3 Things Millennials Need to Know About Their Bosses

First off…Congratulations! It’s not easy getting hired in this market but well done for showing the skills, capabilities and attitude that an employer was looking for. You can now look forward to start paying off some of that student debt and getting so good at your chosen career that you’ll be able to go freelance in no time.

Now for the first few days in a proper job – very different from the ones that you did to earn some beer and rent money whilst you were studying – and your first proper, corporate boss.

There’s no need to worry though. There are 3 things you need to know about them…

  1. They’ve read a whitepaper/study/report on what you’re like and how they should manage you. They may even have had a day rate consultant come in and educate them on it.
  2. The report has told them that you’re a digital native, have a sense of entitlement, get bored easily, want to spend all day on Facebook and whatsapp, don’t intend to stay with them very long and would much prefer to work the hours that suit you than a regular 9 to 5.
  3. They have kids, or have friends who have kids, who are similar in age to you so they really do know even more about you than the report could tell them.

Your relationship with your boss is important so you need to get off on the right footing. You don’t want to disappoint them or fail to meet their expectations so I suggest the following…

  • Turn up about 10 minutes late on your first morning and make sure that you’re holding a takeaway coffee cup – not from a high street brand. When you meet your boss for the first time just say ‘Hey, didn’t realise it was going to be so difficult to get a decent cup of coffee round here
  • At some stage you’ll be given a tour of the office. Towards the end of the tour be sure to ask where the ping pong table is. If they’ve got one then ask where the pool table is. If they’ve also got one of those then you’ve actually done quite well so quickly move on to point 3. Unless they haven’t got any bean bags, in which case ask where yours is.
  • Once the tour is finished you’ll probably be shown to a desk, work station or open space and given a laptop. Remember to look at the laptop you’re given and tell them that you can only work on an Apple machine. If they’ve given you one then make it known that you can only produce your best work on a top of the range iMac.
  • Once you’re logged in and ready to go make sure you spend the first hour updating your social profiles and sending Facebook friend invites to everyone in your team. Also follow them all on Twitter and be sure to connect with your boss on LinkedIn and ask them for a recommendation.
  • When you get ready to leave at the end of the first day tell your boss that you’re going out with a few college mates to celebrate your new job and ask if it would it be OK if you work from home tomorrow.

Your boss may pull a strange face but remember that they’ve almost certainly spent a lot of money on the whitepaper/study/report/consultant and it’s your duty to make sure that their money isn’t wasted.

Don’t worry that you might be giving the impression that you’re not serious about a career there – the report would have almost certainly told them that 80% of your age group want to work for themselves anyway…


(image via Midland University)


If You Tolerate This…

Regular readers (and people who follow my Twitter threads from conferences) will know exactly where I stand on generational stereotyping. For avoidance of doubt, I’ve covered it here, here and here. The categorisation of a group of people by perceived similar traits – whether you call it Ageism or Generationism in this case – is something that should not be anywhere near the thinking of HR professionals.

You wouldn’t seek out advice on how to manage women, ethnic minorities, gay people or over 60s within the workplace so why do it with under 30s.

Of course one of the major problems with any ‘ism’ is that the categorisations eventually become lazily accepted as the norm and then influence the ability to think rationally and contextually about people…leading to casual ageism and the inevitable inter-generational conflict, in turn creating further unnecessary problems

Which brings me to Kelly Blazek and the infamous rejection email that went viral and elicited strong apologies. You would have read about this a week or two ago so I won’t go into the specifics. Here’s the excerpt that nails it for me…

“Wow, I cannot wait to let every 25 year old jobseeker mine my top tier marketing connections to help them land a job. Love the sense of entitlement in your generation. And therefore I enjoy denying your invite.

To me it seems that some of the apparent vitriol aimed at graduate jobseeker Diana Mekota was borne from the old cliche, and hence perceived belief, that her generation feels a sense of entitlement and needs to be taught a lesson. As I said earlier, casual ageism. Did it blind a respected business woman from showing a degree of perspective when she wrote her response? We’ll never know.

