Tag Archive for: management

In the past few blog posts, I’ve been exploring the topic of employee retention with regards recruits who are Millennials, also known as Gen Y, (born, give or take, between 1981-95).

Figuring out retention is a big challenge for businesses today, with the analytics and advisory company Gallup estimating Gen Y turnover to be costing the US economy alone, 30.5 billion dollars annually.

In earlier posts, I have covered retaining Millennial loyalty by clarifying career prospects and inviting their input. Now we come to the most important element in keeping Gen Y on payroll… and that is: providing mentoring.

Most companies know, by now, that Millennials’ earliest experiences – in their families, at school and in university – was a constant, targeted, structured stream of feedback, letting them know how they were ‘performing’ in their studies and extracurricular activities, and how to refine and improve such performance.

Most companies also understand that Millennials therefore carry an expectation of being mentored in the workplace.

But what many companies have not yet realised is the depth of engagement that mentoring provides – not just with their Gen Y hires, but across all generations on payroll.

Put a different way: mentoring doesn’t just keep a Millennial colleague more connected to the organisation longer-term, but fosters an adaptable, continually evolving work culture in general, across every level of a company.

So… where’s the problem in implementing an effective mentoring system in organisations? Surely it’s an obvious win-win for any company to include in its employee offerings?

It is… but when it comes to building a culture of mentoring in the workplace, there are a number of challenges to overcome.

Often, the investment of time to mentor is seen by too-busy managers as just as great of an obstacle as the investment of budget. Surely, there should be more self-sufficiency and taking initiative, and less ‘hand-holding’ and ‘checking in’ for employees who are, after all, supposed to be adults?

To that, I would reply that, at the end of the day, time management is always a matter of priorities. Mentoring does not have to mean ‘micro-managing’, neither does it have to mean extended, one-on-ones with each Gen Y employee.

A related concern, for managers who are ‘naturally’ inclined toward mentoring, is ‘tying them up’ when their expertise is demanded on competing, equally important tasks and responsibilities.

But mentoring does not require one permanent ‘elder’ assigned to a mentee indefinitely.

In fact, Millennials are used to passing from one mentor’s guidance to the next – just as they were at home, at school and on campus. Implementing such rotational or progressive mentoring though, is not going to happen ‘by accident’. It has to be designed and built into the long-term career progress paths of a Gen Y-friendly organisation.

Keep in mind that, despite the stereotypes that Millennials are ”arrogant’, ‘self-important’ and ‘narcissistic’, too impatient to do the slow, often unacknowledged work of figuring things out on their own… Gen Y recruits are actually humble when it comes to the limits of their own knowledge and experience base – that’s why they’re hoping you’ll mentor them!

While they are very comfortable researching solutions on the internet and via their network, they know there is key institutional knowledge they don’t possess about the organisation, and that there are standards of performance that are not going to be clear outside of specific feedback about what adjustments or improvements to make.

Meanwhile, beyond retention, and in terms of the broader benefit  to companies, mentoring gives Gen Y hires a chance to share their generational interests, affinities, values and fears with their mentors, while simultaneously educating their guide in turn, drawing on their own tech expertise and awareness of innovation trends.

This last point is known as Reverse Mentoring – something I plan to discuss in a future blog.

For now, it is important to keep in mind that in managing and retaining Millennials, the role of a mentor, as one whose greater mission is to further the development of the less-experienced mentee, is one that, if undertaken, rewards the mentor as much as the mentee.

Retaining the restless, endlessly creative and innovative Gen Y (as well as their more conservative, cautious and their equally mobile successors, Gen Z) is demanding unprecedented levels of adaptability, open-mindedness and investment in human capital.

Fortunately, mentoring is one of the solutions whose reward ranges far beyond merely engaging and refining of the talent it hopes to retain.

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

Leading organisational consultant, speaker and author Simon Sinek has an excellent video about which professional traits are genuinely appreciated in the workplace, and which are actually valued in terms of rewards and promotion…

What he discovered was a profound disconnect in how we evaluate those who ‘hit the numbers’ and those who are great people to work with or be managed by.

To give you the gist: in the workplace, the parameters of ‘performance’ and ‘trust’ are what set a ‘value’ to someone’s contribution.

