Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Millennials: Is It a Generation Thing or Just a Life Stage?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAfCAAAAJGMyOWIwNDNlLTQ0ZjgtNGU0Mi1iZTAxLTJkZDMyOTgzN2E2MQ“Kids these days.” It’s not a new complaint. Millennials just happen to be the group we’re currently calling kids.

Even Socrates piled on. As quoted by Brian O’Malley in a great Forbes post, the father of Western philosophy said: “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”

Sounds familiar, right? O’Malley goes on to ask some interesting questions, among them: “Are millennials really that different from previous generations, or are we just describing young adults? As Patrick Wright, business professor at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina said, ‘From my standpoint, it’s not a generational thing. It’s actually a stage of life issue.'”

Some like to say Millennials are the worst workers in the history of the world  O’Malley confronts this common sentiment with data and insights that are welcome confirmation for those of us who are fans of this generation’s contributions in the workplace.

“Rather than typecasting millennials as unmotivated, lazy, or disloyal, it’s crucial to look at the larger macro trends in play. Companies used to invest significant amounts of time training new employees. It made sense, because the expectation was that these employees would stick around for decades. Investing in new blood was a long-term bet that paid off over time.”

Millennial job hopping is not necessarily a symptom of short attention spans. The pay off for loyalty to one company “began to change in the 1980s, when ‘you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value,’ as well as “cuts in employee benefits—401(k)s instead of defined benefit pensions, and health care costs being pushed on to employees.”

Data frames this theory in a larger context:

  • “Jobs switching is a broader trend. In a recent study, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Baby Boomers changed jobs just as frequently, holding on average of 11.7 different jobs between the ages of 18-48. Most of the bouncing around happened when they were young—from the ages 18 to 24.
  • Millennials are more competitive than we give them credit. 59% said competition is “what gets them up in the morning,” compared with 50% of baby-boomers. Hardly the generation of slackers they’re cut out to be,69% of millennials see themselves in managerial roles in 10 years.
  • Millennials are more likely to comply with authority than their parents’ generation. 41% of millennials agreewith the statement, “Employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can’t see the reason for it,” while only 30% of Boomers and Gen Xers agree.
  • Millennials are well prepared. Almost 70 percent of managers say that their young employees are equipped with skills that prior generations are not, around 82 percent are impressed with their tech savvy. Around 60 percent of managers say that the generation is full of quick learners.
  • Millennials are the best-educated generation. The White House Council of Economic Advisorsstates that in 2013, 47% of 25 to 34 year-olds had attained some kind of degree after high school, while graduate school enrollment saw a 35% jump between 1995 and 2010.

Beyond compensation and opportunity, millennials are looking for a sense of purpose in the workplace. When they can’t find it, the new generation is taking matters into its own hands. A further study by Elance-oDesk—now Upwork—claims that79% of millennials would consider the opportunity to work for themselves. Meanwhile, Babson College’s 2014 Global Entrepreneurship report claims that in 2014, 18% of Americans between 25 and 34 were either running or starting new businesses.”

Interested in improving your retention of Millennials? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

 

Change Management: Avoid employee rumors by letting them know what’s really going on

Rumors are created to fill information voids. That’s number 17 of 21 “Internal Quotations for Internal Communications” included in a slideshare I stumbled across by Paul Barton of Phoenix, AZ. I don’t know Paul, but I like the way he thinks.

In fact most of the lines he quotes are things we say frequently at Tribe. Another of his slides, number 19, relates to the one above: “Employees should learn of important information affecting them and their organization from an internal source rather than an external source.” Number 18 as well: “In a crisis, internal communications is often the very thin thread that holds everyone and everything together.”

All three of these thoughts relate to the importance of being open and honest with employees during any major change. If you withhold information because you don’t want employees to know how bad it is, you can be fairly certain that what they’re imagining and telling each other is worse than the reality.

One of the best ways to destroy trust in your organization’s leadership is to share something big with the media, customers or shareholders before you tell employees. It’s easy to do unintentionally, especially when there’s time pressure to get out an announcement or press release to correlate with some major happening.

In fact, in Tribe’s research, that news needs to come from the top. In our national research with employees of large companies, major change was one of the few topics respondents said they strongly preferred hearing from company leadership rather than their direct managers.

This speaks to a measure of respect. In any major change or company crisis, beginning any internal communications from a place of respect for employees is the right place to start.

