Generational Differences vs "Is this the right person for the job?"

by Eileen Nonemaker

Eileenís long, successful career in sales and sales management makes her an easy choice for those leaders and managers who are responsible for generating revenue and achieving corporate goals and have no time to waste getting there. Clients appreciate her ability to help them quickly select, assess, train and develop their sales teams whether they are selling products or services. New teams get brought up to speed quickly and experienced teams develop what is necessary to perform at the next level. Through goal setting, skill refinement and the development of accurate forecasting skills, she has helped both individuals and teams develop strong success strategies. Utilizing her formal training as a business coach and consultant to supplement her natural ability to connect with people, Eileen gains the trust and respect needed to interact with both leadership and team members. When coaching individual clients, Eileen becomes a 'lady on a mission' to help them succeed. Eileen is able to help them stay focused on their objectives and establish goals that take them to that next level in their personal and/or business lives. Her coaching typically involves teaching people how to set measurable goals, how to look at goals objectively and how to re-evaluate them periodically to stay on track. Eileenís goal as a coach is to help her clients find the right balance between career and family so they have the best of both worlds.

A client recently asked for some hints on handling an employee who was a millennial.

This was the second request for help in managing this employee, so I asked if it was a generational issue or if this employee was right for the job. The answer was, "I don't know, but I want to give her the benefit of doubt by understanding how to manage her."

Knowing how costly it is to hire and train a new employee, this was a valid consideration. I helped with discussion points and some written resources to educate the manager on some of the characteristics of this generation.

Millennial, an abbreviation for millennial generation, is a term used by demographers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Sometimes referred to in the media as "Generation Y," millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation. In many presentations on generational differences, I have described the Millennial or "Y" in the following way:

  • Fortune magazine deemed Gen Y the highest maintenance but potentially highest performing generation in history. They are viewed as technologically sophisticated, well positioned to address global issues and inclined to see the world as a vast resource. Driven to make a difference, they are seen as entitled and outspoken.
  • Millennials enjoy flex-time, telecommuting, volunteer service, and career incentives that permit talented and competent candidates to advance quickly. To retain one, an organization must support the technology they use and commit to socially responsible causes. They will gravitate to organizations that are not just focused on profits, but have socially responsible missions. You encourage their values and show you care.
  • To manage a "Y" be aware that they want the best and think they deserve it. They do not want to be seen as children and forget gender roles, they have. It is important to show how their work will contribute to the organization. Mentoring is critical.
  • As employees they enjoy hands-on and team based activities. It is important to make it fun and provide lots of feedback. Allow for creativity, incorporate games and technology, as well as simulations and case studies. They do like structure and like to tie learning into actions.

Seem like a lot to absorb and consider? It is a great amount of information and there is a fine line between designing the position and organizing the rest of the team to fit the new employee's characteristics and style or having the new employee adapt to the role required.

When I followed up a few weeks later, I found out that this employee had been terminated. It seems she only worked on those projects she was passionate about - a millennial characteristic. She did not pay attention to detail an important aspect of her position, -such as proofing materials going to print and on the web. She did not clean up after events, lacked a sense of responsibility - wrong person for the job. She also overestimated her own abilities, but would not ask for help when needed and was intimidated by other team members - millennial and wrong person.

The bottom line for my client was the negative effect this employee was having on the rest of the team that had worked well together for several years. Most recently she reorganized job responsibilities and is bringing on a junior member to handle more administrative tasks instead of events.

Most importantly she has realized the importance of the various online assessments available to evaluate the personality, values and styles of a potential employee. Taking some of the guesswork out of the hiring process is an important way to avoid months of stress and anxiety, as well as lack of production. Nothing is fool proof, but the odds are in our favor when we know more about the person we are hiring; personality, generationally and skills wise.