“Generation Next” – Give Passion A Chance to Grow

For those of you that are weekly readers of this blog you know that we have previously written about Generation Y (aka Generation Next, the Millennials, etc.)  I personally have an interest in this generation since all three of my sons are part of that group.

I read a blog post today from the HBR Blog Network entitled “Solving Gen Y’s Passion Problem”  written by a Generation Y member, Cal Newton.  He notes several sources that have called this generation “Generation Me”, “The Worst Generation” and “Generation Why Bother”.   They are often characterized as “pampered”, “high maintenance” and “perhaps . . . too happy at home checking Facebook”.   The premise of his post is that this criticism may be valid but it is because this generation has been “misinformed”.  They feel “entitled” because we have repeated told them to “follow their passion”.  What we have NOT explained is that passion is NOT necessarily automatic – it may need time to grow.  I agree.

First I want to address the criticism of this generation.  They are NOT all pampered, high maintenance, spoiled, etc.  Perhaps those that are sitting at home checking Facebook are doing so because only about 50% of them could find jobs after graduation.  Maybe many of them are living with their parents because we have allowed them to be crushed under record levels of student debt.  If “following their passion” means they are trying to fix the environment that we have been destroying for decades I am all for it.  Let’s face it we have done a disservice to this generation and we will ALL be paying for it or many years to come.

So how do we fix it?  Let’s start by changing the conversation.  In his post, Cal’s talks about giving passion a chance to grow.  Think about this.  How many of us are currently working in the profession we thought we would be in when entered or graduated from school?  This is a question I ask the participants of every training class I deliver (I have trained hundreds) and 9 out of 10 times the answer is NO.  Careers have a funny way of taking you in directions you never imagined.  For example, Steve Jobs was very interested in philosophy and Eastern mysticism and look where he ended up.  For myself, my passion out of high school was Fashion.  I entered college as a Fashion Merchandising major, ended up with a major in
accounting as well, became a CPA and now am a consultant.   I didn’t plan to be a consultant, it just happened.  I had never even heard of Supply Chain Management – who knew?  But it is my passion today and I love what I do.  By the way, I still have a passion for fashion but I fulfill that passion outside my career.

The conversation I have with my sons is “follow your passion” as long as you can earn a living at it.  In addition, every experience you have in life can help you uncover a hidden passion.  My oldest son, for example, was a sports management major.  After graduation he looked tirelessly for a job in that field.  After a few months, he needed a job so he took one selling copiers and he hated it. BUT, it gave him business experience, strong sales training, a steady paycheck, the ability to live on his own and a realization that sales (not copiers) was his passion.  He used that experience to land a job in media sales and he is doing great!   He is not where he “planned” to be but he discovered a passion he never knew he had.

I happen to think Generation Y is great.  In my experience they are bright, hard- working, tech savvy, demanding and perhaps our greatest hope for a better future.  Generation Y ignore the bad press.  We baby boomers were subjected to criticism we needed to overcome as well.   Follow your passion OR let passion find you.

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What Is a Millennial to Do?

Lately, I have been thinking about Anne’s blog post from a few weeks ago called Next Practices with “Generation Next.”  In the article, she talks about Millennials (folks born between 1980 and 1995), and since I was born in 1980, I guess I fit into this category. Anne talks about the needs and wants of people of my generation. She listed things like flexibility, good pay, work/life balance, and interesting work as factors that are important. Her article was spot on. But my question is this – is the ability to get positions that offer these benefits realistic in today’s market?

I am sure many of you have seen the “You Are Not Special” Commencement Speech.  In the speech, David McCullough Jr. says “Do whatever you do because you love it and believe in its importance.” This is a fantastic sentiment and fits in with much of the Millennial rhetoric. But then Google “College Graduate Unemployment” and article after article pops up stating that one in two college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.  Add to that the student loan debt and lower median wages and it looks like dreaming will need to wait. Many talk about the student loan bubble, but what about the emotional toll created from such a job market?

There is a lot of doom and gloom and an apparent disconnect between expectations vs. reality. The general feeling seems to be that we are too pampered and expect too much. That might be the case, but my generation is also resourceful, intelligent, and hard working. I see a big shift happening. Where the job market is not providing opportunities for my generation, we seem to be pretty good at going out and creating our own.

I moved to Chicago a year and half ago for various reasons. I knew no one, but I realized that I had to put myself out there. I started networking and meeting people at various functions. Many people I talked to have gotten tired of trying to navigate through a nearly impossible job market and have decided to make it go on their own terms, whether through tech startups or bakeries started out of kitchens. For these folks it is more about doing what they believe in and succeeding on their own terms. I am not saying that all of these ventures will become multibillion dollar companies, but maybe that isn’t the point.

