Tagged: Stereotypes

Millennials: Will Work Well In Groups

Myth/Overused Stereotype #146 about Millennials: they are known for collaboration and to be fluid team players. A trait that could be mapped to the current education system consistently promoting group work; so let me get this straight, we currently have a narcissistic generation who also likes to collaborate and work with a team? That seems somewhat unhealthy. Maybe even an oxymoron or more realistically, a group that cannot and will not operate efficiently and effectively.

I’m not quite sure how many “group projects” you’ve worked on, but in my high school and college experience (2003-2011, prime formative GenY years) a group project was met with anxiety, rolled eyes, and immediate over-the-shoulder looking to evaluate if the “worst” person you could potentially work with truly isn’t “that bad,” right?

What caused this change in the education system? Why are we now completing more group projects than in the past? It’s simple mathematics, if I’m a teacher or professor… Do I want to grade 23 papers or 4 papers? Hum… I’ll take 4. And yes, I went to a private liberal arts school and it is possible to have only 23 people in a class. Disclaimer: if any of my business professors are reading this – I truly did enjoy my time and don’t judge me for wanting to get A’s on your group projects. All in a day’s work. I loved my time at Mount.

When you go to a Division III private liberal arts school, you have to take majestic photos.

When you go to a Division III private liberal arts school, you have to take majestic photos.

Now that we’ve discussed one reason why there is a shift to group work, let’s assess how these group projects truly work.

Cast: The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever, Slacker #1, Slacker #2, and Will Follow Orders

The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever reads the assignment and delegates work. Will Follow Orders completes minimal research on Wednesday and sets up a second group meeting on Thursday, the day before the assignment is due. Slacker #2 doesn’t show up to the meeting, Slacker #1 wants to makes sure they get the grade and asks, “So what part of the presentation am I doing?” And The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever has already put together the entire project to be delivered the next day.

If you’re wondering… I may or may not have played the first role of The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever sans Annoying of course.

At the end of the day a class project results in a grade.  The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever is only worried about chasing an “A” and truly does not care how he/she gets there. Does this promote great group work? You can be the judge. If you played The Annoying, Control Freak Over-Achiever in school, you despised group work. If you played any other role, you loved group work. Simple.

So when does it make sense to engage in group work at the office?

When Group Work Works for Millennials:

  • They’ve had time to ideate alonegroupthink is powerful, I’d argue too powerful to overlook with a group of 20 something’s.
  • A clear business challenge or innovative approach will be discussed – chasing a grade is easy, but finding a solution as to why company “x” is spending too much money on base compensation for their sales people has an ambiguous result – we don’t know exactly what we’re chasing and therefore, we have to stretch.
  • It comes sparingly – when working in a group it’s a chance to dig out from the “cube life.” If you do something too much it loses meaning. Very similar to praise, don’t just do it because Milennials supposedly “thrive” in that environment. But rather view it as, hey, it’s nice to every once in a while talk to other humans. Even more so when you’re getting paid to actually talk about an innovative approach or solve a problem.

If you’re in GenX or a Baby Boomer, don’t take my word for it or even one of the 808,000 Google results for (“millennials” AND “group work”), ask one of your millennial co-workers about their group projects in high school and college. That will result in some valuable water cooler talk, not to mention hopefully it’s entertaining.


Your Desk Needs a Makeover

I think I’m somewhat becoming claustrophobic these days and I believe there to be one culprit and one culprit only for this sudden spike in spatial awareness. My cube. My two beyond neutral beige toned walls, the color most likely selected as to not distract anyone and prevent anyone from thinking something innovative might be happening, have recently grown quite mundane. On these walls I have important work documents scattered around, pinned up behind my computer and around my desk so I can reference them easily.

Sounds pretty typical and to be honest, it really isn’t all that bad. I have a Mac desktop with a screen larger than my TV I had in college and by luck of the draw I get to sit by a window with a beautiful back drop of some Ohio forestry. I will say these two facets of what I walk into every day are nothing to criticize.

However, like in the AT&T commercial with the little kids… “We want more. We want more. Like if you really like it. You want more.” What I realized was that I need more of what I like around me. I like simple, clean cut, and I like people. A couple quotes on the wall, a few pictures with my family, and my favorite classic Michael Jordan photos should do it. I would even venture to cross my fingers, close my eyes, and wish I could sit at a table with no walls.