We tell job seeking graduates – and therefore our kids too – to reach out and try to connect with as many people as possible in the job hunt. Show initiative. It will help you stand out. But it’s nothing really to do with age. It’s something I did when I first entered the job market and it’s something that job seekers of all ages are encouraged to do now.

But when the young do it they seem to risk coming up against a wall of prejudice.

So once again I say to HR professionals on the subject of Ageism and Generationism – forget it.

If you tolerate it…then your children, quite literally it would seem, will be next.

(Image via mutual pensions & annuity)

Talking Talent & Potential at #HREvent14


I’ve just returned from an interesting 2 days in Birmingham at the HR Directors summit. It was well run – fast paced, varied and lively with a strong stream of case studies and masterclasses topped and tailed with keynote speakers who were largely from outside the traditional HR sphere. Kudos to Clare Dewhirst, Nicole Dominguez and the rest of the WTG team for organising.

There was some excellent live blogging from Ian Pettigrew and Gemma Reucroft whilst the hashtag #HREvent14 managed to reach number 1 in the trending list once or twice over the two days.

A few observations on some of the things that were talked about….

Talent is an asset

But what is talent? Quite a few sessions looked at this subject, both from the angles of finding it and identifying it, with a focus oh high potential programmes and thinking outside the box. Many key points across the two days:

  • Current top performers are not necessarily the same as your high potentials
  • The key attributes for potential are aspiration, ability and engagement
  • 46% of leaders moving in to new roles fail to meet business objectives through a mixture of wrong promotion criteria and unclear objective setting (CEB research)
  • Strengths based recruitment for those with little or no work experience significantly improves quality (Nestle case study)
  • Don’t just look outside for talent, create from within
  • A lot of talent gets wasted through a mix of poor management, disengagement and lack of proper workforce planning
  • Look beyond certificates and the CV, find people who have overcome obstacles and interference to achieve
  • Putting it another way, we overrate certificates and underrate attitude
  • Recruit for individuality and capability to innovate, don’t just focus on past experience
  • Companies need to transition mindset from owning the talent to the talent being with the individual

Recruitment woes

Much of the talent points arose from recruitment. Certainly many of the breakout discussions were around the folly of hiring to rigid specifications and failing to spot people with attitude and ability who may have been unable to fulfil their potential elsewhere or in difficult circumstances – a failure to assess skills or performance within context.

On the second morning Rasmus Ankersen (by far the most inspiring keynote speaker) produced a slide containing a quote from the CEO of Capital One Bank saying:

“Most companies spend 2% of their time recruiting and 98% of their time managing their recruitment mistakes”

This quote was well received by the auditorium (full of HR Directors and senior practitioners) but was met with dismay from recruiters following online. I don’t know where the figures came from, they may have been a CEO embellishment or just a personal view, but many attendees (the ones who inevitably do some of the 98%) felt a ring of truth, something that became apparent during a panel session later in the morning.

Tellingly the quote was also endorsed by Facebook (no slouches when it comes to finding talent) during their afternoon presentation.

I’m guessing that a lot of the 98% didn’t represent recruiters failing to do their jobs properly, but hiring managers poorly scoping the role or looking for the wrong characteristics and capabilities.

Leadership and the people agenda

We had a fair few CEOs amongst the speakers and panellists (pretty good for an HR conference) signalling a shift in the people agenda. Some of it was to do with social, though more was about leadership. Some nuggets:

  • If you want great things to happen don’t worry about getting the credit
  • Leadership isn’t about what we are now but about what we can be, what we can do and where we can go.
  • I need bad news. I don’t shoot the messenger but need to act on what I’m told to put it right.
  • If you deal with people for a living you have a much harder job than those who deal with predictable things. (HR isn’t easy!)
  • Leadership isn’t about a handful of people. It’s about everybody.

