How to Equip Yourself to “Employer-Parent” Talented Millennials

You know who they are. The one with his ear buds permanently attached to his ears, or the girl with twelve pieces of jewelry on her right ear alone who refuses to wear what you consider to be “business casual” attire.  Or maybe it’s the nerdy guy with glasses and messy hair whose face you’ve never really seen because he’s always in front of his computer or cell phone; never separated from his tools of technology for even a moment while at work. Oh, and they are always late or right on time. Whatever happened to being on time and prepared? Sitting at your desk at 7:45 a.m. ready to start the 8:00 a.m. day? Does it seem they require attention or tasks at all times, always in motion — on the go, ready for the next thing?

Even if you are a small business owner, among your dozen or so employees, the chances are good that you have at least one Millennial employee. How can you best equip yourself to “employer parent” this individual so that he or she is an undeniable asset to the team, rather than a distraction or irritant to your more seasoned employees?  A starting point is to understand Millennials better. Millennials are loosely defined as ages 18 to 34, with age 23 being the largest demographic within this segment of this population.  Be forewarned that the “catch-all” label of Millennials is not a concept its members strongly identify with.  Yet, credible studies of this age group do reveal the common social, economic, and technological factors that have shaped their lives and forged their values.  Due to the sheer numbers of Millennials and their expected longevity in the workforce, it is essential that employers understand the largest and most diverse segment of our population taking their place in the business world.

[tweetthis]Millennials: Equip yourself to “employer-parent” this talented group.[/tweetthis]

A high percentage are children of immigrants. As a group they are economically stressed, many more of this generation compared to previous ones live with their parents. They have decreasing opportunities at home ownership. They are very educated, but collectively have amassed a trillion dollar student loan debt. They still value education – more so than their European counterparts who have been demoralized by poor economic conditions.  Millennials are masters of technology and social media, value family and work-life balance.  While plenty of employers complain about lack of loyalty and short tenure of Millennials, their feedback often indicates a willingness to stay longer in their jobs given more purposeful work.

One of the most interesting pieces to the Millennial puzzle is the mistaken notion that they hate to be managed. They actually require it. This is due in large part to the way they were parented at home – millennials are essentially spoiled. And it’s ok for me to say this, because I myself am one of those temperamental, reactive, seemingly impossible to manage millennials. We are a generation that was over-parented. We didn’t play outside without supervision, we were raised by the more affluent boomers (who were parented much differently by their Depression-era moms and dads) and were often rescued by our parents when faced with trials or obstacles. Essentially, we are a generation of coddled guys and gals, told that our opinions matter and we are free to express ourselves within boundaries that are much wider and broader than the ones our own parents faced.

Now that you regret hiring millennials even more than you did before reading this, let me tell you the good news! There’s hope! Millennials may require a little bit of parenting at work, but once they are managed and coached correctly, the sky is the limit because along with our spoiling came a sense of pride in our own success, a drive to achieve and a knack for technology. We crave direction, but at the same time, would like a little freedom to make decisions for ourselves. It’s a tricky combo, but one that could lead to great organizational success for small business owners who master the managing of millennials.

Christine Hassler, renowned speaker on the topic of generational differences in the workplace specifically focusing on the millennials, argues that millennials do in fact want to be managed. She writes, “I think it is imperative for managers to be ‘coaches’ to their employees, especially the millennials, as that is what the Millennials expect.” They require validation, crave feedback from their supervisors, and are confused by the world of work in general. Statistics show that the majority of teens during the ’70s and ’80s worked during summer vacation, while only one-third of today’s teens have a paying job over the summer. Instead, they choose to volunteer, work in unpaid internships, and enroll in high school or college courses. All of this looks great on college resumes, but is not practical when it comes time for these millennials to enter the workforce. They have no idea how to set up direct deposit for payroll with their ban

  • Include information on company culture and values in your employee handbook, go over timesheets, employment paperwork, vacation requests and all of the details involved with the company procedures during their orientation.
  • Take the guess work out of the workplace for your millennials and become their coach, and you’ll start off on a better foot with your millennials moving forward.

Keep in mind that Millennials are facing many tough challenges across their long lifespan but their common skills and values make them well equipped to face and overcome these adversities.  Employers who understand and bring out the best of their Millennials will tap into the potentially valuable contribution to the workforce and the innovation they are capable of.

For more on Millennials see 15 Economic Facts About Millennials, 2014 Report of the United States Office of the Presidentl Council of Economic Advisors.