My Desktop with original wings poster. "No bird soars too high, If he soars with his own wings." - William Blake

My Desktop with original wings poster. “No bird soars too high, If he soars with his own wings.” – William Blake

Office design is a top trend noted in Sodexo’s annual Workplace Trends Report for 2013. The report reads, “Organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of the built environment in creating quality work environments and positive work experiences; each playing a crucial role in performance, engagement, and productivity.”

HR and Talent roles are people oriented and directly involved in performance management, employee engagement, and dare I say it… productivity. How is your company productive? The people are productive. Until a robot can operate a business with no human capital, your people create productivity.

Business leaders are rolling their eyes and saying, “ So now you’re telling me to spend money and rearrange the office? Paint some walls? Get a basketball video arcade game? Ha. Right. Make me money, don’t spend it.”

I can look at dollars and cents all day, but there is someone behind a desk, on a plane, working from home, or sitting in a coffee shop making those dollars and cents. Remember that. Can ROI be drawn directly to HR and Talent? Too many people have argued that before me and I’m too young to know or even comment.

But, what I do know is people make up your business. People drive your business. People make your business money. If office design can improve your people’s performance, engagement, and productivity, no wonder it’s a topic of conversation in the HR community for 2013.

Your workplace is where you spend about 10,400 hours per year of your life. Why not surround yourself with what you like at your desk? Some may think this is another narcissist ploy as a Millennial so engulfed in my interests that I bring what I like to decorate my workspace. But, to those who believe we’re all too self-assured and consumed with telling the world what we’re doing on social media, I say count how many articles are written on Personal Brand. It might take you 10,400 hours to do so.

HR professionals can improve workplace design by working with the appropriate parties. However, one individual, millennial or not, can’t build their office’s Rome in one day. But, you can get pretty darn close to building your own personal Rome in a day. Look at your desk. If the item is irrelevant, throw it away. If you need to reference it, make it a digital document you keep on your desktop.

What drives you to be better? What do you like?

Maybe that’s what you need to be looking at everyday. Just a thought.

Anything you can do, I can do better

As a woman in the workforce it seems as though we’re still fighting the good fight. At least that’s what we’re told. It’s as if we’re sitting in the “T” of the classroom and just to one-up the smirking, wavy-haired, pencil tapping boy next to us, we sit in the middle AND front. Boom. But, hold on – not only are we sitting in the prime spot, we are waving our right hand back and forth profusely to get called on and at some points supporting this arm with the left, saying, “Ooooo me, me – pick me,” while also removing the support hand to point at ourselves from time to time. I’m sure that you’ve done this and if not, you know the name of the kid who did.

This might be a little over the top but, on the flip side, if we aren’t exhausted from raising our hand, then we sit back and ride the ride, turn 70 and wonder why the world continues to shut women out. This morning I attended a meeting on “Creating a Purposeful Career” put on by the Ohio Chapter of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association and Cardinal Health. The 2012 HBA Woman of the Year, Carolyn Buck Luce, spoke on the topic and provided some great insight into the state of women in the workplace today.

While I was listening to her speak I was thinking about my reference point for women’s rights and came to the conclusion that it’s non-existent. As a Millennial, we’ve always had them, right? Well, at least legally. Since I was 6 years old, playing T-Ball on the boy’s cub baseball team and being selected for the All-Star team, I really didn’t think it mattered if I was the only girl. If I could throw better than your son, catch better than your son, and hit better than your son – I was probably going to get picked for the All-Star team… over your son. Sorry I’m not sorry, as a famous Twitter account would say. Also, Gatorade has it’s own version of that story I just told, if you click on the image above – great advertising.

As Carolyn pointed out – the movement for equality was really about opening doors. Having the ability to be considered equal and given the same opportunities. Voting, athletics, the corporate world – whatever we didn’t have before, we have it now; however, just because the elevator door opens and we step in – doesn’t mean it’s going up. It’s up to the women of the world to press the button. When you get to the floor, will you like what you see, will they let you off? Who knows? But, you have to be the one to take the first step and press the button.

The issue facing women in the workplace today isn’t finding a job or so very graciously being allowed the opportunity to have a job. The true challenge is career advancement. My view on this is if a woman can sell better than your son, interact with clients better than your son, and motivate better than your son – she should probably get picked for the senior leadership team over your son. Sound familiar?