As expected, those employees who score high in terms of both their performance and how greatly others trust them, are those seen as the most valuable, and this is reflected in their pay, status and responsibilities.

Those who are the least able to fulfill their responsibilities and who inspire a minimal amount of trust, are the most ‘unattractive’ people. Their diminished contribution and trustworthiness is also reflected in their lesser status and reward.

But then Sinek zooms into something contradictory.

And that is that, very often, professional norms reward those who score high on performance… but whose indifference to their teammates’ feelings or comfort levels rank them low in terms of ‘trust’.

These are the ‘toxic’ yet ‘high-performing’ leaders who push their people relentlessly to achieve targets, but who noone actually likes, or who actually inspire fear or anxiety, who demean and diminish their teammates’ self-respect, confidence and dignity.

Up to now, such people have often been rewarded handsomely for their high scores in ‘performance’… despite their long-term negative effect on their colleagues.

Conversely, there are those people who may not be as high-performing in terms of the numbers, yet, in the eyes of their colleagues, nevertheless score very highly in terms of trust, and who their peers know will be at their side when the pressure mounts, and unexpected trouble strikes.

These are the people who will not play blame games and seek to throw others under the bus at times when mistakes are made or losses are suffered. Who are generous and gracious when others are exhibiting weakness or pain.

And they are the same people who will share the praise and lift up others when things are going well, rather than claiming all the credit as their own.

And yet… these same high-trust-scoring people are often valued and rewarded far below the toxic ‘high performing’ people by organisations, despite the long-term cost to the team’s well-being. And even though, given enough time, the high-in-trust people can even potentially ‘overtake’ the toxic people in terms of performance.

The takeaways from these insights?

For an organisation to have a healthy work culture in the long-term, i.e. able to carry out its mission while sustaining its success… it is vital for people to feel ‘safe’ working shoulder to shoulder with each other.

It is vital that they can ‘trust’ that their leaders are as invested in their well-being as in achieving company goals.

In other words, it is vital to ‘reward’ the ‘trust’ generators and not overlook their irreplaceable contribution, because this will also signal to potential high-performance toxic people that their technical achievements will not excuse their negative relations with their teammates.

In a day and age when it is more challenging than ever to build a sustainable work culture, organisations prioritising performance at the expense of trust, will eventually fall victim to competitors optimised for trust.

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

 

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/

Let me tell you about Millennial so-called ‘disloyalty’.

You know what I’m talking about… the job-hopping tendencies of this generation, (also known as Gen Y, born roughly between 1981-95) whose CVs and resumes often read like fusion cuisine menus.

What looks like a problem with retention is to misjudge or simply misunderstand this generation’s values. In other words… this is not so much a problem with Millennials’ ‘disloyalty’ as a problem of Millennials’ ‘disengagement’.

This is a generation that values impact, experiences and profound self-development. And they are a generation in a hurry. Why wouldn’t they be? A whole world of information and potential experiences has opened up to them, thanks to the technology they so confidently use. Meanwhile, the online landscape where all of the opportunities exist, is at their finger tips.

Remember also, this generation is nomadic and tribal. They love travelling and experiencing new cultures, and are constantly swapping information with each other, sharing good and bad experiences, letting peers know which new skills, self-development strategies and chances to grow – professionally and personally – are around the corner.

Of course, for established, legacy companies, led by older generations for whom a reasonable pay cheque, stability and predictability of environment, were enough to expect from a job… these tendencies, and the urge to move on to new pastures after only a short stint with a company, represents a considerable loss in terms of training and investing in Gen Y.

But the fact remains… Millennials were not brought up to be satisfied with mere job stability, predictability and a pay cheque. Their parents and teachers, growing up, taught them to expect great things of themselves, and to be constantly on the alert for the next chance to manifest something significant.

And until the Great Recession of 2008, when the first Millennials were about to enter the workforce, these bold visions of having great impact in their lives, remained unchallenged.

Flash forward to today, and many Millennials have experienced the disillusionment and burnout from that period: the debt, the lack of jobs, the inflexibility of the working world, the financial inability to move up the social ladder…

But this doesn’t mean Gen Y’s values have changed. They still yearn for peak experiences, a chance to unleash their expectation to impact the world through their work and to grow and lead as soon as possible.