Expert Value: Finding the Stars

As the global economy becomes more and more dependent on technology and innovation, companies must look at their talent and determine the expert value in each of their employees. Finding the stars and creating an environment that your experts want to be a part of is a challenge that every employer must face in today’s fast-paced digital world. Many specialized professionals (i.e. scientists, engineers, doctors, accountants) are more interested in developing their own professional expertise than in finding a management career track. Forcing natural experts into management career paths goes against the success of their own personal career goals. Instead of pushing experts into management levels, forcing them up the organizational hierarchy to promote and compensate them at higher levels, employers will now need to look at how they can reward their experts while not forcing them into management roles that they do not want.

Who are these high professionals who would rather advance in their own expertise than be promoted to management level positions? According to the Korn Ferry Institute online, “High professionals are individuals who have the capacity and interest to continuously develop their expertise for effective performance in progressively more challenging roles within their specialties.” These professionals need to be given alternative reward structures in order to recognize their expert value, while also respecting their own career goals.

High professionals want to be challenged within their own roles, and possess a strong desire for achievement. Solving complex problems is fun for them, and they recognize that learning contributes to their career success. On the flip side of this search for stars and leaders within your organization, high potentials are the employees who may not have a specific skill set, but have “management potential.” In many organizations, it is these high potential employees that are rewarded with compensation, benefits, management roles, and other perks while the high professionals are more likely to be ignored in terms of total rewards and recognition. Both groups are highly critical for the success of any organization, and should be compensated and rewarded as such. For instance, maybe having a “chief engineer” would be a more rewarding role than promoting your most skilled engineer to a department manager role. The engineer innately wants to do what he is best at – engineering. So don’t push him into a role that he will grow to hate.

Instead, reward and recognize for those skills and expert value that you can’t replace as easily. You can often groom employees into becoming effective managers – but is it as easy to teach a retail worker the ins and outs of engineering? Probably not. Not everyone wants to be a manager. And not everyone has the skills or abilities to be an engineer. So instead of fast-tracking EVERYONE on the same path, let’s acknowledge the differences within our workplaces and reward accordingly.

Difficult Yet Talented Employees: Troublemakers Unite!

Are the most talented employees in your workplace also the most difficult to deal with? Different employees will require engagement criteria that works for his or her individual personality – it’s not a one size fits all solution. So how can you identify what engagement criteria will work for those talented yet difficult employees? Job suitability assessments are one way, and lucky for you, Peoplescape consultants are skilled at analyzing the data provided by such tools. Also, looking at an employee’s generational profile can tell you a lot about what their needs will be in order to keep them engaged in the workplace and focused on solutions for the projects and challenges at hand. It is also important to look at the competition; what are the pay rates and benefit packages for similar positions across the industry marketplace? Lastly, making sure that management is well-trained and able to engage their employees is a critical piece of this puzzle. You don’t want to let your talented employees go, but you also want to make their difficulty something that managers and peers can work with – rather than it being an obstacle.
So what are some easy-to-identify traits of these difficult yet talented employees? Here goes!

1. They know their worth to the organization.
2. They are organizationally and politically savvy.
3. They have little respect for hierarchy.
4. They are demanding and often expect instant access to the resources they need at any given moment.
5. They network well – a pro and con for any organization because their network extends to other places of work if things don’t go accordingly to their plan!
6. They do not see any need for a manager (which makes managing them EXTREMELY challenging!)

In reading this list, I’m sure that you can identify a few of these employees in your own organization. Do they represent a wide generational population or do they typically fall into that millennial or Generation X category? As we’ve discussed at length at peoplescapehr.com/blog, encouraging employees of these generational groups and providing a stimulating work environment can go a long way to support successful working relationships between generations. However, you have to be careful that you are not catering to a difficult yet talented population of employees and accidentally ignoring everyone else. There must be some balance to the process, and managers will have to tread lightly to successfully engage their troublemakers (said with some sarcasm…and a little bit of an epiphany in thinking I myself have been one of those in workplaces – sincere apologies to my former supervisors!) while still making the less difficult and more dependable employees feel comfortable and valued as well.

Resilience

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” – Steve Maraboli

Resilience is the ability of people to cope with stress and hard times, and then bounce back quickly.  When you think of the word “resilient” do certain faces come to mind? What trials have those people been through, only to end up more successful in the long run? Not only do they survive, they do it with a smile on their face, and a bigger paycheck when all is said and done. Do you know who I’m talking about? Ok, good. Now let’s talk about how you can become resilient just like that person you pictured.

