Policy & Practice

Entitled Millennials and their Expectations

Reprinted from my “The Practical Business Radical Column” in The Business Press

I’m a Millennial. Born between 1978 and 2000, we grew up in the midst of rapid change, fueled by technological innovation. Some people say that we act entitled and that we have high expectations of our employers. It seems, however, that earlier generations had bigger expectations of their employers than we do. Here are the things I do not expect: I do not expect anything to be permanent. I do not expect to work for the same place for the next 25 years. I do not expect the company I work for to take care of me in my old age. I do not expect to ever be able to truly retire. There used to be expectations of pensions and “permanent” jobs, and Millennials do not have those expectations.

That being said, there are things that I do expect. I expect to be paid fairly based on the value I add to the company I work for, no matter what my age is. I expect that the length of the ladder I have to climb to get to the top will get shorter and shorter based on my performance and will have nothing to do with how many years I work at the company. Given the fact that I have no expectation that I will ever be able to retire, I expect to have a job that I love doing every day, to the point that if I became a millionaire and no longer needed to work, I would still want to keep doing my job.

I expect that judgment of my performance will be based on measures that matter and not on arbitrary and empty measures like how many hours I spend at the office or what time I arrive in the morning. I expect that the company I work for will give my ideas equal consideration alongside the ideas of someone with longer tenure. I expect that I will be given the freedom to manage my own time and my own performance. I expect the company that I work for to trust me, respect me, and build a team of talented, passionate people for me to work with.

This may seem like a long list. But the difference between the Millennial’s list of expectations and previous generations’ list of expectations is the price tag. Other than the expectation of fair pay for my contributions, most of the things I expect from the company I work for do not require any money. I am not asking for a pension or a fancy retirement plan. Trust and respect do not cost anything. Giving me the opportunity to have my ideas heard or take on leadership roles actually have the potential of helping the company I work for improve its financial performance. Giving me control of my time can improve company productivity and innovation.

In addition to having expectations of the company that they work for, Millennials often have high expectations of themselves, and of how the work they do will contribute to society in some way. They are willing to do what it takes – including rewriting the rules – in order to have an impact. This willingness to do things differently and to be unconventional can create significant tension because traditional business is more about following a standard set of rules and processes. Sometimes it is hard for Millennials to understand why their perspectives might not make sense to everyone. When I speak about our Results-Only Work Environment, I am often surprised that not everyone in the audience jumps on board with the concept right away. It makes so much logical and business sense to me, that it is hard to understand why other people would not see it the same way. When Millennials face these types of hurdles we just keep working until we amass the evidence and support to change the game.

As the number of Millennials in the workforce continues to increase, companies that do not pay attention to their expectations (and the strengths they bring to the table) will fall further and further behind. The expectations of Millennials can result in changes to the work environment that benefit all of the generations in the workplace and the company itself. We might have a long list of expectations, but it is our expectations that will help raise the bar of performance for your company.

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Thoughts & Observations

The BBQ That Will Change Your Business

Reprinted from my “The Practical Business Radical” column in The Business Press

If you don’t think a BBQ can change your business, then you’ve never met Bernard Ross. A year and half ago, I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference in San Diego. Unfortunately, for most of the conference, I felt like I was attending a history lesson: the same strategies and tactics repackaged under the false pretense of fancy new titles. Then I met Bernard Ross, the Director of the Management Centre in London, who is a loud Scotsman with a thick accent and a propensity for profanity, and the registration fee I had paid for the conference was instantly made worth it. He convinced me that what I needed to do to help move our organization forward was host a BBQ. Not just any BBQ would do. This BBQ needed to be a Sacred Cow BBQ.

The name may sound somewhat horrific, but the concept and the results are anything but. At the foundation of a Sacred Cow BBQ are an organization’s “sacred cows” – the rules that an organization follows, both written and unwritten, official and unofficial. Every organization has sacred cows, things that have become so engrained in an organization that no one can remember why the rule or procedure got developed in the first place. Sacred cows are the “we’ve always done it that way” elements of any business.

Not all sacred cows are bad. Sometimes sacred cows are good. There may be some things that you’ve always done that are actually effective and beneficial for you to keep doing and that in fact are what set your business apart from others (like In N’ Out Burger still using fresh potatoes for their french fries). The point of the Sacred Cow BBQ is to bring multiple stakeholders in your organization to the table to openly and honestly discuss all of your organization’s sacred cows – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Depending on the type of organization you run, a Sacred Cow BBQ would involve all levels and types of staff, customers, volunteers, clients, other businesses, and vendors. Although not necessary, it helps if you actually do host a real BBQ (people are more likely to come and actively participate if food is involved). The location for your BBQ will need at least one wall that can accommodate Post-It notes being stuck all over it.

Here are the Sacred Cow BBQ rules: each participant is given a pad of Post-It notes and a pen. Before any food is served, the participants anonymously write down as many of your organization’s sacred cows as they can think of, one per Post-It note. There is no judgment passed on the sacred cows they write down and it is acceptable if their sacred cow is the same as someone else’s. For each sacred cow that the participant writes down, they get one piece of BBQ. Their first sacred cow gets them a hamburger bun, their second gets them the hamburger, their third gets them condiments and hamburger toppings, their fourth gets them coleslaw, and so on. As the participants turn in their sacred cows in exchange for food, the sacred cows get posted on the wall. Before long, all of the stakeholders in your organization are staring at a wall covered in sacred cows.

As everyone enjoys their hard-earned meal, the session facilitators start the process of categorizing the sacred cows, grouping similar and duplicate sacred cows together. As this process takes place, patterns start to develop. It becomes clear what the organization’s biggest sacred cows are. For us, the most frequently listed sacred cow had to do with requiring volunteers to complete too many forms. After the sacred cows are categorized, the session facilitators lead a group discussion around the top five or ten sacred cows. Together the group talks about each sacred cow and debates whether it should be kept, modified or removed.

The discussion that occurs around a Sacred Cow BBQ is probably one of the most interesting discussions you’ll ever have in your organization. It provides clarity around what your organization values and what may be preventing your organization from growing or providing better products or services, and it gives you starting place to make changes. Since we knew that our volunteers were frustrated with forms (our biggest sacred cow), we embarked on a forms reduction project and brought the number of forms from 52 down to nine essential forms. That is how a BBQ can change your business. What are your sacred cows?