And catering for these values should matter to companies, because most statistical predictions place Millennials as the largest generational cohort in today’s job market, worldwide.

So, the first piece of advice I offer companies that want to retain Gen Y hires is… give them a clear picture of their career prospects within the organisation.

In other words, traditional, vertically-organised, top-down, command and control companies need to let new Millennial hires know how and when they will rise through the ranks of the organisation (remember also that Millennials prefer horizontal organisational structures).

Given that the Baby Boomer generation (born over 1946-64) still lead several legacy companies, and Boomers’ own values include basing self-worth on long work hours, titles and accomplishment… it can seem to Millennial hires that their own chances to be promoted, exercise influence and impact are likely to be delayed indefinitely.

But there are ways to accommodate the experience of Boomers, (and Gen Xers – born roughly 1965-80!) while satisfying the desire for impact of Millennials.

One solution is to give Gen Y recruits a clear roadmap of their career journey within an organisation, including criteria and timelines for rising in leadership roles.

Tell them at the hiring interview and during the on-boarding process and remind them at feedback sessions thereafter, where they fit in the structure of the company and how their ability to serve and impact clients will evolve and grow as they continue with the organisation.

Too many organisations leave recruits in the dark as to how the organisation will advance their career beyond an income. A progress roadmap signals to Millennials that, just like in their childhood, their workplace is invested in opening new professional doors for them the longer they remain.

I will explore the next factor to help retain Millennials – giving them ownership and encouraging their input – in my next post.

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

Have you ever wished you could turn back time, so you could ‘unsay’ something?

In only a moment, what you thought was an obvious response and the correct thing to say to another person, turns out to be a disaster.

And the other person doesn’t just hold a grudge, but perhaps tells others as well, or uses it as leverage against you in future interactions. Or even breaks relationship with you altogether.

I’m guessing you’ve had a variation of this moment – because getting communication right is one of the hardest skills we are challenged to develop in our day-to-day lives.

Saying the right thing… or keeping silent and listening attentively, can make or break relationships, and reward you with new levels of understanding and appreciation with family members, loved ones and friends.

And in business, in pressured environments where saying the wrong or right thing, or allowing someone else to share their views – including criticisms and complaints respectfully – comes with truly high stakes, the potential impact is even greater.

After all… customer relations, sales, but also improved leadership, management, team dynamics and intra-departmental collaborations rise or fall on the efficiency with which values, targets and debriefings are passed across.

Unfortunately, unlike with physical or structural instabilities, where a skilled team of engineers, if given the right budget, can diagnose and fix the problem… communication gaps or worse – communication failures – can be a far more difficult challenge to accurately overcome, because their sources are often hidden or buried under other layers of other problems.

In almost two decades as a corporate trainer, I’ve seen these problems up close and personal and I’ve observed, tested and developed a toolbox of hands-on strategies to identify and resolve them.

Over the course of two days, my Up-levelling Communication in the Workplace programme teaches the mindset and tactics needed to navigate the minefield of errors and missed signals that undermine teams, while passing on the processes for maximising effective interactions, for the benefit of both colleagues and customers.

Through a dynamic, packed format that includes:

  • learning the fundamentals of effective communication
  • group discussions,
  • role-playing exercises,
  • individual presentations as part of simulations of communication crises

Participants learn, interpret and apply:

  • the behavioural and neuroscience behind effective communication
  • the key elements of Emotional Intelligence
  • the game-changing power of active listening
  • the clues and signals of body language
  • the strategies to communicate with each of the four main personality types

By the end of our time together, we have broken down, analysed and practised the flexibility and intuition needed in managing what we say, how we say it, when we say it and why we say it… with the additional requirement to understand the benefits of not saying anything at all, and instead listening, for maximum impact!

To recap… so much can change, in a moment, by what we choose to express or suppress.

Done right, effective communication creates the perfect momentum to align a company’s vision, renew the commitment of its human capital and enhance its inspiration to serve clients, deliver maximum value and achieve its brand’s unique mission.

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/

You’ve got the job. You’ve arrived at your new workplace. You’ve toured the coffees and teas in the kitchen. You’ve shaken hands with your colleagues.

Fast forward a few months, or perhaps even a year or so… and there are question marks in your head.