But, sometimes that just isn’t enough. Carolyn also mentioned the active roles mentors and sponsors play in moving women up the corporate ladder. The key here is target audience. Yes, it is never too late to start, better late than never right? But, I think a real focus should be on Millennial Women. It’s great to have a discussion on mentoring and sponsorship – but where are the young people? Whether it’s because we don’t think it’s an issue and the world is our oyster or we just aren’t in leadership roles to make those decisions, I am unsure.

Nonetheless, note to 20 something year old women – don’t wait until you’re not a 20 something to be a part of the discussion about career advancement. If we’re proactive, we won’t have to wait 50 years for the next movement. Where will the state of women in the workplace be in another 50 years? Again, I am unsure – but just by pure mathematics my guess is the Millennial Women of today will know. Just be better than the boys and get picked for the All-Star team.

Please comment with any thoughts. If you’re a Millennial and want to know how to get started tweet me @nicole_tsp. 

Where in the World is Gen X?

My favorite game when I was a kid was “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” Mainly because I was a geography nerd and more than likely still am. Carmen is akin to Gen X. Where are they? Contrary to all things Millennial, Gen X still exists. They do exist? Yes, yes they do. The Millennial epidemic has caused us to look at both extremes. On one end of the spectrum you have the 20 something’s and on the other end you have the 60 something’s. All of the talk and literature is about Gen Y and Baby Boomers. Which makes sense right? Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce and Millennials are just getting their foothold.

I sat with one of the partners at our firm, a Baby Boomer himself, discussing this topic. As we began to list the names of whom we work with (when you’re a small business you can do this, if you work at a larger company start with your team or department) and what generation they belong to, we came to find out our focus was all wrong. Do this exercise with your own company, team, or department and I think you’ll be surprised. It wasn’t about me, this free thinking, naïve, taker of all things good, entitled Millennial. But, it also wasn’t about this salt and pepper haired, tenured sweet talker, more experience than I could dream of Baby Boomer either. The Gen X list was not only longer than we thought but, also included primary decision makers. But, wait Nicole – you’re telling me we need to focus on the neglected middle child?

Focus? Not necessarily but, I do think it’s important to know that Gen X didn’t just disappear or ALL take sabbaticals to the beaches of Spain and never return. The reason I finally bring up Gen X is not because they’re the most tech savvy, obviously we are as Millennials, nor are they packing the most years of success under their belt but, rather they’re imperative when it comes to Knowledge Transfer.

Knowledge Transfer involves sharing the brain trust of those Baby Boomers about to exit the workforce. Experts and those claiming to be experts have been asking the question, how do we get our 60 something’s to talk with our 20 something’s? That question is where the failure begins. Your Baby Boomers don’t necessarily need to be transferring knowledge directly to Millennials. Eureka – I give you Gen X, more often than not in middle management or senior leadership, to whom Millennials are reporting.

The idea of Knowledge Transfer makes sense – especially in an age where the capacity of the mind is worth more than any “product” out there, if it weren’t there would be no such thing as a “service industry.” Baby Boomer knowledge transfer is filtered to Gen X who then utilizes those tools to ensure Millennials are prepared with the appropriate brain trust.

Where in the world is Gen X? Be a Gum Shoe and find them. They’re right there under your nose completing performance reviews, winning business, and directing corporate strategy. Don’t forget Gen X, make sure they’re prepared with Baby Boomer expertise and Millennials will be better for it.

79 million Millennials. What do you do with them?

Well not much gets done these days without quantifying necessary evidence to prove a point. Numbers sell, talk, and give credibility. When reading a blog by Ryan Scott, 5 Things To Know About Your Gen Y Staff, I found myself delving into the same issues any Gen Y article brings up, stereotypes – just to clarify not all stereotypes are negative, for example Scott mentions Millennials are Technically Savvy, which I believe can only help us. These 4 or 5 bullet points remain fairly constant when talking about this generation but, I’m always interested in why it is the case? In this blog I will address the bullet points from a different perspective.

