For some organizations the Millennial generation (born between 1978-2000) is a long awaited solution for a young tech savvy, agile workforce; however others struggle mightily with this generation.
For firms that have embraced the Millennial mindsets of technology, social media, work/life blend, and working for purpose, the fact that Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020* is a welcome sign. For others, this generation can be a management nightmare, as words such as entitlement, unaware and flaky, among others, are often used to stereotype this cohort.
Why is it that some firms have Millennials figured out while others don’t? First, when examining management it is important to distinguish between leaders and managers. My experience has been that the entrepreneurs in control of financial planning firms tend to be leaders who get people energized about a vision; and not necessarily managers who get people rallied around the mission, that once executed, bring the leader’s vision to fruition. This isn’t to say that one can’t be both, but it isn’t as common. In many instances, there are leaders who are being forced to manage, or leaders who aren’t aware that they aren’t effective managers who get stuck in the mindset that everyone else is the problem.
In an effort to alleviate some of the headaches associated with Millennials some firms experience, here are some insights on how to manage them successfully to leverage their intrinsic talents for the betterment of your organization:
Flexibility – Work/life blend is a key component to attracting Millennials to your organization and retaining them. They place a high priority on time off and working outside the office. Keep in mind, with advances in technology, it doesn’t necessarily matter as much now where they are during the work day, as long as they are available to clients, and the work gets done. They also seek opportunities where they can work on different areas of the business to gain a broad array of skills. Flexibility within the established career track is an additional attribute sought out by this group. For example, a new planner might enjoy their work and firm culture, but the only way they see to advance is to become a Senior Planner with a silo business underneath an existing RIA. What if they don’t see themselves on that track? Hint: They are likely to feel more challenged if the work they are doing becomes more complex and is not the same thing over again.
Fulfillment – Millennials want to make a difference with their lives and careers. This is due in part because a good number of them have seen their parents give their heart and soul to a company, only to improve the stock price one point, which then led to some undifferentiating monetary reward. They don’t want to follow that same path. It is important for Millennials to see the impact of financial planning and how it shapes peoples’ lives. When I was in this position as a young planner, having clients directly tell me how much they appreciated my efforts and how relieved they felt that someone was accompanying them on the journey kept me motivated during some difficult times in my career. Hint: Showing them how their work improves your life and especially the lives of the firm’s clients can be a powerful motivator for some.
Freedom – Millennials deplore micromanagement and prefer autonomy once it’s earned. They also seek empowerment to develop and integrate new ideas into the firm. Firms should grant them freedom to share their opinions and be vulnerable in front of their superiors without fear of blowback and ridicule. A manager once gave me a great deal of leeway when I took over the majority of the legacy clients when I was just starting out in financial planning. This helped build my confidence while I was searching for and developing my style of client communication. I had the freedom to try many different things, some worked and some didn’t, but I never lost a client nor got us in any trouble with any regulators! Hint: Resist the urge to micromanage and control everything. This creates more stress and makes people not want to work for you.
Fun – Not to say that firms should have weekly bashes, but Millennials do want to know that the atmosphere for fun is inherent in the firm’s culture. In fact there are ways to integrate fun into your workplace without incurring large costs, such as hallway putting contests, 80’s tie day, a TV with the NCAA tourney on in March, prizes for employees who have the fewest filler words or typos, etc. Other ways to consider having fun could be: If you just signed on a large new client and/or had a successful meeting, close the office down and take everyone out for happy hour. Millennials will remember these types of things and will pass them along to their network, who could potentially be future employees. A long time ago, I had an employer promise during the interviews that we would stop work early sometimes and go play basketball. I can’t remember what my salary was at that job, but I do remember that we never did go play basketball. For this reason and quite a few others, I didn’t feel comfortable referring my network when the firm was hiring. For additional ideas on fun see http://bit.ly/WorkplaceFun Hint: Never being told good job when it is warranted and getting yelled at constantly for mistakes does not qualify as fun!
The firms that embrace and implement Flexibility, Freedom, Fulfillment, and Fun will be best positioned for success when the majority of the workforce seeks this type of environment over the next few years. Firms that ignore these ideas will find themselves pursuing a rapidly shrinking portion of the talent pool and continue to lag behind in profitability and employee satisfaction.
- Caleb will be attending the CFP Board Registered Program Directors Conference August 8th- 9th in Washington, DC
- Michael will be presenting to FPA San Diego on July 24th www.kitces.com
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