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Ducks in a Row: Say Hello To Generation Z

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn-wright/27567185716/Companies and bosses have struggled over the last decade or so learning how to attract, manage and retain millennial workers.

Long before that they had to learn to manage Boomers — the original me generation.

This is a generation, after all, that thinks of itself as “forever young,” even as some near 70. Most of all, what came across onscreen as well as in Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits was an unapologetic affirmation of the essential Boomer mantra—yes, it is still all about ME.

Then came Gen X, the supposed slackers who are now running things.

For a small, and supposedly lost, generation, Gen X’ers have found their way to positions of power. (…)Gen X’ers, incidentally, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S.: 35% have college degrees vs. 19% of Millennials.

We all know that everything moves faster these days — whether products, attitudes — or generations.

So, without more ado, meet Generation Z, which encompasses those born between 1995 and the early 2000s.

They present a new challenge to bosses, especially since they bear little resemblance to Millennials.

The question for most bosses and bosses-to-be is this: having finally wrapped their heads around Millennial dos and don’ts is it worth the effort to add Gen Z to the repertoire?

Unequivocally yes.

Actually, you don’t have much choice, since there are 79 million (and counting) of them.

Image credit: Kathryn Yengel

Ducks in a Row: The Cult Of Me

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joannaleeosborn/9802436943/

The “cult of me” isn’t new.

Through time, all generations were self-absorbed, but due to sheer size, the Boomers are the original me generation.

Gen X wasn’t much better and in 1982 Steve Wozniak financed The US Festival. According to Glenn Aveni, director of a recently released documentary about the festival,

“Woz felt the 1970’s were The ‘Me’ Generation and that it was time for the world to embrace a less selfish credo, one of unity and togetherness.”

Great music, but little effect.

Millennials come next, slightly more of them (75.4 M to 74.9) and most happily carry on the focus on me.

Tech has driven that focus across all generations via selfies and social media to the point that for millions their experiences, meals and even their lives exist only if they constantly post them online and they are liked, shared, and retweeted.

There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.

The focus on me has led to a focus on being happy — polls and articles measuring happiness, and comparing happiness.

Back in the day, the Boomers considered everything a challenge that must be overcome. Fast forward to now and Millennials, especially those in Silicon Valley, see the world as a series of problems to be “hacked” (modern times call for modern words).

Which, to put it politely, is a crock.

Andrew Taggart thinks most of this is nonsense. A PhD in philosophy, Taggart practices the art of gadfly-for-hire. He disabuses founders, executives, and others in Silicon Valley of the notion that life is a problem to be solved, and happiness awaits those who do it. Indeed, Taggart argues that optimizing one’s life and business is actually a formula for misery.

This is important, because, in many ways, it’s Silicon Valley that is shaping much of our world — even for those of us who choose not to actively participate.

But I doubt Taggart and his ilk will change that attitude or the obsessive focus on “my world.”

Scott Berkun, a former Microsoft manager and philosophy major who has written multiple business books on the subject, says philosophy’s lessons are lost on most in Silicon Valley. Many focus on aggrandizing the self, rather than pursuing a well-examined purpose. “If you put Socrates in a room during a pitch session, I think he’d be dismayed at so many young people investing their time in ways that do not make the world or themselves any better,” he said.

I never saw life as a challenge or a problem. I prefer a different mantra.

Life is a mystery to be lived — not a challenge/problem to be overcome.

It’s a happy way to live.

Image credit: Joanna Lee Osborn

Ducks in a Row: How Good Is Your Face-To-Face?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4197328040/

Why is it that the most difficult part of management, i.e., people management, constantly moves backwards?

Managers from the Greatest Generation tried to manage by memo.

That lasted until the 1970s when Boomer and Gen X managers took a giant step backwards and started trying to manage by email.

Millennials have taken an even larger step in that direction by trying to manage by text and have swept many of the previous contingents along with them.

Granted, people at all levels often look for and find ways, frequently turning to available technology, to avoid, or at least minimize, the most frustrating and difficult parts of their jobs.

However, that doesn’t work when the frustrating part is 90% of the job.

Every time this comes up I find myself quoting something Terry Dial said to me decades ago.

“People are 90% of our costs as well as the key to customer service and satisfaction. The only thing that should take priority over hiring a new employee is keeping a current one.”