I see this as a shift as my generation ages and gets more experience. If the old rules aren’t working for us, we will create our own. Perhaps we all still have the rebellious teenager inside us. The same teenager that sat in the hot sun one June day, diploma in hand, feeling like she could take on the world.

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Take Care of Your Best People or Someone Else Will

Take care of your best people or someone else will.  I’m sure you have heard this saying many times; I know that I have.  How many of us really internalize the meaning to ensure that we are indeed doing everything we can to retain our very best people?

I have been writing a lot about people, competency and talent management over the last few months.  But nothing hit closer to home (no pun intended) than when my 24 year old millennial son quit his job last week for a new career opportunity.  The response he got was exactly what I expected but I was still dismayed nonetheless.  His immediate boss was shocked, hurt and told him he was making a big mistake. She also told him that he was unprofessional by not letting her know that he was looking for another job.  Huh?  His boss’s boss told him that since my son had given them two weeks’ notice he had two weeks to get him a promotion.  Sound familiar???

As a backdrop, my son was a high performing sales associate AND not shy (he gets the “not shy” part from his Mom).  He let his boss, her peers and her boss know for months that there were major issues in the way the sales associates were being managed starting with the VP (who knew no one by name and never left his office) to the Sales Managers who refused to juggle territories to make it more beneficial to long term employees (“we just don’t do that here”) to the Regional Manager who had other issues. Eight sales people left within an eight week timeframe.  My son’s boss is spending most of her time recruiting, recruiting and recruiting because her experienced people are walking out the door left and right.  Perhaps more time spent on retaining, retaining and retaining would curtail the need for recruiting. More retaining would result in less time and money spent on bringing new people in (which is extremely costly) and could result in more time spent on building customer relationships and increasing the bottom line.  It’s time for someone to realize that the old way of managing sales people just isn’t working.  Wake up people!!

The scenario I am illustrating is not only a real one but happens more often than we like.  I know numerous Supply Chain professionals that leave because promises made – “we are going to do more sourcing”, “we are going to lead the entire supply chain”, “we are going to provide you training to help increase your skills”, “we are going to help you manage your career”, “we are going to give you more exposure or more responsibility”- just never seem to happen.  There is nothing more frustrating than going to an organization where you believe you can make a real bottom line impact only to find yourself expediting P.O.s.  Sound familiar???

In many organizations the employees that get the most attention are those that are NOT doing their job as opposed to the ones that have real potential.  Why is that?  It just doesn’t make any sense?

I was recently at a conference and listened to Jeff Silver, the CEO of Coyote Logistics, speak.  His company is not only one of the fastest growing transportation and logistics companies in North America but has also won a number of awards for being one of the best workplaces as well.  Mr. Silver hires young professionals and provides them the training, tools and guidance they need to flourish and grow their careers.  There are no offices, except for HR and he knows all his employees by name.  My son has several friends that work there and they all feel like valued employees.  This is a talent management model to replicate.

To all those bosses out there that have forgotten that your best employees are your greatest asset and deserve to be nurtured and valued; consider yourself warned.  Employees that feel like they are being treated fairly (or more so) will give back to the company ten-fold.  Take this post  as a wake-up call to act now before someone else has the opportunity take care of your best and brightest.

Not realizing that your “stars” are out looking for another galaxy is almost as bad as forgetting your partner’s birthday . . . . . .

Join the conversation and give us your thoughts . . . . . .

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Next Practices with “Generation Next”

The “Millennials” or often referred to as “Generation Next” are not only coming, they are already here. With this new generation 80 million strong (born between 1980 and 1995) and rapidly taking over from the baby boomers who are now pushing 60, we are being forced to look at Talent Management in a completely new way.  We must take a Next Practice approach to managing “Generation Next” or lose the war for talent altogether.  60 Minutes’ MorIey Safer did a report a few years ago entitled “The Millennials are Coming” where he discusses some of the challenges being faced in the workplace as we deal with this new generation of workers.  Safer says, “They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief you can, take your job and shove it”.  Where there are challenges there are also opportunities and Supply Chain leaders have the opportunity to turn these young, multitasking, tech-savvy, “I come first” workers into the most innovative, productive workforce of our time.