The 79 million figure is not really astounding until you compare it to the number associated with Baby Boomers, 76 million. Well here we are ladies and gentleman – there are more of us than there are of them. Why is it then that it’s so difficult to find a job? Probably because we are being referred to as “younger tykes” and “young kids” a majority of the time in the workplace as noted by Scott in his blog. Now as a Millennial I do know that we expect a different level of combining work and personal life. And by that I mean, at this point there isn’t a true separation of work and life – there isn’t a true “work-life balance” to be made when a Millennial (or anyone for that matter) is connected to the outside world 24/7. Not only can I receive a text from my friends at work but, I can also get a text from my boss at home. Technology savvy Millennials have brought a new sense of work-life combination that has not been seen.

Team-oriented. Now this brings me back to high school and even college when you’re sitting at your desk crossing your fingers, sweating, bouncing your foot up and down in anticipation. Dun dun dun… the over-glorified group project. Now, if you were a slacker and never pulled your weight? You probably rejoiced but, were still nervous hoping you’d get that Glee geek in the corner who speaks fluent Spanish for your Spanish speaking country project. Or you’re the naturally smart athlete who doesn’t have time to do an ENTIRE project by themselves but, because you don’t want a C? You do the whole thing and get everyone an A. I don’t know if we are as much “team-oriented” as we are brain-washed due to completing a group project every 2 weeks starting at the age of 12.

I think achievement-oriented and the need for acknowledgement go together. As stated in my blog yesterday, What if everyone was a leader?, we’ve been brought up to believe if you’re not the best then go find something else to be the best at. Oh and if you’re not the best? You still get a trophy, because everyone is important. I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but, in kindergarten I got a bowling trophy for attending a classmate’s birthday party. Now if that doesn’t explain why Millennials are achievement oriented or constantly looking for acknowledgement? I really don’t know what else does, a trophy for a birthday party? Really?

As all of the experts older than the Millennial generation continue to write and study Millennials and send their information off to other Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers – I am always curious as to why they never answer the question, “Hey, why do you think they’re like that?” I can read and listen to stereotypes every day but, until you can answer why? You’re just telling us what we already know and what those older than us are scared of, this changing tide of what YOU need to do to retain Millennial Talent.

I will conclude on this note. Not only is understanding why these stereotypes exist important but, if you’re a Millennial reading on how the marketplace is going to change for you, you need to make a conscious effort to earn respect and work hard. If not, a change in the marketplace won’t matter.

Just because there’s 79 million Millennials here in the U.S. job market doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds of millions of perfectly capable and maybe ever smarter (dare I say it) Millennials overseas, who are more than willing to work for companies. There is a compromise that must be made but, when employers embrace Millennials, Millennials must also take responsibility, initiative, and understand they aren’t little Bobby on the tee-ball team anymore, this is the job market.

What if everyone was a leader?

There’s this misconception in the workplace, society, and especially with Millennials that if you’re a follower you’ve somehow done something wrong. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader and think about what a world would be like if everyone thought they were a leader? Absolutely nothing would get accomplished. You would have 7 billion chiefs and no indians. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to work. Twitter: you’re called a follower. It’s not so bad is it? The booming social network decided it was acceptable to be a follower. I think that’s pretty cool.

Not everyone in the worforce wants to be a president of a company, not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder at a rapid pace. And you know what? That’s perfectly alright. If there were no followers, there would be no great leaders. At some point if you consider yourself a leader, you had to be a follower at one time or another. You had to learn, you had to make mistakes, you had to be put in a situation where leadership was necessary, and most of all you had to earn respect.

Not every Millennial is driving for your job, hiring manager. If that were the case the world would be taken over by us and until a President under 35 can be elected? I don’t think that will happen. It’s not always about title or how much money you make. It’s about what satisfies your needs and wants. This isn’t just for Millennials, it’s for everyone. Next time you’re looking to find high potentials or declare yourself as a leader, understand there are “followers” who need to trust you.

There isn’t room for 7 billion leaders. Don’t be discouraged if everyone around you isn’t dying to step up. You’ll find that if you’re looking to force leadership upon someone it will never add up to success. It’s like oil and water. Leaders will emerge if put in the right situtations. And as for the followers? You need them too.

What would your company be with only executive leaders? A consulting firm or bankrupt. It’s your choice.

Do you have a LeBron in your organization?