Wally Bock puts it this way (and offers excellent advice on how to do it.)

In the Marines, I learned that when you’re responsible for a group, you have two jobs. One of them is to accomplish the mission. The other is to take care of the people.

I personally guarantee that you won’t accomplish the former if you ignore the latter.

You cannot “care for your people” by email or text — it requires face time.

It requires one-on-one conversations — wherever they take place — and not just about performance.

Conversations need to be human, that means family, hobbies, food, sports, etc.

Face-to-face humanizing contact is critical for teams, too, whether they are in a different office around the block or around the globe.

As Valerie Berset-Price, founder of Professional Passport says,

“Building trust is a multisensory experience,” she says. “Only when people are physically present together can they use all of their senses” to establish that needed trust. Without a bond, conflict or disengagement can more easily arise and is more difficult to resolve.

So whether you consider yourself a manager, a leader, a boss, or just a plain working stiff honing your in-person communication skills will not only improve your career opportunities, but also all parts of your life.

PS I just saw this article on IBM’s move to have teams in-person face-to-face.

Image credit: gorfor

Entrepreneurs: Motivational ‘Duh’

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anchovypizza/4222126794/

Tuesday I commented on the ‘duh’ factor in relation to Amazon finally eliminated forced ranking reviews, AKA, rank and yank, recognizing that they did nothing to foster teamwork or improve retention.

Like I said, “duh.”

Today we have Facebook offering up another duh moment.

Facebook is trying to accommodate millennials and its younger predecessor by talking to each worker and figuring out how their individual skills can be used to make a more personalized career path, not something more traditional and cookie cutter-like.

Definitely duh.

I defy you to think of anyone who works at any job and any level who doesn’t prefer this approach.

Take a look at what turns on/off the so-called silver-tsunami  of Gen X and Boomers.

Millennials may walk faster than Gen X and Boomers when they don’t like the culture, but that, too, will change as they take on more responsibilities, such as kids, mortgages and aging parents

Whenever I hear how different the needs of millennials are compared to previous generations I’m reminded of these words from Socrates.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Give it a rest.

You hire individuals and need to manage them as such.

So put away the cookie cutter and provide everyone, no matter their age, with an environment in which to grow and flourish and the tools needed to do it.

That’s your job in a nutshell.

Flickr image credit: David

Entrepreneurs: Stupid Follows Stupid

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/260720037/

It’s always interesting to see young people following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

Even more so when they hotly deny doing it.

But the frosting on the denial cake is that they are following in some of the stupidest footsteps.

Which they are doing in droves.

Last week I wrote how stupid it is to stereotype 80 million millennials.

Before that is was management’s stupidity regarding Gen X.

Age, however, is the biggest stupid and has been for decades.

For Boomers, the breakpoint for when a person became hopeless and valueless was 30; Millennials raised it to 40.

As bad as age discrimination has been in general, it is far worse in tech.

VC Vinod Khosla crystallized and popularized this mindset back in 2011.

 “People under 35 are the people who make change happen. People over 45 basically die in terms of new ideas.”

That means you can expect no more creativity from Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Marc Benioff, Parker Harris and Satya Nadella. (For insight to other fields read the article.)

Not to mention that 32 year-old Mark Zukkerberg only has a few good years left.

There are thousands more at all levels, I just picked recognizable people to better illustrate the stupidity.

The difference between when the Boomers did it and now is the notice and action being taken.

This past week, the EEOC joined a probe behind a federal class action lawsuit against Google filed last month, charging that the search giant “engaged in a systematic pattern” of discrimination against applicants over the age of 40. The suit, expanding upon a related case filed earlier this year, cited data from Payscale that placed the median age of Google’s workforce at 29, with a margin of error of 4%. By contrast, the median age for U.S. computer programmers is 43.

Actually, I will probably find it somewhat amusing to watch founders as they try to meet candidate demand for the compensation and perks of the past few years in today’s do-more-with-less/revenue-based-business-model world.

That also goes for many, not all, by a long shot, tech workers who are looking for those same jobs and perks.

So heed the advice I recently gave a founder who took advantage of my standing offer of free help (both my phone number and email are posted on this blog).

He asked how to land a “star” candidate looking for “yesterday’s” compensation and refused to consider anything less.