Does your company have a major change on the horizon? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Middle-Aged Millennials: Recruiting and Retaining These Mid-Career Professionals

HiResMany Millennials are now more than a decade into their careers. Although the bookend birth years of the generation vary depending on the researcher and/or media outlet, 1980 to 1994 is the block we use at Tribe to define the Millennial generation. That means the first Millennials are now 36.

They’re no longer those fresh college grads expecting an entry-level CEO position. They’ve done stuff. They know things. They’ve maybe even learned how to manage others. They’re valuable employees, not just for their potential but for their experience.

Yet employers are still flummoxed by this generation. How to recruit them and how to retain them remain issues that companies struggle to solve. Now that they’re the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, employers can no longer reduce the issue to throwing up their hands and exclaiming, “These darn kids these days!”

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not kidding around about what they have to offer. So what does your company have to offer them?

This is a good time to reexamine your employer brand and your employee value proposition. Since Millennial employees (as well as their older colleagues, come to think of it) have more job options than any of us did during the recession, it’s worth investing time and money into making your company more competitive in the talent market.

What’s good for Millennials is often good for other generations too. For instance, Millennials value flexibility in terms of when and where they work. So do many Gen X and Boomer employees, whether they’re dealing with growing kids or aging parents or just the desire for work to accommodate the demands of their personal lives.

However, the most important element of the EVP for Millennials is the work itself. Sure, they expect work-life balance and constant feedback and an ethical organization. They appreciate being able to bring their dogs to the office and having a break room fridge stocked with energy drinks.

But the reason they’re drawn to one organization over another, and the reason they will stay or go, is the work they’re getting to do. Are they being challenged with opportunities to grow their careers? Are they given responsibility to run some projects of their own? Are they able to collaborate with other talented people? Do they see the work they’re doing being recognized for contributing to the overall success of the company? And is the vision of this company something that makes them excited to get to work every day?

Interested in defining your employer brand or EVP? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What Can Communications Professionals Do If Their Company Isn’t Already a “Chill Place?”

iStock_000088161219_skate“If your company  is a chill place, you won’t have to talk about it. It will be obvious the minute you walk in the door.” Could not agree more. The above is from Liz Ryan, author of a fantastic Forbes blog  titled “Please God, Can We Stop Talking About ‘Core Values?'”

“A lot of corporate and institutional weenies love to talk about Core Values, as though their organization’s values were somehow fundamentally different from every other organization’s values.” That’s another scathing but awesome line from her blog.

And this, perhaps, is my favorite bit: “I assume you lead your company with a human voice and choose trust over fear at every opportunity. If you do those things, you don’t need to stop and plumb the depths of your Core Values.” All of the above and more from her post is excellent advice for the CEO and his or her leadership team.

But what if you’re charged with communicating culture to employees in a company that isn’t totally chill? How can you help shift the culture towards what Ryan calls a “human place.”

The best thing you can do is to lead from where you are. Start your communications strategies from a place of respect for employees. Be the voice in the meeting that speaks up for being  honest with employees, even when it’s difficult. Put communication channels in place that give employees a way to share questions, concerns and comments — and then create systems for giving those employees a response. Advise your leadership to take the high road, even when that’s not what they want to hear.

While this is decidedly more difficult than working with a company that already has an enviable culture, it may have a more powerful impact on the world. As the bumper sticker version of Ghandi’s words says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Want a partner in helping to shift the culture at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Communicating culture starts with the hiring process – even with the applicants you reject

SquareMost onboarding programs place an emphasis on sharing the company culture from the very first day an employee shows up for work. But that’s not where the process begins.

Exposure to the company culture begins with the hiring process. Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, you’re communicating the culture to every single applicant, even those you don’t pursue.

How you treat the candidates you don’t end up hiring is just as important as the ones you do. No matter what the specifics of your culture may be, being rude is probably not a value you promote. Yet that’s what many companies are communicating, rejected applicant after rejected applicant.

In Tribe’s research on hiring practices, many companies let rejected job candidates fall into a black hole. Respondents reported that even after several interviews, they often received no notice that the job was filled with another applicant. Their calls and emails to their hiring contacts went unanswered. Understandably, this made a poor impression on job seekers.

Why should you care? Because of those who had a negative experience in the hiring process with any particular company, 78 percent of respondents said they would be “likely to discourage others from applying to that company in the future.” Just as your company places a high value on word of mouth amongst consumers, it should take what job hunters say seriously as well.

Here’s the kicker though. Treating rejected applicants well can turn them into ambassadors for you company as a workplace. Over 87 percent of respondents said that in situations where they were not hired, but had a positive experience such as very personal or courteous treatment, they would be “likely to encourage others to apply to that company in the future.”