I’m sure that just as you know someone that you can identify as resilient, you also know someone who is a believer in the mindfulness movement. They go to yoga three times a week (at minimum) believe in the power of karma and everything happening for a reason. Do you see their face now? Is it the same person you pictured for an embodiment of resilience? These two qualities can often go hand in hand, because resilience has recently been a by-product of the mindfulness movement sweeping the nation. In our fast-paced culture, it’s nice for people to take a minute and just BREATHE…which is what yoga and the mindfulness movement can teach. It can also allow people to focus on what is in their control, and accepting what is not – thus, making them stronger and more resilient for trials that come their way. Are you still with me?

So how does this affect our HR world? Resilience is something that we all need in the workplace, because it allows us to not be defined by obstacles or new projects or challenges that come our way. As an HR professional, I understand this all too well! And I’m guessing that you, as a business owner, employee, HR manager, or department head (basically any job that deals with people and projects!) also have to practice resilience. The good news is that resilience is not just something “you’re born with” like those beautiful models in the Maybelline commercials. You can actually learn to be resilient too! Here’s how:

1. Develop a strong sense of PURPOSE – you define it, you live it. Don’t let your job title or your boss or anyone define your sense of purpose. That’s yours alone to decide!
2. Develop a healthy sense of CONTROL – you cannot control everything. Accept it, and work on the things that you can control.
3. See CHANGE as a challenge or opportunity – rather than dwell on the work and time it’s going to take to adjust. Accept the challenge and run with it!
4. Develop self-confidence and be OPTIMISTIC – If you are confident in your abilities and ideas, others will be too! Have a positive attitude and watch it trickle through the company like magic!
5. Build a good SUPPORT system – this is key to any success in life! We are not in this fight alone.
6. Become FLEXIBLE and adaptable – think outside the box and also use different PROBLEM-SOLVING strategies to come to a new conclusion to an old problem.
7. Have a good sense of HUMOR – being able to laugh at ourselves is good therapy!
8. Stay HEALTHY – a healthy person is a more productive person. So take care of your mind, body, and soul. #mindfulness #resilience

Emotional Intelligence and New Hires

Personality tests and skills-based competencies have been a part of recruiting and hiring decisions for quite some time now, but are you considering the Emotional Intelligence (EI) of your potential hires? According to Bamboo HR, 1 in 3 HR Managers are placing increased importance on EI in their hiring decisions. Is your organization part of that 1 in 3?

I know you’re probably thinking… [tweetthis]Emotional Intelligence – What is it and why does it matter?[/tweetthis]

EI is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. Why would this be important in today’s workforce? According to Daniel Goleman, the man who first introduced EI, when someone has these qualities, they have the ability to work well with others and are effective in leading change.

Furthermore, in the Business Case for Emotional Intelligence, Leaders who use their emotional resources to foster engagement are showing significant bottom-line results.  Increased engagement creates teams that are: (a) 50% more likely to have lower turnover. (b) 56% more likely to have higher-than-average customer loyalty. (c) 38% more likely to have above average productivity and (d) 27% more likely to report higher profitability.

So what if your organization lacks emotional intelligence? Don’t panic! Some of these competencies can be learned. Peoplescape can help you assess your key managers and create development plans for them! We use a leading edge tool, the Harrison Assessment, in our recruitment and development plans to help measure emotional intelligence and identify areas of improvement.

Case Study: Employee Surveys and Focus Groups

Employee “caretaking” is a crucial, though often overlooked aspect of personnel management. At Peoplescape, we are always “team employer” but we also know that having compassion and a strong desire for employees to succeed is a core value in most successful organizations.  Employees who work efficiently, have opportunity for growth and feel they are treated fairly are the strongest assets to the employer, and our goal is to partner with our business clients to ensure their workplaces are as happy as can be! We conduct workshops on a wide variety of training topics
including new hire orientation and onboarding procedures, effective management tools, sexual harassment and bullying.  Our comprehensive training programs can be customized to the client’s industry. One example is our annual hospitality workshop recently conducted for a long-time client of ours in the beautiful desert region of Southern California.
During this annual training, we focus on ways that the employer can be protected, as well as strategies for employees to succeed and reach the highest of expectations. Tools utilized in this process are employee engagement surveys and employee focus groups to discuss ideas and plans for future improvements. During our fall training, we ask the employees questions about what is working in each of their departments, whether they feel that their supervisor is managing the team effectively, areas that the managers can improve on, and many other questions to help us assess how processes can be enhanced throughout the organization. For this particular client, we had an 85% participation rate across all departments, which was a great turnout for us to accurately gauge the needs of the employer and employees involved!
Surveys were conducted to discover if employees felt they were being adequately compensated in total rewards (pay and benefits). Questions were also asked on the survey about overall satisfaction with the employee’s position in the company. We then used these results to conduct focus groups and get more in-depth with the employees on specific issues and concerns. There were clearly apprehensions about the relationship between managers and employees, as well as job security and opportunities for growth within the organization. These concerns were addressed by a skilled employee relations facilitator from Peoplescape’s team, so that the employees felt comfortable sharing their honest opinions. The results were tabulated using graphs and metrics, and then presented to the management team to review areas of strong importance discussed with employees during our focus groups. By allowing a third party expert to conduct these surveys and focus groups, the employer was able to recover solid intelligence on how their employees were feeling and what areas could be improved upon throughout the company.