My advice was to take a pass, refer him to Facebook or Google hire a reality-based programmer who can do the needed job and was sincerely interested in his product and vision.

The only thing he might lose were a few late night bragging rights.

In short, grow up, get smart and hire talent — no matter its age or color or gender.

Flickr image credit: Ben Sutherland

Ducks in a Row: the Stupidity of Stereotyping

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara/4195647026/

Stereotyping is stupid.

It’s stupid because you can’t generalize out the traits of a few to an entire group.

And the larger the group, the stupider the results of stereotyping.

However, the lure of lumping together a large, demographic group for selling purposes is catnip to marketers and also the media.

The problem was well illustrated over the last few years in the depiction of Generation Y — those worthless, entitled Millennials.

80 million of them.

That thinking will go a long way to screwing up your efforts to sell to, hire and manage them.

So think about it.

Don’t you find it a bit ridiculous that 80 million people all think and act identically?

People who come from totally different backgrounds.

Not to mention totally different states; what are the chances of people from California/Maine/Texas/Florida raising their kids so identically that they would think alike?

All 80 million, if you listen to the media.

Jessica Kriegel provides great insight and an in-depth look at the stupidity in her new book, Unfairly Labeled: How Your Workplace Can Benefit from Ditching Generational Stereotypes.

The more you look at generational stereotypes the stupider they become.

The more you buy into them the more money it costs you and your company.

Flickr image credit: Umberto Salvagnin

Golden Oldies: Ducks In A Row: Culture Creation

Monday, April 25th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over the last decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Last Monday we looked at both an oldie and current info showing that all generations want pretty much the same things from work. What has changed is the patience factor in getting some of them. There’s also no question that the the intangibles need to be part of the culture and embedded deeply in the company’s DNA. The one thing I would add to Read other Golden Oldies here.

ducks_in_a_rowA Hollister poll of 1000 people, employed and unemployed, in Massachusetts last summer asked them what factors contributed the most to their job satisfaction; the majority of responses in order were

  •     Company Culture;
  •     Opportunities for Growth;
  •     Employee Appreciation;
  •     Work/Life Balance;
  •     A good Benefits Package; and
  •     Competitive salary/pay.

Notice that pay is dead last.

As I’ve always said, “The person who joins for money will leave for more money.”

The interesting thing about this is that numbers two through four are all parts of number one, good culture. Even benefits are a function of the culture, since they reflect the company’s attitude towards its people.

Still more interesting is that the top three are totally free—they cost the company no money—rather, they are a reflection of the corporate and/or manager’s MAP. Even number four is more about management attitude than dollars and any dollars that are spent typically offer substantial ROI.

There are tons of words that you’ll hear are important in creating a good culture, but I believe that it’s a function of two basics, one a belief and the other an action resulting from it.

Belief: People are intelligent, motivated, and they genuinely want to support their company in achieving its objectives. When people know more about their job, company, industry, and how they interact, they perform their own duties better and more productively because they understand the objectives and care about the results.

Action: People are most productive when they have all the information needed to do their job efficiently. This means that all managers, from CEO down, have both the ability and willingness to produce appropriately clear communications as to where the company is going, how it’s going to get there, what’s expected of them and how it all fits together and then disburse it accurately and completely so people can do their work in a timely manner.

If you believe that

  • a key ingredient for success is a culture that recognizes employees as its most valuable (and least replaceable) asset and
  • that people are required to act with initiative and their performance is directly impacted by the quality and quantity of the information they receive
  • then you’ll understand that people seriously resent communication failures that cause them to perform unnecessary, incorrect or wasted work.

Technically, communications is an IBB (infrastructure building block) and we’ll be talking more about them later.

If I was writing this today the one thing I would add is a sense of mission; a belief, based in reality, that what they are doing has a great purpose/meaning than just generating revenue.

Flickr image credit: zedbee

Golden Oldies: Coming or Going?

Monday, April 18th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over the last decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I was reminded of this particular post when I read two Harvard articles, How to Hire a Millennial and What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do. It’s been such a joke to me ever since the Millennials hit the marketplace. Reading/hearing and working with clients, all freaking out on how to attract a workforce so different from the Boomers and Gen X. Ha! I said it then and Harvard says it now — people of any age pretty much want the same things from their employers; nothing new except how long they’ll wait to get them. Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shinazy/7310391140/Bosses across the spectrum are wringing their hands and worrying about creating an environment that will attract and retain young workers, while still motivating and retaining the rest.