Over the last few days a portion of our firm participated in a training session called The Speed of Trust presented by Denis Stoddard, Ph.D. This training is supported by Franklin Covey and it emphasized the importance of trust within the workplace, the most important reason to trust those around you? It’s going to affect your bottom line… you’ll make more money if you trust those around you. Seems easy enough right? You might even win an NBA Championship if you trust your teammate right?

The past few nights I’ve been thinking about trust and when I read Rick Reilly’s article on ESPN LeBron being LeBron, I couldn’t help but respond, it’s the NBA Playoffs after all. Now let’s just keep in mind folks that I was born a die hard Cleveland fan, if born and die can be used in the same sentence. My dad threw me in a Browns onezie when I was just shy of 2 years old, wrapped me up in blankets and took me to my first Browns game in the Dawg Pound at the old Municipal Stadium. Mind you the pride of Cleveland sat in this section in the late 80’s and early 90’s, mainly ex-cons as noted by my father. Nevertheless, there I was, innocent yet entrenched in middle-aged, He-Man America all for the love of a city and sports team.

In the rant Rick goes on defending LeBron in all his glory. Let’s address a few of his statements:

  • He’s won 3 MVP’s in 9 seasons – Correct. But, those are individual awards, remember?
  • Hundreds of people move from Cleveland to Miami a year – One, I’d like to know the actual statistics on this. And two, I’m pretty sure that is false. Not really the same culture. One arena has a night club, the other? A Kid’s Club.
  • Dozens of NBA players switch teams every year – Really? I didn’t know. But, not every player is the superstar or THE best player in the league for that matter. If Matt Barnes leaves a team? NO ONE cares, 98% of people reading this blog probably don’t even know who he is. By the way has Kobe, Dwight, Dwayne, or KD left? Hum. Nope.
  • He goes on to discuss all of the “moral” wrongs others have done and LeBron has yet to commit, cheating on wives, getting in fights, being arrested – you are right on this point. But, again I’m a big KD fan and he hasn’t done any of this either and still manages to be a nice guy who isn’t arrogant.
  • Last, he botched one thing, The Announcement, get over it – Now, this is a statement that I just don’t agree with. Get over it? Read The Whore of Akron by Scott Raab, a long-time writer for Esquire and other publications and you probably won’t just get over it.

By “botching” The Announcement, LeBron broke Cleveland’s trust. It takes a while to build trust, some may say 7 years, and it takes one statement to completely destroy it, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” LeBron it’s not about you, it never was. You could put any star in your role, who accomplished the same things and I would love them, not you, because it’s about the city. It’s about not having won any type of championship since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship Game, not even a Super Bowl! You took away “our” chance at being the sports town that gets to stay up until midnight watching “our” team go to battle. When you left Cleveland LeBron, your press conference only included “I” statements, “I did what I could – I gave you 7 years.” Really? Do you want me to thank you or something? If there’s anything to get over, it’s you.

It boils down to TRUST my friends. Peyton Manning left Indianapolis… finally. But, he cried when he announced his decision. He didn’t put on a spectacle during primetime, there’s a character difference there. There’s a feeling of, he really does care. LeBron? Negative. He goes on to have a welcoming parade of the “Big Three.” So much for the team, I guess only the good players matter. Yes, Lebron has been in the league 9 years and as for MJ at this point in his career? No rings either. But, did MJ go around promising not 5, not 6, not 7 NBA titles? I’m fairly young but, I don’t think so. When you go around parading your greatness? Yes, you deserve ridicule for not following through.

Millennials… this is a clear perception of you and LeBron fell right into it. Do not over promise and under deliver. Arrogance is not attractive.

If you’re not a Cleveland fan? You can give LeBron a break, maybe you should. But, if you are, you have no reason to give him a break. And I never will. If Rick is upset about sports analysts giving him a hard time, clearly ESPN is only about ratings. If Skip Bayless is hating on LeBron non-stop and people are watching? I’m pretty sure it will continue. It’s their job to analyze and nit-pick. LeBron is the best player in the league, since when do people think he’ll fly under the radar?

Trust. It’s been lost and I don’t see the guiding light yet to welcome it back. I appreciate your insights Rick, I really do. But, at the end of the day LeBron broke Cleveland’s trust. That is one action that will take a lot to overcome. Value trust. It can only help you, whether you’re an NBA star or recent college grad starting your first job this month.