Latest Trends in Telecommuting

As you can see, many of our posts revolve around social media and digital natives and technology. Why is this the case? Well, to be honest, technology is what makes the world go ‘round in the 21st century. So in order to stay present and relevant in our world, human resources professionals must adopt these strategies and skills in order to successfully provide services to our clients and ensure that our presence in the industry is known. According to the HR Daily Advisor online, business analysts predict that up to 30% of workers in industrialized countries will be telecommuting within just a few years. (http://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/current-trends-of-telecommuting/) What does this look like for your business? Do you currently offer telecommuting as an option? Why or why not?

Telecommuting does have its benefits for companies as well as employees. Here are a few:

Business Perks

  • Decreased costs in utilities and building maintenance for office
  • Money saved on increased productivity and decreased absences
  • Reduced turnover due to higher employee morale and flexibility

Employee Perks

  • Elimination of commute time
  • Flexibility
  • Higher standards of productivity to prove that telecommuting is worth it for the employer

So what are the latest trends in telecommuting? Here’s what that looks like!

1. Employees are willing to sacrifice other benefits in favor of telecommuting as an option

2. Increase in telecommuting for government employees

3. More common in various fields – i.e. science and engineering (not just human resources consulting and customer service call centers and tech geeks)

4. Many employers and employees view telecommuting as a way to benefit the environment – less fuel emission, less wear and tear on roads/highways, etc.

5. Employers that embrace telecommuting are acknowledging the value in technology – after all, technology enables telecommuting to be an option!

6. Shared workspaces in the office are becoming more common (and acceptable) as many employees are not in the office 40 hours a week as they were in a traditional workforce.

7. In less than 10 years, telecommuting has moved from an unusual perk to a common benefit offered by many employers.

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

Don’t Pick on the Pregnant Lady!

Very recently in the news, Los Angeles based clothing retailer, Nasty Gal, felt the heat as discrimination claims and a lawsuit hit them head on. The founder of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso, has been recognized as a leader in business and a great example for women everywhere of strong entrepreneurial skills and a drive to succeed. She turned a hobby of selling clothes on eBay into a lucrative business turning a profit of $100 million a year. The problem is, Nasty Gal apparently forgot to follow proper procedures when it came time to layoff 10% of their employees. Unfortunately, 4 of those employees laid off were the ONLY pregnant employees plus one recent father who had requested paternity leave. Hence, a discrimination lawsuit by a former employee turned into a costly mistake for Nasty Gal.

[tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]California has one of the most employee-friendly policies regarding pregnant employees.[/tweetthis] Unluckily for Nasty Gal, they are headquartered in California, which means they are held to the highest standards in regards to protecting pregnant employees and anyone who falls under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines. Speaking of California, did you hear about the case last year involving AutoZone and a pregnant employee who walked away from a discrimination lawsuit with $185 million in damages? That’s quite the costly mistake!

As we have learned with these recent cases, there is an overall expectation in many workplaces of pregnant women not being able to do their job, or being a “short timer” or having ultimate goals that don’t line up with the company vision. All of these things may be true, but they can also be true for the 35 year old single guy who is looking for his next big opportunity. So assuming anything about anyone in the workplace is an automatic no-no because you, as the employer, cannot impose your views on any employee and expect for your intentions to be clear. Your actions will be up to interpretation, and your intentions will be something for you to know and have to defend in court. Instead, why not set up policies to protect the company as well as your pregnant employees? It remains to be seen whether or not Nasty Gal will be held liable for these accusations of discriminatory actions, but the case stands as a warning to all employers regardless of the outcome.

Following Your Instincts – What Do They Know Anyway?