It would be amusing to watch them try and jump through the required hoops if it wasn’t so sad.

Sad because so many of the required behaviors aren’t new.

The Millennials are demanding what people have wanted all along.

Yes, there are differences between what Millennials, Gen-X and Boomers want, but the important cultural basics are the same.

The biggest difference is patience, i.e., how long they will stay when not getting what they want?

Millennials want their work to matter; they want to be heard, recognized, challenged, mentored and grow.

Correcting for descriptive language, there is nothing new on that list from what good workers have wanted for decades.

So what changed; why is it so imperative now?

Partly the numbers.

In America its staff are young: 62% are from Generation Y, 29% are from Generation X and just 9% are baby-boomers.

But mostly the impatience. The young vote with their feet far more easily than older workers because they have less to lose—no mortgage, no kids and responsible only for themselves—and the economy improves Gen-X and the Boomers will also vote more quickly with their feet.

Google is often portrayed as the embodiment of millennial-friendly work practices. But Laszlo Bock, a human-resources chief at the internet firm, points out that it has workers as old as 83. And he argues that the only thing different about Generation Y is that it is actually asking for the things that everybody else wants.

The improving economy is a sword over every boss who considers talent replaceable and, therefore, expendable.

Bosses don’t need Google-style perks to hire and keep great talent, but they do need to create a culture that provides the intangible wants, whether in synergy with or in spite of what their company does.

Flickr image credit: Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babe

 

The More Things Change…

Monday, December 15th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/croweb/2836990301

the more they stay the some.

Does this sound familiar?

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

The result of a new study? The words of a trusted expert?

No, it’s a quote from Socrates (469-399 B.C.).

Just as the Boomer generation was defined by the actions of a large minority, not all Boomers did drugs and dropped out, so the millennial generation has been defined by another large minority.

But they are a minority.
New patterns show they may not be as self-absorbed as they first appeared — maybe as a result of ageing.

But a very different picture of millennials emerges from what may be the most illuminating literary project of our era, the Pew Research Center’s sequence of reports on millennials. The 2010 edition, subtitled “Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” offered an X-ray of its first wave, the “roughly 50 million millennials who currently span the ages of 18 to 29.”

After all, you wouldn’t expect a 29-year-old’s attitudes and goals to be the same as an 18-year-old’s.

Socrates’ words show two things clearly.

  1. Every generation has been sure that the following generation will be the downfall of the human race.
  2. Every generation has been wrong.

Flickr image credit: Ben Crowe

Bottom Line Rocket Science

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/6126129360

What do SAS; Warby Parker and Toms Shoes; FullContact; Petagonia have in common?

Flexibility, AKA work/life balance.

I’ve written about all of them and for the same reason—they get it.

They get that people are their most valuable asset; they get that replacing them costs far more than the cost of an ad; they get that top talent is looking for more than a fat paycheck.

Lisa Horn, who tracks workplace policies for the Society for Human Resource Management, which represents more than 200,000 members from the HR departments of companies around the world, said many businesses, which, since the Great Recession, have forced employees do more with less, are facing new realities: Millennials who value time for both work and life, and fierce competition for the most highly skilled employees who can easily jump ship for something better. “Already 87 percent of employees say flexibility and balance is important or very important in their next job. So it would behoove companies to adopt these strategies for competitive advantage.”

Companies that get it thrive and not just in the short term.

SAS has been doing it successfully since 1976; so much so that Google’s very own Larry Page and Sergy Brin visited to learn SAS’ approach.

Family-owned Patagonia has doubled in size and tripled in profits since 2008; it has 2,000 employees around the globe and minimal turnover.

A comment from TSD (10/24/2014 5:38) on the Petagonia article sums it up nicely.

I never have figured out why treating your workers well is such a hard concept for so many businesses. I work harder and faster and better when I’m happy and not terrified. Granted, I’ve never owned a business, but it seems pretty simple. Miserable workers will not be productive.

It’s not rocket science—or maybe it is.

Flickr image credit: Steve Jurvetson

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