Caribbean Millenials

I read an excerpt from Claire Raines’s book “Connecting Generations” (2002) and found it to be outstanding in describing the characteristics of each generation — she is spot on.

However, I have found that our new recruits who fit the Millennial profile (age) with first degrees have certain characteristics that have proven to be a management challenge to generation-x managers.

These new graduates have just received their Bachelors degrees and are already aiming to their Masters Degree right away with little or no work experience.

When they enter the new organisation, their department is populated with a cross section of generations working at various tasks; this poses a diversity management challenge in itself. Apart from the obvious differences, the attitude, work ethic and expectations are so far removed from the other generations.

With minimal work experience, they expect to be placed in high level jobs. Organisations need to determine the candidate’s ability to do the job at a lower level first before entrusting the candidate with higher order responsibilities. They think they are much better than they really are.

On way of managing such situations, is to give the candidate projects that they believe they can deliver, while allowing for time to do any necessary re-work. I have found, after much time, and many excuses for non-completion, an admittance of ignorance and a request for assistance with a humbling demeanour usually follows.

The humble, open, attitude is welcomed by all co-workers and now the substantive on the job learning can take place without the inhibitors of “feeling of this is beneath me”. This usually builds competence, experience and ability.

The notion or the perception of a false sense of ability coupled with an air of arrogance can be addressed with a sobering dose of “on the job reality”.

Compensation is another high expectation that follows from an inflated sense of ability. Millennials benchmark themselves against their peers and expect the same status and or compensation even if they as individuals are not as competent in their respective fields as their peers. Long ago, I (Gen X) was told by my parents (baby boomers) “don’t look at what other people have, you don’t know what they had to do to get it”.
The Baby Boomers in our organisation also complained to HR about the lack of manners by the young millenial employees. The comment was “they don’t even say good morning, good day, please, thank you, excuse me”. We are in the process of addressing this in our orientation and diversity management workshops leveraging off our Guardian Angel programme here at Guardian Life.

The older generation considered it an honour to have a job and worked for work’s sake. Baby Boomers characteristically have worked hard because their self-image was based on their career. The teenagers and the twenty something year olds are in the “no fear” category, they are not motivated by threats, progressive discipline or loss of job and this comes across as arrogant and disrespectful to the other generations.

Claire Raine identified unique and compelling messages fed to the Millennials. They are: be smart, you are special, don’t discriminate, 24-7 connectivity, achieve now and serve your community. As I reflect on this, I tell my one year old son, he is smart and special all the time and I chose a pre-school for him to start attending in 2010 by placing his name on a waiting list since he was one month old.

In conclusion, the key is to get to know each individual and what drives him/her to be able to determine the best work plan and style that will achieve on time deliverables. It would be interesting to know if any other organisations in the region experienced similar behaviour.


Employee Retention

Competitive pay and benefits can get talent in the door, but can the money keep the talent? When employers demonstrate a commitment to work life balance, commitment to providing career development and training opportunities, with a supportive flexible working environment, caring attitude towards staff and a strong balanced emotionally intelligent management and leadership, they have found the key to retaining high-potential employees.

Often I hear employees say all they want is more money and they will be motivated. I had a conversation with a senior engineer recently and the discussion started off by him saying HR people need to understand that money is the ultimate motivator, just pay people more.

I, like Herzberg, believe money to be a satisfier not necessarily a motivator. After an employee is being paid competitively, any incremental increase in money will not necessarily translate into any related incremental increase in performance. One person’s capacity is finite and one usually has an equilibrium point of effort they exert to achieve company targets, objectives and tasks. What do I mean by “equilibrium point”, you know when someone has peaks and depressions of performance, due to various reasons, well they eventually return to their normal work pace.

Our challenge as HR professionals is to optimise employee’s performance by moving their equilibrium work pace upwards. This means that we work towards achieving sustainable high levels of quality performance by fully engaging the employee and thereby retaining talent. The phrase “fully engaging the employee” is a compounded concept that is as a result of many contributing factors, some of them were mentioned in the first paragraph above.

Towers Perrin’s 2007 Global Workforce Study explored the drivers of workforce engagement and noted that although relationships with managers are important, the actions of senior leadership and workplace programmes hold even greater weight. I will share my thoughts on the line manager’s role.

Line managers and their ability to manage people is a current challenge. This has been brought about by promoting technical competence into managerial positions, thereby losing a good technical resource and possibly gaining a bad manager. More often, these newly appointed technical resources are not equipped with the tools necessary to manage people. Yes, sometimes we make grave errors in using wrong criteria for promotion and we further compound the error by not providing the necessary training intervention and then we expect stellar performance from this promoted candidate.

The first challenge after finding yourself in this situation is to get the managers to accept people management as their responsibility. This message must come from the top and continuously be supported by all the senior Executives. The managers must not be allowed to abdicate their people management role to Human Resource. They also must not use HR as a “scapegoat” where they often say “It is not me, that is a HR policy, HR set that rule”. The Line Managers often want HR to write a rule about everything under the sun. This way, the line can refer to rule 3.2 under subsection 4 of policy x as the reason why they cannot do something.

I suggest a comprehensive training programme comprising of seminars, workshops, role plays, and mentors supported by the performance management system to help drive change among the manager group.

The training I played a part in develping looks at thirteen sections. Section one focuses on the big picture, role definition, organisational culture, reason for their team and managing upwards. Section two addresses the issue of transitioning from employee to manager, followed by managing tasks and objectives, setting targets, managing and measuring team performance. Section four looks at leadership, styles of leadership, and how to vary styles according to staff demographics (generation, age, gender, etc…). The other areas are customer service, networking, time management, delegation, coaching, industrial relations, using the HRIS and performance management with emphasis on managing poor performance. These areas should also be slanted and aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation.

In addition to the training, we designed a 180 degree feedback form be completed by the managers’ direct reports. The form was designed according to the ideal profile of a manager in my organisation. The ideal profile also informs the promotion criteria and the selection criteria and is also used as the benchmark when conducting training needs assessments. The form was designed to produce one single score and this is used as a measure in their people perspective of their respective scorecards.

We identified a number of measures that are indicative of the Line Manager’s people management skills. One of which is the number of employee relation issues that have been escalated to the division head and or HR which could have been handled at the managerial level. Other measures are the percentage of leave taken, the turnover (for specific reasons) within the department, and number of employees nominated for and received spot awards, and quarterly awards. The criteria for these awards are also aligned to the organisation’s desired culture and strategic direction.

One should also have baseline figures for these measures before using them as legitimate measures to track progress.

We have also re-organised HR to provide an increased business focus and support to the line managers in carrying out their duties.

In effect, when a decision is made to empower and train the line to have total responsibility and accountability for managing staff, the rest of the employees in the organisation have to align themselves to support that decision. The Mckinsey Seven S model is a useful tool to ensure all areas are addressed.

At the end of my conversation with the Engineer, after we exchanged stories about managers and how they manage, he admittedly declared that when his manager behaves in a certain way, it encourages him to surf the internet all day regardless of his high salary, positive upbringing and work ethic.