Intuition is basically the human brain’s way of arriving at decisions and conclusions via shortcut. Do you remember how your dad always had a shortcut to get somewhere (which may have seemed longer to you, but always worked out to be more efficient at the end of the day?) and you didn’t always understand why or how  he came to that shortcut? Well, our intuition works in much the same fashion. When her child is sick, a mom often says her “mother’s intuition” told her that something was wrong. When a young woman goes to meet a man at the bar for their first date and upon meeting him escapes to the bathroom never to be seen again, she later tells her friends that her “gut just told her something was off about him” and she ran the other direction as fast as she could. I’m sure we can all relate to one situation or another when our intuition made the decision for us. But how does this work in business? Does it work at all when it comes to business decisions or is intuition worthless in the workplace?

Especially in today’s digital age, there is so much information coming at us every single day, that without intuition and decision-making shortcuts, we wouldn’t survive an hour, let alone 24 of them! However, when it comes to business, there are certain conditions which allow for intuition to be effective. So when these factors are involved, feel free to use your intuitive shortcuts to arrive at the best, most efficient conclusion, Otherwise, beware when thinking someone else doesn’t know as well as you do – and trust your instincts only so far as they’ll prove their worth to you.

1. EXPERTISE – If you are an expert seamstress, then trust your instincts to make the right decision on which type of thread is going to serve its purpose for that new project you’re working on. If you’re a car salesman by trade who
just started his first day on the job as a wielder, I’d talk to your supervisor before making that call!

2. UNSTRUCTURED PROBLEMS – Outside of your personal area of expertise, you should utilize your intuition only when it comes to making decisions about aesthetics, or subjective matters or conflict resolution – where there is not one clear-cut and unwavering answer. For instance, a human resources manager would need to use intuition when deciding on a solution for a conflict between two employees during which no witnesses or objective views could be used as evidence. On the flip side, you should not use your intuition when making a medical diagnosis where computer algorithms and symptoms in past cases point in one clear direction. Instead, trust the science and technology at your fingertips to reach the most likely conclusion.

3. TIME – How much time do you have to come to this decision? Seconds, hours, minutes, weeks? This factors in to the decision-making process as well. If you only have a small amount of time available, then intuition can be helpful
because in reality, you do not have the time for a detailed analysis of the situation. Combining facts and intuition is always going to provide the most accurate and comprehensive solution, but there are times when you will need to lean more on one than the other. As much as we would like to rely on our intuition in all situations, there are times when lack of time is not reason enough to rely SOLELY on your intuition so make sure that you are weighing out your options before jumping to a rash conclusion.

In the words of millionaire entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” Without intuition, many of us would not follow our dreams. So follow those dreams, and listen to your instincts. Just don’t chase after dreams blindly.

Dumbing Down EEOC Guidelines

Who understands the legal jargon issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pertaining to pregnancy, disability, equality, and diversity? Lawyers, that’s who! So here’s a little breakdown for the “normal” people who actually have to abide by these rules and regulations.

  • When it comes to pregnancy disability leave, the EEOC has issued guidance twice in 2015. It all boils down to this, “If an employee has a pregnancy-related impairment that hinders her ability to perform a job, the employer must attempt to see if it can provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to continue to perform her job.”
  •  [tweetthis]Don’t take employment actions against a worker for any pregnancy-related reason.[/tweetthis] In fact, be very careful with any employment actions taken against a pregnant worker that is NOT taken against a peer employee to that pregnancy worker – protect yourself and be thorough and fair and make employment decisions across the board. Don’t open yourself up to potential lawsuits or discrimination claims!
  • Don’t make excuses for your decisions based on “inconvenience” or “cost to the employer.” The EEOC has already made it clear these decisions won’t fly.
  • Unless you can prove BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT that an employment action against a pregnant worker will cause an undue hardship (note the above bullet point – cost and inconvenience to the employer do not hold weight with the EEOC), don’t do it.

Essentially, the problem with the EEOC guidelines is that they are usually long-winded, wordy, and readers lose interest after the first ambiguous paragraph or two. By dumbing down the EEOC guidelines into reasonable, concise language, we hope to help our readers, clients, consultants, and business owners by allowing the puzzle work to be cut out, and the core of the message to be loud and clear. Not to mention the fact that the guidance attempts to combine regulations for two separate laws – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disability Act (as if one or the other wasn’t confusing enough all on its own). We are here to help YOU, and no question is a “dumb” question in our book. Let us help you figure it out and teach you how to protect your business from unnecessary litigation, lawsuits, and EEOC claims.