Millennials: Game Changers

June 2015 - By Mark Heymann - FocusED 2015 | Issue 2 - “One if by land, two if by sea.” Not to worry, they are already here and in large numbers. No, I’m not speaking about the British. I am, though, referring to “The Millennials.”

Within four or so years, this group will be 50% of the workforce and 40% of the US population. They are changing the way people think about marketing, employee motivation, corporate social responsibility and even product design and development. This is clearly impacted by the fact that this group, in essence, has grown up with smart, interactive technology. They’ve been pushing buttons and looking at screens since they entered the world. The old adage of a chicken in every pot, has been replaced by a computer in every home and a mobile device in every hand.

Companies have been focusing on how to attract this group by trying to understand buying habits, product needs and selling strategies. Marriott Hotels, for example, was just recently acknowledged regarding its attention on this group in particular. And they are surely not alone. Data will continue to be generated to fine tune offerings with an emphasis on optimizing sales.

While this information is surely key to business growth in the coming years, in this edition of FocusED, we will be looking at the impact of Millennials on employee and employment practices. We think this group may well be a game changer in how businesses think about, interact, train, motivate, schedule and evaluate performance.

When I joined the business world 40 years ago (yes I am what is known as a boomer), my expectations of employment were very basic. I was happy to have a job, 2 weeks of vacation, and a salary that enabled me to own a car, afford an apartment and have a couple of nickels left over for a beer once in a while. The basics. Management was hierarchical. Performance appraisal was annual and I wasn’t overly concerned with the company’s focus on social responsibility. There were weeks we worked 60 or more hours because that’s what our schedule called for. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I was covering the foundation levels. I was lucky though because my boss also knew how to handle some of the higher levels and motivated me to go beyond the basic requirements of the job. I had some other bosses who were far more command and control oriented. I am sure many of us had the same experiences and as we “moved” up in the ranks, we in some cases mirrored those experiences and in others found new ways to broaden our management perspectives.

Now fast forward to today’s environment. Yes, I realize I have skipped the Gen Xs, and they surely demand our attention also. However, with the significant size of the Gen Y population, we have decided to focus on this group and their impact on how we will have to run our businesses if we are to optimize performance. There really is a lot to be said about “managing” this group, much of which is included in the articles within this publication.

I am therefore only going to discuss a few perspectives in the hopes that these thoughts will further discussions on how our styles and approaches will need to change to drive team performance coupled with business growth.

First let me suggest that the word “manager” may well go away. Coaching will be the focus of the future. Coaches optimize an individual’s performance; managers “run the show.” In the service industry, a manager is not available at all times to run the show, unlike a baseball manager who is able to make key decisions throughout the entire game. But, the baseball team also has a group of coaches whose goals making a difference in the big societal are to get the players (staff) to perform at picture? Whether feeding the homeless, optimal levels. In the service business, our the environment, or building homes, the managers have had to play both roles. And expectations of Millennials is that they will while that has worked to some degree in the work for socially connected organizations. This past, the Millennials have different expectations about their role and what they can do / accomplish. I therefore think the manager’s role will evolve and be more focused on coaching. This will give more big- picture responsibility to the various staff teams in the business. For example, the restaurant team will have a greater focus on optimizing the average check or improving table turns. Stewards will deliver more consistent product quality (spotless glasses and silverware). The “coaches” will facilitate the removal of hindrances, focus on feedback that will drive performance and engagement, better inform the team about how they are performing in shorter intervals and create better job enrichment approaches.

Another consideration will be work hours. Should more 10 hour shifts be structured when feasible to increase quality of life time? Is the 40 hour work week going to change? Why not 2 sixty hour weeks and a week off? Will vacation accruals be a thing of the past? There are already companies who allow “unlimited” time off, with the expectation that tasks and or projects are completed. This may not work well in a 24/7 service business, but one can think of other changes that bring a better work – life balance.

And finally, one last thought regarding corporate social responsibility. Is your company making a difference in the big societal picture? Whether feeding the homeless, the environment, or building homes, the expectations of Millennials is that they will work for socially connected organizations. This may demand changes in basic organizational structure to push the issues to the forefront of performance assessment.

While Millennials have clearly arrived, the lanterns may well have to be used to illuminate the changes that businesses will have to go through to optimize the Workforce Performance of this key constituency.

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