Question time!

In a first for an event of this type there was a daily panel to discuss the themes being talked about. Placed in the main exhibition hall, with capacity for 70 attendees, it was a mix of discussion and questions from the floor.

I’m proud to say that I was on the panel both days and really enjoyed it. The reception was good – standing room only on both days – and between myself, Perry Timms, Mark Ellis and Peter Reilly we got some quite lively debates going.

And in true ‘Question Time’ tradition we had a range of topics raised by the delegates to discuss, including Kevin Pietersen’s dropping by the England cricket team and the impending strike by Tax officials!

We got some great feedback and I hope this kind of participation becomes regular at similar events.

Generational myth making and myth busting

When I wrote my preview for the event I observed that this was one conference that seemed to avoid the usual generational stereotyping presentations. Unlike certain others, there had been little of the ‘why Gen Y are different‘ content and when the topic had been touched on it was from a different angle, using research that avoided the usual suspect cliches.

Anyone following my twitter feed over the 2 days will know that, sadly, this year was different. The cliched stereotyping of the attitudes, behaviours and aspirations of people under 30 cropped up in many presentations, culminating in a bullshit bingo full house during the Facebook presentation.

I’ve blogged on this before so will not go into depth on it here – I may deal with it another time. What I would say is that the Facebook session also included many supposed stereotyped traits of Gen X and Boomers and in closing, the speaker Stuart Crabb admitted to (and kind of apologised for) using stereotypes. He also observed that all generations are represented in the Facebook workforce, and all of them embrace the ‘Gen Y‘ culture that the company work so hard to create. Which does make you wonder why he didn’t just describe the culture and approach to work without having to resort to representing it as something designed to appeal to a certain age group.

And as I’ve written many times, the defining of a group of people by perceived personality and behavioural traits is not something that should have any place in HRs thinking. No-one in 2014 would host – or attend – a session entitled ‘How to get the best out of the over 60s‘ or ‘How to manage women‘ so I don’t know why it seems acceptable for consulting firms (it’s always consulting firms) to do this type of research and then present it as insight.

Maybe I should paraphrase (misquote) Mr Einstein – not everything that matters can be researched, and not everything that is researched matters.

The future’s bleak

Unusually for a conference, the opening keynote was a bit like the grim reaper coming for our global labour market. David Arkless, founder of the Future of Work consortium, had few moments of optimism or positivity for us with many global problems of a social, work and financial nature being aired. There was a strange passage in which he seemed to praise dictatorships as they tended to got their workforces productive and operating efficiently whilst democracies hindered talent management (cue blogs on 5 things HR can learn from Kim Jong-un) and then offered a stark visualisation of the world’s inequalities.

It was a downbeat and, frankly, quite worrying message for a conference opener, which may not be a bad thing as it did get people thinking, but overall seemed a bit incongruous with what followed.

HR in the headlines

The final conference session was a Q&A with Lucy Adams – still, just, HR Director at the BBC. Needless to say the questions, put by business TV presenter Juan Señor, were about the media storm that followed her appearance before the Commons select committee last year.

She handled herself well and spoke with humility and honesty, talking of the need for visible leadership when morale is low. The questions weren’t exactly probing (fairly standard TV business interview fare) but the audience did get the opportunity to ask questions. I wanted to ask her if she thought that the reaction she got was worse because she was a woman, and that a male HR Director at the BBC may have got an easier ride. I nearly put my hand up but have to say that after a couple of days of criticising the Gen Y stereotyping I though better of raising something that may have looked sexist.

I did manage to spend a couple of minutes with her at the end though so asked the question one to one. I got the impression that she wished I’d have asked it during the session, and had expected the question to come up at some stage. Next time I won’t be so timid. And yes, needless to say, she did seem to feel that gender played a part in her situation.

Overall messages from the two days? Talent and potential…recognise it and nurture it – use it don’t waste it. And people like to be treated with respect at work…whatever their year of birth…