This is low hanging fruit. By simply establishing hiring processes that treat all job applicants like they matter, you can potentially improve your ability to recruit top talent.

For instance, incorporating this one small step into your process can make a difference: If a candidate has taken the time to have an interview, even a phone interview, make sure you close the loop when you give the job to someone else.

Don’t worry so much about being the bearer of bad news. In our research, respondents overwhelmingly preferred knowing they didn’t get the job to being left hanging.

Interested in improving your hiring practices? Tribe can help.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Making Your Vision and Values Actionable for Employees

iStock_000056231554_MediumIf your company has communicated its vision and values to employees, you’re way ahead of the game. Outlining what the company is trying to achieve and articulating the values intended to guide the business is a huge step.

But just because you’ve shared the words doesn’t mean you’ve finished the job. To truly create alignment between employees actions and the company vision, you need to go further.

The next step is to help employees understand how they, as individuals, can help make that vision a reality. Do they know what part they play? Do they see the connection between what they do every day and the business goals of the company? Do the values seem relevant to them?

One of the best ways to achieve this is through concrete examples. Instead of telling employees what they should do, try showing them what it looks like to live the values and support the vision.

For instance, if you have an internal magazine, incorporate several employee spotlights in each issue. Take three or four real employees and interview them about how they see their job supporting the vision, and how they put the company values to work in their day-to-day work. Include photography, so other employees get to see people like them, in roles like their own, being treated like heroes.

One benefit of this sort of communication is giving recognition. Employees who approach their work with an eye to how it contributes to the overall success of the company certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.

The other benefit, and perhaps the more important one, is modeling the desired behavior for employees throughout the company. When you let employees tell their stories, giving specific examples of times they’ve applied the values in their work, or explaining in down-to-earth terms how they see their work contributing to the vision, it helps other employees get it. It enables them to take the lofty language that is common to company visions and values and apply it to real-world situations.

That’s when the magic happens. When employees make that connection between what they do at work and something bigger than themselves, that’s when you get alignment. When you’ve got alignment between how employees are working and where the company wants to go, you improve on measures that really count. Engagement, productivity, retention, profitability and of course, the bottom line.

Interested in building your alignment? Tribe can help.

 

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To Attract And Retain Millennials, Share The Company Vision

At Tribe, we like to say our highest goal is to help align employees with the vision of their company. People like to feel they’re part of something bigger, and they particularly like knowing that their day-to-day work contributes to the company’s overall success. And from a productivity perspective, there’s not much better than having everyone moving things ahead in the same direction every day.

With Millennials, this is even more important. A Deloitte study found that 60 percent of Millennials cite the company’s purpose as a reason for choosing to work for their current employer. If you look only at those Millennials who are most connected on social media, that number rises to 77 percent.

So how do you do that? The same study found that 75 percent of Millennials believe that companies are more focused on their own agendas than on the good of society. And of course, to stay in business, all companies necessarily must concern themselves with turning a profit.

The sweet spot is when a company manages to combine good business with doing good. Sustainability is a great example of this win-win scenario. As the company reduces energy usage, for instance, they’re cutting costs as well as benefiting the environment.

Those in Gen Z, the generation following Millennials, have an expectation of this win-win being relatively simple. In Tribe’s research, many of these young people mentioned in interview sessions that they expected to solve world problems their parents had not made much progress with. They cited their more global views and continuous improvement in technology as two advantages to finding those solutions.

As both Millennials and Gen Z fill more and more of our leadership positions, they’ll begin to mold the way their companies present themselves in the world. We’re likely to see a greater focus on company vision that serves the greater good in addtion to monetary business goals.  For them, this could be business as usual.

Interested in recruiting and retaining these new generations? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

It’s Not Email That Wastes Time. It’s Poor Email Practices.

HiResEmployees spend 28 percent of their time managing email, according to McKinsey. If we consider email just another channel, like the phone and the intranet, then email is one of the ways people get work done. Yet in Tribe’s research and client work, employees consistently complain of email wasting their time.

The problem lies not in email itself, but in inefficient email practices. Those sending emails often make poor use of the To and CC lines, use vague subject lines and write long and rambling missives instead of clear and concise emails. Employees aren’t processing their incoming emails effectively, and find themselves bogged down in their inbox, letting messages collect there until they can figure out what to do with them or how to respond. In workplaces everywhere, employees are missing important emails because they’re overwhelmed with so many that don’t concern them at all.

