Why I think I am a 61-year-old Millennial
While driving this morning, I listened to a radio interview focused on the news headline that Millennials now outnumber Boomers and the impact that is having and will have on the workplace. The speaker was espousing that like their Boomer parents, Millennials have the same goals of getting married, having a family and owning a home, but have very different expectations on how to achieve these goals. Millennials value capability over experience and tenure. As a result, they have aggressive expectations of advancement and promotion. They also demand a career that they will enjoy and will provide them with a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, they value flexibility and have integrated technology in the all aspects of their life. Therefore, they demand flexibility to do their jobs outside of the traditional construct of “9 to 5 in-the-office”.
Wow! That sounds like my career.
I have been fortunate throughout my corporate career to have worked for two outstanding and enlightened companies. Both believed in the same thing: Outcomes are more important than Activities. Both had strong cultures of rewards-based performance management. Simply put, if you did your job and produced the expected results when required, how you did it was less important.
As a result, I accomplished the lifestyle for which many Millennials aspire. In 27 years at IBM and PeopleSoft, I had an upwardly mobile career while enjoying a demanding family life with my wife and four children.
I never tracked vacation (nor often even reported the vacation that I took). If I was ahead on my numbers, I took more. If I was behind, I worked harder.
I have never worked within a 9 to 5 job construct. I have always been an early bird and found that I got my best thinking done in the office long before everyone else showed up. As a result, I never worried about days when I left early to goes see my kids’ activities. I also never counted days off for an extended long weekend as vacation days. In my career, I think my employers always got the better deal in terms of the number of hours that I worked, but I got the flexibility that I wanted.
I got my first car phone circa 1989, now allowing me to work on my commute, talk to customers while in transit between meetings and be more available as the needs of the business dictated. I got my first laptop circa 1991 and started dialing in to access email thus allowing me to work at home in the evenings, on weekends and when I couldn’t get into the office for weather or family reasons. Later, came my first handheld mobile phone and then an early version of the Blackberry so I now had email access 24/7.
Did this make me a workaholic? Maybe some would say yes, but it gave me the flexibility to make the important decisions to decide when I wasn’t going to work because of family or other priorities.
Through the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s came the concept of “Working from a Nicer Place” such as extending weekends or holidays at the cottage by being able to spend a couple of hours working and the rest of my day with my family.
I was a Millennial before my time.
Now, as I see early stage companies struggle to attract and retain Millennial talent, I believe part of the solution is to adopt an outcome based performance culture. Stop worrying about vacation tracking and whether someone has taken 12 or 15 or 21 days of vacation this year. Your managers and HR team have better things to do than worrying about this. Stop caring when a person arrives at the office or when they leave or if they are even there. Being present and looking busy is not a substitute for outcomes.
So does this mean your company descends into a state of anarchy where there are no rules and people can’t get their work done because they rely of the presence of others. No, but it means as a leader, you will need to learn to empower and trust your people more. It also means that if employees don’t live up to their end of the bargain, which is to produce the outcomes that their job requires, then as a leader, you have hard decisions to make about that person’s future with your organization.
A few years ago, Cali Ressler and Jodi Thompson wrote “Why Work Sucks (and how to fix it)”. While I don’t agree with all their recommendations, their book and its ROWE philosophy (Results-Only Work Environment) are a valuable manifesto for implementing radical change in your workplace. I have assisted a client in doing so and while it felt radical to them, it was common sense and felt aligned to my experiences in my career. For you, it may be the puzzle piece you need to attract and retain Millennials and take your business to the next level.
So how did my life turn out. My family remains very close; I am happily in my 37th year of marriage; my four children have all grown into successful young professionals; and I am happy to say, all have learned the “Work Hard” part and are starting to learn to balance that with the “Play Hard” piece which will allow them the same balance in their lives that I had in mine.