Sometimes firm owners contact me to express frustration over a younger member on their staff who is not professional enough, is unable to think critically, and does not respect authority.
While it’s important not to over-generalize a Millennial generation totaling 80 million people, we do recognize that there is some validity to the concern that younger planners lack certain soft skills to succeed in the profession and develop into a solid succession plan for existing advisory firm owners.
I recently read generational research guru, Bruce Tulgan’s book, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics To Today’s Young Talent, which does a solid job of describing the origins of this issue and what to do about it. Here are some insights that you might find helpful as you strive to build your dream team.
Why Millennials Are Different
In addition to mentioning a commonly cited departure from societal conformism that was prevalent in the 1950 to non-conformity beginning in the 1960’s, Tulgan indicates a myriad of potentials for a professionalism gap for Millennials. This includes coming directly from school, where they were treated like a high value customer where life was made easy for them and someone else was probably paying some or all of the bill. In addition, many Millennials were raised by “helicopter parents on steroids”, and didn’t experience conflict and failure as frequently as prior generations. Finally, growing up in a time where complete customization is the norm can lead to a new hire having difficulty understanding why they often times cannot have a position that is always uniquely tailored to them.
In terms of not being able to think on their feet, Tulgan simply points to the fact that they have never had to. Today’s instantaneous access to information offers answers they need, so the expectation is that learning curves are immediate. On the downside, there are “experts” supporting any proposal, which can lead to a false sense of intellectual diversity.
Lastly, when supervisors are frustrated with the newer workforce not respecting authority, they must remember that “Question Authority” was the truism while growing up. Millennials also approach their employers as a customer would, thinking “what can you offer me?” It is important to remember too that these younger workers love grownups and still remain close to their parents. It is amazing how many new planners we talk to who want to move back in with mom and dad!
Steps To Better Manage Millennials
Considering 9 out of 10 new hires fail due to lack of soft skills and by the year 2020, 80 percent of the workforce will be dominated by those generations coming after the Baby Boomers. Consider employing these steps in your hiring process to find the best soft skills match:
Step 1 – Build out the job profile that lists hard skills and soft skills. E.g. ‘Taking care of all aspects of a client’s financial life through effective communication and superior subject matter knowledge.’
Steps 2 – Look at sources such as the Military, Eagle Scout, PeaceCorps, athletics, etc., for candidates who may have gone through some soft skills training.
Step 3 - Attract candidates for whom the idea of self-building is a big turn on, not a turn off. They tend to be involved in various other professional and personal improvement endeavors.
Step 4 – Start with a bias against hiring. Instead of taking the typical approach of assuming a candidate is hirable and deducting points for mishaps and/or red flags, start by viewing the candidate as not a fit and awarding them points as they do things that impress.
Step 5 – Shine a bright light on all of the downsides of the position. Utilizing behavioral interviewing techniques to see how they respond when you essentially try to talk them out of the position. Note: You have to be delicate with this in a tight talent market as the profession is in currently.
Step 6 – Use the time between offer acceptance and start date to continue sending messages about your high priority for seeing good soft skill behaviors. Then once they are aboard, spend half the time on soft skills training.
For further information, check out Brue Tulgan’s new book Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics To Todays Young Talent. And be sure to check out all of the How To’s we’ll be sending in Part 2 of this series, including scripts that you can use with your team members.