It’s also easy to let email interrupt your concentration on work that requires real focus. The constant stimulation of incoming messages offers ongoing distraction from the job at hand. The studies on how long it takes to get back on task after an interruption suggest that this isn’t a very productive way to work.

In an attempt to eliminate those distractions, one company banned email completely. story in Fast Company described CEO Cristian Rennella outlawing all internal emails in his South American travel company. Instead, employees sign into a custom project management site that uses absolutely no notifications. The system is what Renella describes as “pull methodology” instead of “push,” since employees decide when they’re ready to read communications and field questions and requests from their co-workers.

The cultures of most companies might not support that “whenever” approach to response time. For those companies, Tribe would recommend training on efficient email practices to quickly and efficiently communicate with colleagues internally.

Does that sound like something your company needs? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

How to promote collaboration for employees working from home

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAX_AAAAJDYzODQwYWRjLWRlZGEtNDY3ZC04OWVkLTk0ZWQxNzVhY2RkNwPromoting a culture of collaboration is hard enough when employees are all in the same place. Even companies with only one location can be so siloed that people in the same building but different functional areas resist collaborating.

So how do you get employees working from home to collaborate with others? That starts with laying some groundwork that will be the foundation of future collaboration.

Employees are more likely to collaborate with people they know. In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, respondents told us they feel much more comfortable sharing ideas when they already have a relationship with their collaborative partners.

Home-based employees don’t get the opportunity to bump into people in the hallway. While office-based employees may exchange a few words in the elevator, the break room or the cafeteria, home-based folks probably see the UPS guy more than their co-workers.

Building human connections happens one conversation at a time. But even just having a face to attach to a name seems to help. In our research, employees said they’re better able to collaborate by phone and email with colleagues in other locations when they’ve met them in person at least once.

It’s important to provide home-based employees with opportunities to brush shoulders with their office-based colleagues. For major projects, try to have them attend some meetings in person, even if that means travel. If there’s an annual managers’ meeting or sales conference, they can build the beginnings of relationships there, especially during the non-meeting portions of the meeting where people have an opportunity to interact socially.

Another brick in the foundation for collaboration is to help home-based employees not feel invisible. Being the only voice on the Polycom phone in the center of the conference room table is tough when all the other meeting participants can see each other. Promote a meeting culture that’s consciously inclusive of remote callers and gives them a chance to weigh in on the conversation.

If there are company events they don’t customarily attend because of travel, don’t forget your home-based employees exist. When Tribe helped plan a global employee event that occurred on the same day in 28 offices around the world, we sent the small minority of home-based employees an event in a box. They received a package (no doubt delivered by their buddy the UPS guy) that included the same T-shirt everyone else received at the event, plus the themed collateral, printed buttons, a noisemaker and even a cookie.

Those sorts of tactics may not seem directly tied to promoting collaboration. They may even feel a little fluffy. But you can’t just tell people “Okay, now collaborate.” First, you have to help them feel comfortable doing so. Not so ironically, there’s a clear business benefit to treating all those office-based employees with common courtesy and kindness.

Interested in building engagement and collaboration in your work force? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

For internal comms, choose your weapon carefully

When you’re talking to employees, should you be thinking rifle or shotgun? Marketing folks often refer to the advantages of a targeted rifle shot rather than a shotgun approach, but in internal communications, the reverse is more likely to get the job done.

You can reach some people with every channel but you can’t reach everyone with just one channel. Consider the differences in media preferences. Most millennial employees use their mobile devices more than their computers. Non-desk workers in manufacturing, retail and other industries where employees are largely offline are probably not going to be spending a lot of time on your intranet.

Besides generational differences and the physical realities of certain jobs, employees will have their own personal preferences. Just like some people prefer real books to Kindles, some employees still like to be able to touch and hold their communications. Some will welcome internal communications sent to their personal mobile devices; others will hate that. Almost all those employees with a company email address would prefer to receive less of it.

Even the same employee will prefer certain communications one way and other types of communications another. Is it urgent? Maybe a text or email is the right channel. Is the communication articulating the company vision and values? They might rather be able to flip through a printed piece for that. Is it a quick tip or nice-to-know company news? Some employees might click on that when they visit the intranet. Others, who don’t spend much time on the intranet, might rather see that information as they’re walking by digital signage.

Think also about a channel to give employees a voice. Make sure you’re providing at least one channel for employees to share a question, concern or idea with leadership. And put a process in place for employees to get a reply. Posing a question that seems to fall into a black hole is worse than not being able to ask the question at all.

Are you developing a communications plan to reach more of your employees? Tribe can help.