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Emerging adulthood: The two most important words in hiring and parenting

emerging-adulthood

Here’s an excerpt from my latest column in the Huffington Post:

A couple years ago, the senior staff to one of the top leaders of the Department of Defense asked me for the most important advice I could give them for attracting and retaining Millennials. I gave them two words: emerging adulthood.

Millennials make up 70 percent of their workforce, and most of them are going through a new life stage called emerging adulthood, which begins at 18 and ends around 27 years of age. It comes after adolescence and before early adulthood.

I told them that at least a few of their staff needed to become experts in this new life stage because half of what the older generations complain about Millennials are actually characteristics of this new life stage, rather than negative traits that Millennials will carry throughout their lives. But if they don’t sort out the life stage from the generational characteristics, they’ll watch their commanders drive the Millennials out of the military and never understand why.

I have thousands of conversations each year with people from older generations who are frustrated with the Millennials. A few of the most common complaints:

  • They can’t look me in the eye, because they’re glued to their phones.
  • Loyalty means nothing to them.
  • They don’t know how to be respectful.
  • They’re completely naïve about what organizations have to do to function.
  • If their ideas aren’t implemented, they get bored and mentally check out.
  • They want everything handed to them. But what can you expect from a generation who grew up getting “participation trophies” in their sports?

Half of these are characteristics of emerging adulthood and not characteristics of any one generation, but most people have never heard of it so they don’t know which is which. In my speeches, I often ask the audience to raise their hands if they’ve heard of emerging adulthood. Maybe 2 percent of the hands go up.

This generational ignorance leads to a host of problems at work and home….

Read my entire column here.

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Millennials are motivated most by money

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Here’s an excerpt from my latest column in the Huffington Post:

Tis the season. My wife, Laurie, and I joined millions of other families when we attended our son’s college graduation this May. The lunch with the entire clan afterward was truly a time of celebration because this son struggled with dyslexia throughout school but finished college cum laude thanks to his “work then play” attitude and the ability of his old Kindle to read aloud (before Amazon yanked out the text-to-speech functionality). Then the inevitable happened. 20 minutes into lunch, someone brought up student loans and the slow job market for grads. Sadly, this is now the “new normal” topics for college graduates and their families.

The dramatic increases in student loans over the last 20 years that are now weighing on graduates in a tight job market have everyone from Robert Reich to Fortune magazine questioning whether some Millennials should skip college and learn a trade.

With all this attention on the high cost of student loans, this is a good time to bust the pervasive myth that Millennials are more interested in meaning than money. It’s been repeated so many times (including by thought leaders in the generational space) that it’s now taken as truth.

But it’s only half the truth….

Read my entire column here.

[Image via leftcom.org]

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Why what you read about Millennials seems contradictory

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Here’s an excerpt from my latest column in the Huffington Post:

In the movies of my youth, the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. One thing you knew, the good guys and the bad guys were not going to work together. They weren’t human beings; they were good guys and bad guys.

So much of what I read and hear about the Millennials puts them into the white hat or black hat categories. Researchers have called them entitled, self-absorbed, naïve, and unprepared, or creative, optimistic, caring, open-minded, and productive.

Many authors and speakers describe Millennials as a remarkable, almost heroic generation that will solve our problems through teamwork and technology. These experts imply that if the old guys running our hierarchical, innovation-quashing organizations would get out of their way, the Millennials would amaze us. Some bestselling books on Millennials are so optimistic that readers wondered in online reviews if the writers had actually met a millennial. Other reviewers reckoned the author must be in love with his grandkids and believe they could do no wrong.

We wonder if the experts are talking about the same generation when we read other books worried about the Millennials. For example, a good friend, Nancy, asked me if I am as worried about our kids’ generation….

Here’s what I told Nancy to help her make sense of these contradictory opinions. These three reasons may help you have a better and more realistic grasp of Millennials…

Read my entire column here.

[Photo via fabiusmaximus.com]

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What exactly IS your adult child’s job?

