It’s easy to think that people younger than you don’t have enough knowledge to understand the “complexities” the way you do, and that may be true to a point. However, leaders today are missing a key opportunity to capture both the creativity and loyalty of young people by not giving them an opportunity to “Mentor-Up.”
The people side of the equation is where we need the Boomers and Traditionalists to mentor the Xers and Millennials. However, reverse mentorship comes into play when it comes to technology. We see a twenty-two-year old with tattoos and piercings mentoring a fiftyplus leader in a blue suit and starched color and tie.
Mentor-Up creates an informal or formal relationship where the younger person is recognized for his or her expertise in a particular area and encouraged to train older team members on that skill. An opportunity for cross-generational bonding and understanding
is to have Millennials design Mentor-Up workshops on a basic technology skill-set the team needs, and then hold a weekly mentoring session. Other formats for training can include short YouTube or internally hosted video training on high need skills like shortcuts or
how to use a piece of software more effectively.
With a “No Jerks Policy,” the core practice at these companies is “Be a JERK and you are gone.” Xers (and Millennials too) believe that life is too short to work with jerks. It takes courage to let them go, but Xers will respect and be loyal to leaders with the chutzpa to take courageous action. Letting a toxic team member remain damages more than that person’s own personal output. It erodes the rest of the team’s belief in you as a leader and they will leave you over it.
Knowing what shapes the multi-generational mix as well as the state it puts us in can catapult you forward or be your downfall if ignored or mishandled. Often, it can feel like someone from another generation is personally reacting, ignoring, or trying to irritate YOU. Or, perhaps you may think the person personally doesn’t like you or is refusing to agree with you. I can’t say that never happens (some people may actually be trying to ignore or irritate you); however, many times their actions are rooted more deeply in their generational paradigm of how they see the world and believe that things should happen; this paradigm may include such things as what constitutes good work ethic, dress codes, and/or how people should be rewarded or disciplined in the workplace.
So as you continue forward on your journey of becoming Generationally Savvy™, I encourage you to use this mantra:
It’s not personal—it’s generational.
Read it again and say it out loud a few times. You may even want to visit www.UnlockingGenerationalCODES.com to print off a sign for your office to help remind you.
This may come as a shock to those of you that worked your way up the old-fashioned way, but the one size-fits-all career ladder has run its course. Today’s knowledgeable worker is looking to begin a dialogue from Day One/Interview One about the options, avenues, and possibilities he can explore and experience during his tenure at your organization. In fact, the capacity of your leaders, human resource professionals, and recruiters to engage effectively in these conversations directly affects the length of time a top talent will spend with your company.
Organizations that want to attract and retain Xers and Millennials must be willing continuously to match their needs and evolving life circumstances. Many times it will include creating the flexibility for Xers and Millennials to move in and out of organizations or up and down hierarchies as life’s priorities and demands shift.
Gen Xer Andrea, a wealth adviser expressed it this way, “I’m only loyal to this organization for the benefits. I have a young family and the benefits cover them. I could easily go anywhere that offered a competitive package. My husband is an entrepreneur so we are just waiting for his firm to take off and then I will too.”
Millenials enter into an organization willing and ready to leave at any time when they don’t feel like their employer is providing the appropriate career opportunities needed for them to stay engaged and excited, not bored but always stimulated. For Millennials, providing value is a two-way commitment. Millennials are not just signing on to a company saying, “The only value I expect is my paycheck.” They are telling their bosses, “I expect an experience that I am proud to be part of, and satisfied in having given my time and talent to.” If Millenials are not feeling opportunities are being presented, they are very likely to jump ship with no sense of guilt, shame, or having left their boss in the lurch.
Megan is a twenty-five year old rising star manager for an international women’s fashion shoe store. Her staff turnover is 70 percent lower than the company average. She has quickly become a turnaround specialist and is often sent to under-producing retail stores to make them profitable. She has a 100 percent success track record.
Unfortunately, Megan’s managers don’t know she is planning on leaving. For the past six months, Megan’s Gen Xer manager has been sending her terse e-mails focusing only on what else the company expects her to accomplish. The only positive feedback Megan has received has been in the form of pay increases and increasingly challenging assignments. Megan doesn’t feel connected to her manager or to the organization. She doesn’t believe her manager actually likes or even appreciates her. She sees the pay raises and difficult assignments only as a sign she is “making money” for the company. Megan wishes her manager would make time to come by the store personally or at least to call her on the phone and express appreciation for what she has accomplished.
Megan knows she is a valuable employee, so she figures she can get another job with a company that truly appreciates its successful managers and makes them feel like they are part of a healthy family, not just a hatchet woman dispatched to clean up messes.
On the other hand, the Gen Xer manager believes the company is showing Megan how much it respects her by giving her freedom and space to do what she thinks is necessary. The company and her manager are not micromanaging her but just saying, “Here’s what I want, and here’s when I need it by.” They are showing their appreciation through appropriate pay increases. That’s what respect and appreciation look like from the generational vantage point of the Gen Xer manager.
Generationally Savvy Solution:
Communication is key! Both Megan and her manager could benefit from understanding one another’s Generational CODES. Armed with that information, they would have a better professional relationship. Megan would have a desire to stay in her current job, and would continue to benefit her current employer.
Millennials frequently find themselves bored at work; they begin to fill in their creative needs by creating options through parallel careerpathing. They may be working for your organization, but on the side, many of them are doing small start-up projects. Maybe it’s ad hoc temporary work, maybe it’s pro-bono volunteering, or even a class in a new field, but they are planning another possible career. Often, it’s something in the software area or something in the creative area where they have an outlet just in case they’re ready some day to step out on their own. They aren’t just living one dimension—they’re living two or three—and always keeping their options open. This open-option lifestyle does not seem to them like a breach of contract with their current employers. They understand that if their employers decide they are not needed, the Millennials will be cut from the workforce. So Millennials keeps their options open and a backup plan in play.
Becoming a fully-functioning revenue-producing team member can easily take three, twelve, or even eighteen months from a new hire’s start date. But for many Millennials, twelve to eighteen months is about the length of time it takes for them before they will look for a new opportunity or challenge. You can either be open to exploring with them what their futures might look like at your company, or (gulp), if you’re not ready to help them find a next step up the corporate ladder or in a direction they want to go with the company, someone from your competition probably is talking to them.