Question marks concerning YOUR performance.

You’re doing what the job description asked for in the original posting. You’ve got the relevant academic background. You’re at your desk on time and deliver on your deadlines…

And yet, you get the distinct feeling that you’re still… not quite living up to expectations…

Which also means you’re probably not getting the kind of professional attention to be entrusted with greater responsibility, promotion and professional advancement.

Sound familiar?

Actually, it’s only TOO familiar, given the stories I hear from the young professionals I mentor. And yet they can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing wrong.

My feedback for them is that it’s often what they’re not doing that might be holding them back.

Of course, there are many employability traits and soft skills that can make you shine in your career, and I explore them in other articles on this blog.

But in this post, I’d like to mention the three traits that most often come up, whenever I talk candidly with Human Resource officers about skills gaps in their hires.

  1. Resilience

This translates to the ability to remain focused and productive in times of adversity, to keep going in the face of obstacles and challenges and to display adaptability during unfamiliar or unforeseen circumstances.

Which is a fancy way of saying: being tough-minded.

Now, I’m not implying today’s young professionals don’t have the CAPACITY for resilience. Many DO in fact, express tough-mindedness and adaptability in times of challenge in the workplace.

But unfortunately, as hungry to find meaning, grow and develop at their jobs as Millennial hires may be… and as quick to learn and implement new technologies as Gen Z recruits are… both generational cohorts can struggle when they are professionally tested and placed under pressure, and when their managers and coworkers are unavailable to provide guidance or support.

Yet resilience is precisely the skill they would need to express at such times, and precisely the attribute that would draw a manager’s or HR officer’s appreciation and attention.

  • 2. Problem Solving

You would think problem-solving is in our nature. A basic part of the blueprint of being creative, thinking beings… and it is!

After all, the ability to provide innovative solutions to problems is one of the reasons Millennials are so entrepreneurial… at least when it comes to brainstorming and collaborating among themselves.

But place them in a traditional workplace, with top-down power structures… and it seems that natural, innovative problem-solving impulse often shuts down.

Which means there has to be a compromise.

Millennials and Gen Z employees need to remember that traditional organisational structures are not going to fade away overnight, and that they need to find the self-motivation to express their innate problem-solving powers irrespective of their environment.

On the other hand – and as I tell senior management and HR officers at every EVOLUTION corporate training I deliver… they have to be willing to LISTEN to the solutions that their younger team members propose, while empowering them to act on their most promising suggestions!

Either way, the greater the problem-solving capacity that a young professional demonstrates in the workplace, the greater their chances of being selected for career advancement.

  • 3. Self Motivation

And then there’s self-motivation. Human Resources, management and senior executives all seem to be united on this front: new hires need more of it! It’s also referred to as ‘taking initiative’.

Again… there are a number of things to say about this.

It’s definitely NOT that my Millennial and Gen Z mentees are lacking in passion, or ideas for how to change the world, or to up-level their own high performance.

And yet… their willingness to take initiative and be self-motivated in the workplace often gets road-blocked.

Why?

Part of the reason comes from not having the same support and mentoring system that was familiar and available while they were still at school, thanks to the undivided attention and guidance they were used to receiving from parents, teachers and friends.

And part of it is the fact that their suggestions and ideas are often not taken seriously in more conservative job sectors and traditionally-minded industries.

Once again, young professionals would still give themselves a massive career advantage by developing, expressing and continuously raising the bar on personal self-motivation at EVERY stage of their career, and developing the resilience (see above) to keep going and giving their best – even at times when the support and guidance they crave is not forthcoming.

To take a fitness analogy… if you don’t keep flexing your self-motivation muscle, you can’t rely on its strength when times get chaotic and more is expected from you than you had anticipated.

But on the other hand, if senior management has no intention of allowing Millennial and Gen Z hires to act on their initiative and self-motivation, and never creates opportunities (and rewards) for their young talent to exercise their self-motivation, they will either continue to see roadblocks on this front… or, eventually, their employees will take their obstructed self-motivation to a different workplace.

In our professional, as well as our personal life, it always pays to grow our resilience, problem-solving and self-motivation abilities… But such traits express themselves best when all stakeholders commit to empowering their expression!

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of my services at: https://www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/limitless/