Back to school

At AARP.com, Mary W. Quigley authored an article on Bring In Your Parents Day, in which she featured some of my comments. Here is an excerpt:

A LinkedIn survey found that 35 percent of parents are not completely familiar with what their children do for a living, and 50 percent thought they could offer suggestions if they understood the job better….

If you go to your child’s office, does it make you look like a helicopter parent? Actually, it makes you look like an involved parent, says consultant Haydn Shaw, and companies know that “parents have a big impact on hiring and retention.”

In some ways, the day is the adult version of back-to-school night. Parents get to see the desk, the workplace, the coworkers and the supervisors — and put a face to the name when their kids complain or compliment a colleague or boss. “You definitely can pick up a vibe about the people and the place when you’re there,” says Shaw, author of Sticking Points, about the multigenerational workplace.

Maybe most important, he says, is that the event can signal a step forward in the parent-adult child relationship….

Read the entire article here.

[Photo via lareinabruja.com]

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Steak or waffles? Overcoming the sticking point of work ethic

waffle

With four generations in the workplace, there are vastly different definitions of what it means to have a good work ethic. Don’t avoid the tensions; get your team talking about these questions:

  • Does it matter how many hours you work if you get your work done?
  • Do you have to come in to the office, or can you work from someplace else?

Awkward silence might follow at first, but that’s okay. It’s important for teams to spend some time understanding the generational differences around work ethic by finding the common need – and that need is fairness and balance. No one wants to feel cheated or taken advantage of, and everyone wants more balance in life. Unless older generations understand the reasons why GenXers and Millennials view work ethic differently, they’ll continue seeing them as “slackers.” In the same way, the younger generations must seek to understand Traditionalists and Boomers by learning about the world in which they grew up.

Think of work like a meal: the older two generations see work as the steak and everything else in life as the side dishes. The younger two generations see life as more of a waffle, where work is one quadrant and everything else makes up the other three squares. (So please, boss, keep your work syrup off the other three squares of my waffle.)
[Read more…]

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Three ways to impress your Millennial boss

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At the AARP Bulletin, Mary W. Quigley featured some of my comments in a recent article. Here’s an excerpt:

Flip flops are coming to the workplace whether we like it or not! So predicts Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points, a book about the generational clash in the workplace. We might say, flip flops … no way with my ugly feet! But the reality is that millennials, all 92 million of them vs. 78 million boomers, are rapidly infiltrating the workplace. Not only that, they are increasingly becoming our bosses….

Just as we can rattle on about self-involved and entitled millennials, they complain about technophobic, arrogant older workers. Stereotypes aside, with four generations (seniors, boomers, gen x and millennials) in the workplace cultures will clash. Shaw, 51, lists 12 sticking points of friction among generations: communication, decision-making, dress code, feedback, fun at work, knowledge transfer, loyalty, meetings, policies, respect, training and work ethic.

In an effort to work better with millennial bosses, I asked him to pinpoint three keys areas where older workers can learn to be more flexible….

Read entire article here.

[Graphic via thindifference.com]

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Three simple ways to give Millennials the feedback they want

SurveyFeedback

Here’s an excerpt from my latest column in the Huffington Post:

“Is feedback really as important to Millennials as we’ve heard?” The accounting senior manager asked me in a workshop I was giving on best work practices for each generation.

Yes, I told them. Millennials’ expectations are different from the older generations’. Millennials grew up with highly involved parents coaching them, instant access online to grades, and thousands of texts with their friends. Mentoring programs are one of the top two soft benefits Millennials look for at an organization. Less than one in ten Millennials think weekly communication is enough. In fact, 35 percent want it multiple times a day, while 25 percent think once a day is fine.

“Especially if you’re a Boomer, take the amount of feedback you would want, and then double it. Then double it again, and you’ll meet the Millennials halfway,” I said.

The group erupted in an audible moan. One manager said what the others were clearly thinking: “I’m already working way too much. How am I going to find the time to give Millennials all the feedback they want?”

One of the biggest challenges to feedback is that we’re making it too difficult. You can give more feedback without adding another two hours to your day….

Read my entire column here.

