entrepreneurial, innovation-driven Millennials. And, given their limited size, the flat organisational structure, with everyone taking multiple roles, is a natural fit for a start-up.

For larger, established companies, with more traditional work cultures that are based on a silo approach, horizontal structures can be seen as disruptive and unappealing, raising the threat of a lack of clarity, loss of control and role confusion across their personnel.

Yet one of the reasons organisations have such a problem retaining Millennials is their vertical organisational structures leave little room for Gen Y’s need for:

  • collaborations that are unlimited by seniority and rank divides,
  • opportunities for personal growth and development, and
  • to have a wider impact and say on the company’s performance

In contrast to older generations in the workforce, accustomed to ‘paying their dues’ and ‘working their way up the ladder’… Millennials are much more comfortable thinking of work as a ‘lattice’ of opportunities in every direction to contribute and perform.

To them, it only makes sense – after all, flatter structures allow for quick and more democratic decision-making, as well as greater employee ‘ownership’ of the company’s mission. And as the traditional workplace continues to be disrupted, trends point to such decentralised and more mobile organisational structures becoming the norm.

This may be uncomfortable and threatening to consider for more traditionally-organised organisations and their leaderships.

But with Millennials’ prime work years still ahead of them, it can only be a good thing that their native preferences will help evolve companies to flatter, more adaptable structures, able to survive and thrive in the fast-moving era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

“Put your smartphone down, when I’m speaking to you!”

Did you assume the hypothetical person with the phone was… a young person? Perhaps even… a Millennial?

Also known as a member of Gen Y, born (roughly 1981-95), stereotyped as self-absorbed young professionals, preferring to edit Instagram photos than pick up the phone to clients?

(That really IS a stereotype, by the way.)

To answer the question… the person absorbed in using their smartphone could have been of any age.

From a Millennial to a Gen Zer (the generation born roughly 1996 to 2000), to Gen Xers, Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, too.

Almost EVERY generation by this point, whether in or out of the office, has discovered the benefits of, and formed a certain level of dependency on, their smart device of choice.

Why? Chiefly because of the convenience such devices provide, but even more because of the connection, and the empowering feeling of having a say in shaping that connection.

Which brings me to the point of this post… Purpose. More specifically: Millennials’ demand for and near-religious devotion to it, whether in or out of the workplace.

So great is their need to find purpose in their work, accuse their critics, that Gen Y will walk away from perfectly well-paid, stable jobs, leaving expensive vacancies for HR to re-fill after spending only a relatively short period of time with a company.

Yet… if we are honest… EVERY generation of workers appreciates meaningful employment, and for their efforts to have a purpose beyond profit. Why? Because this is a very human need, no matter how old or young we may be.

It’s just that… unlike Gen Y, older generations were born in more authoritarian and less-technologically-empowered times. Eras where you earned your dues over time, and a J.O.B. was perfectly acceptable – even if all it did was pay the rent and put food on the table, and wasn’t going to win you a Pulitzer prize or reinvent the toothbrush.

Millennials, on the other hand, were brought up with a very different picture of the world and their role in it.

Gen Y were taught by parents and teachers that they would change the world, and were groomed to expect to be agents of innovation. So, given their relative youth and ambition, not to mention, their ease in creatively collaborating with peers, finding ‘purpose’ in their work is a ‘luxury’ they believe they can afford, while staying in a job without ‘purpose’ appears a far greater threat to their future longterm.

This can certainly be a headache for HR departments, tasked with filling job positions that might have been retained by recruits of older generations, not to mention, spending time and money retraining replacements.

But it’s just as much an important warning sign to a company itself, that perhaps it’s not as aligned with its original vision as it needs to be.

Or perhaps that it needs a different ‘Why’ in Simon Sinek’s words, beyond merely turning a profit.

After all, Millennials are not just potential employees, but customers and consumers, too. Their perspectives on what is important, their values and their unique approach to work and life, can neither be ignored nor dismissed.

Meanwhile, retention headache or not, we can all stand to benefit from their desire to make time, creativity, education and effort count towards a meaningful initiative.

Because finding purpose, just like the ease and connectivity offered by smartphones, is something that ultimately appeals to every generation.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

Why is it that sometimes, the thing that we want most, actually backfires on us, and can even make us miserable?

At this point, it is well-documented that Millennial or Gen Y employees truly value flexibility in the workplace and are unafraid to ask for it…

And yet… if they are given such flexibility, the additional pressure to manage their time while continuing to manage their social and personal lives, often proves overwhelming to them, leading to the stress and burn-out that this generation is experiencing at epidemic levels….

Let me give these thoughts a bit of context.

I’ve been a corporate trainer and a mentor for almost two decades. Over this time, I’ve seen the values and working preferences of several generations, up close and personal.

And what I have observed of Gen Y or Millennial workers (i.e. those born between 1981 to roughly 1995), they greatly value being able to structure their work around their other life interests. The famous ‘work-life balance’ that managers complain about and which their Gen Y colleagues continue to demand.

Now, this makes complete sense when you consider Millennials came of age during the rise of the internet, apps and smartphones, designed to harness online power to organise and carry out everyday life tasks in a matter of clicks.

But…

Unlike the generations before them, specifically their Boomer and Gen X bosses and managers… Millennials have had less practice in deliberately limiting themselves, their options – and in particular, their time.

They have had incredibly structured lives growing up – structured by parents and teachers willing to provide them with the scheduling and support they needed, so that they could focus on their studies, their interests, their potential, their aspirations.

Flash forward to their working life today… and whenever work-related flexibility is granted to Millennials, their professional tasks and deadlines end up competing with the parallel opportunity for them to explore and participate in lifestyle options older generations were not distracted by… simply because they didn’t exist!

Think about it… when you can identify, follow and participate in so many online forums, arrange dates, book workout classes, sign up for language classes and organise meet-ups for innovative collaborations… it’s far harder to set yourself the kind of limits that return your focus to meeting work-related goals.

What happens next is that Millennials try to do both – i.e. carry out professional tasks while SIMULTANEOUSLY managing their personal and leisure time, leading to overwhelm, stress and, often, dramatic burnout.

So, how should managers of Millennials respond?

Should they simply take flexible working hours off the table for their Gen Y employees? Or should they cave in, despite the time management challenges, hoping in this way, to retain a job-hopping generation of workers?

As it happens, the answer is… neither.

Flexibility of work is a GOOD thing. And more and more, I believe we will only see more need for it and it’s unwise to eliminate it as an option.

Rather, to get the best from their Gen Y team, managers need to keep flexibility on the table IN ADDITION to making it very clear about what they will STILL be required to carry out (and by WHEN) in terms of work.

Managers need to zero in on the deadlines and the deliverables, and let Gen Y know they will support them in setting an appropriate timeline, preferably with key milestones, to help them handle the challenges of distraction and overwhelm.

In other words, managers today have to wear two hats: one as the authority who keeps Gen Y on task… the other as the coach who ‘supports’ and guides them in implementing healthy time management.

I elaborate on how managers can support their Gen Y team in this way, in an online course I am currently developing, called Millennial Advantage. More about this course in future posts!

For now, let me end by saying that: if you, as a manager, are willing to go the extra mile for your Millennial teammates by facilitating and helping them manage their desired flexibility… they will reward you with a truly innovative ability to think outside the box, act as ambassadors of your organisation among their peers, and use their comfort with tech-based work to better serve your clients.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/