I was sitting in a conference yesterday listening to a number of speakers discuss the challenges we will all be facing with “Generation Next” (I have three sons in this category and am quite familiar with both the joys and challenges of this generation).  As I was listening, I was also thinking about all the Next Practices we (The Mpower Group “TMG”) have been trying to drive home to the Supply Chain community.  The thought occurred to me that some of the attributes of “Generation Next” may very well be THE personal attributes of a successful “Next Practice” Supply Chain professional:

  • Well educated
  • Hardworking
  • Self-confident
  • Team players / collaborators
  • Inclusive and diverse
  • Technology / social media savvy
  • Socially responsible
  • Information gatherers
  • Communicators

Would these not be the very attributes that would be required to attack the Supply Chain from a value focus as opposed to the traditional (they are not even familiar with this approach) TCO approach as Dalip Raheja laid out in “Friends, Romans and Countrymen – Lend Me Your Ears!  I Come to Bury TCO . . . . . .”  or tackle the Social Media issues as depicted by Crystal Jones in “Social Media and the Supply Chain”  or  help solve the adoption issues (has this generation not been the faster adopters of new solutions and technology?) as discussed in “Old MacDonald Was Right — It Is About E-I-E-I-O!”

In addition, “Generation Next” has very specific requirements as they are choosing a career. They are looking for the following:

  • Flexibility
  • Work / life balance
  • Direction / roadmap
  • Interesting work
  • Training & development
  • Career advancement
  • Frequent feedback
  • Coaching / mentoring

In other words, they are literally crying out for Competency Based Talent Management (“CBTM”) which is what I was at the conference to present AND TMG has had numerous posts on

In a nutshell, CBTM starts out by defining the demonstrable skills, knowledge and behaviors (competencies) required to be successful within your role to meet and/or exceed the goals and objectives of your organization – direction and roadmap.  It then uses those competencies as the foundation for an integrated talent management program:

  • Recruiting (you must have all the other elements in place or you will be forever recruiting)
  • Performance evaluation (frequent feedback focused on demonstrated competency)
  • Training & development (a MUST – focused on APPLICATION of new competencies)
  • Career Management (coaching / mentoring to advance your career)
  • Succession Planning (identification and movement of high potentials)

Interesting work – I may be a geek but I think Supply Chain is diverse, exciting, challenging and offers a wide range of career opportunities within and across organizations and industries!

As for flexibility, work / life balance and social responsibility – well, maybe we Baby Boomers could learn a few Next Practices from “Generation Next”.

If you don’t have a competency based talent management program in place for your organization you may want to step on the Next Practice bandwagon before “Generation Next” passes you by and goes to the Next company.

Join the conversation . . . . . .

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Education vs Reality

I wanted to build upon Anne’s post last week regarding human development and the importance of a sound education system. I found her post right on point, especially because I just finished reading Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for) by Seth Godin (you can download it for free here).

I am most familiar with Seth from his books and blogs on marketing. However, this work was slightly different. In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth talks about America’s education system and how it is completely outdated. He states that we are not educating people to function in the new economy but for the manufacturing-focused economy of the past.

I found this interesting, especially because I can relate. Commonly in my adult life I have felt like I wasn’t educated or trained to handle the tasks that professionals face on a daily basis. These are things that were overlooked in my K-12 education. I don’t once remember a teacher saying, “Here is how to manage a project, work in a team, or handle a difficult personality.” Perhaps I was sick that day. College helped some, but it didn’t prepare me for what I faced outside of the Ivory Tower.

I remember my first job out of school was working as part of a four-person production team. We created hardbound visitor guides that were placed in hotel rooms. Revenue was based on ad sales.  At one point our team was producing 16 books a year. Did my education prepare me for the pressures of working with three other people with personalities different from my own? Was I prepared for the stressors of working under extreme deadlines? Did I feel comfortable reaching out to customers regarding their ads? The answer to all of these questions was a resounding no, but I had no choice but to figure it out. After a lot of trial, error, and learning through experience, I found the answers to these questions. I realized that I had left school without the key skills needed (communication, leadership, teamwork) to succeed.

We keep talking about how the strategic skills are what really matter, skills like communication, leadership, and teamwork. These are the skills that are needed in this new economy. Very few of us head to a plant and put widgets together. Which, according to Seth, the old educational system was designed to teach us. We are now constantly connected, thrown together into different situations, and are expected to make things happen. Most of these situations don’t have a rule book. There are no rules. They are unique to the transformative economy we find ourselves in. We either sink or swim. The only skills that are going to save us are those strategic skills. But how do we get these new skills if our educational system is focused on us sitting in lectures and completing assignments home alone. Isn’t it better to work in a group and combine the collective knowledge of the team towards a problem?

Developing these skills is now falling to companies and individuals. Organizations are struggling to find talented individuals to fill their teams, and employees are struggling to find their place. Perhaps it is time to look at the beginning instead of the end.

I lucked out as my love of learning and excellent mentors have helped me over these hurdles. However, life is a marathon not a sprint. There is plenty I still need to learn. I just need to stay flexible and push myself to keep growing.

Have you faced these same issues in your professional life? If so, how did you grow professionally?

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