[Image via blog.cuvitt.com]

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Four approaches to dealing with four generations

necktie2

The approach we take in dealing with the four generations determines the results we get. You, your boss, and your organization are using one of these four approaches – but which should be used to get the desired outcomes?

  1. Ignore them

    If you want to ignore generational issues, it’s easy: don’t hire people you don’t understand. Hire people like you… until they’re all dead.

    When a generation first hits the workplace, it’s easiest to ignore them. Their numbers are small, so they’re easy to miss. Even more, since they are a minority, they tend to adapt to the dress, communication styles, and approaches of the other generations. They’re wearing flip flops in the car to work, but changing before they walk in – and we are fooled into thinking that because they don’t complain about the work dress code, they don’t have a problem with it.

    I had taught about half my session in Phoenix when a man approached me and said that based on what he had learned about the generations, he had decided to hire only Baby Boomers (or Generation Xers who thought like Boomers) until he flipped his business in five years. I told him he had best find a stupid buyer for his business, because he didn’t have a sustainable business model. He hadn’t thought about passing on the knowledge of his company to younger generations. But this example is not an extreme one. In the past year, I’ve heard fifty managers or executives tell me they are done hiring Millennials.

    But with close to 50% of post-college Millennials already in the workplace, it’s hard to ignore them. And once we can no longer ignore a generation, we have three remaining choices….

  2. [Read more…]

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FAQ #4: Do your generalizations apply to ALL Millennials?

faq

Today I’d like to address the final question I’m most frequently asked about the generations….

Do the generalizations in Sticking Points describe all Millennials or just the ones who are middle-class with professional jobs?

There are actually four different subgroups of Millennials worldwide, and even in the U.S. there are differences due to our increasing ethnic diversity. So while there are commonalities, cultural distinctives add nuances to generational generalizations, and unfortunately, in my book I was not able to cover them all.

Primarily, I focus on the workplace, and the research I utilize has come from the study of both white- and blue-collar workers and occasionally even the unemployed. Because of this focus on the workplace, my book, Sticking Points, leaves out those of each generation who live in poverty (but other resources on this segment’s important story can be found through a quick internet search).

No one book can tell the whole story for a generation of over 80 million. But this is also a reminder that we must lead rather than manage people.

We’ve all got stories that we want to tell, and we’ll never stick together unless we listen.

(View FAQ’s #1, #2, and #3.)

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Mentoring: It’s not just a one-way street

Mentor

When we think of mentoring, many of us have the “old school” idea in mind.

Traditional mentoring programs, in which younger employees are assigned to older mentors, never worked well for all participants. Many mentors didn’t commit the time necessary to the process, and for half of those involved, the chemistry between the mentor and protege just didn’t “click”.

Today, the big issue is knowledge. With information changing so quickly, the classic mentor/protégé relationship really can’t work because it’s impossible for one mentor to know enough to provide the protégé with everything he or she needs. That’s why effective mentoring should no longer be a mentor/protégé relationship (with all its complicated dynamics); it should be more of a mutual mentoring relationship.

Younger, less experienced employees can actually mentor their older colleagues in two ways: First, this digital generation is more familiar with technology than their elders, and they want to help their elders learn. Sixty-five percent of Millennials say, “I should be mentoring older coworkers when it comes to tech and getting things done.” Secondly, the younger generation can mentor older colleagues by helping them learn the language and perspective of a different generation.

The world is too complex for the mentor/protégé approach. Today each of us needs a network of mentors both inside and outside our organization, both superiors and peers. Peers are especially important because there aren’t enough managers for all the people who would like a mentor. Besides this, it has been shown that we want to learn from our peers. Randstad learned in 2009 that employees were more likely to turn to coworkers, teachers, or professors as role models rather than business leaders. Therefore, a network of mentors that includes peers would be more relevant to those who don’t aspire to management. Peer groups are being used effectively to mentor people in organizations.

I’ve asked thousands of managers what they find most rewarding in their jobs, and the most frequent answer is mentoring – helping younger and less experience people grow, develop, and achieve what they didn’t believe they were capable of. It would be tragic if some managers never got to experience this thrill because they thought they were too busy, or because they were stuck in the past.

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