Let me start by saying this: I am by no means trying to declare war on snacks, cushy bean bag chairs, free workout classes or any other office workplace trend that is supposed to make millennial employees happy. We LOVE these things! That being said, we love these things more:
Keyword here: leader. Not boss, mentor, manager or whatever fancy word you use to describe someone who just tells you what to do. Now — please understand that I recognize that my boss is my boss. She holds the power to decide which projects I am assigned, my travel schedule, if I get promoted and, ultimately, if I ever am let go.
After just six months at my previous company, I knew that I needed to start looking for another opportunity. To avoid sending the wrong message of leaving my first full-time post-grad position without at least a year under my belt, I knew I had to stick it out before starting my job hunt. I began looking as soon as I hit the 11-month mark. I figured by the time anyone actually saw my resume, it would be a year on the dot. When I came to my current company, I (admittedly) did not apply based on my love of the industry. While I do enjoy making people’s lives easier through the technology we implement, I applied because my boss from my previous company had joined my current employer six months prior. The thought of working for my former leader was what got me excited about applying for this position, because it was giving me the chance to once again report to an actual leader. Now that I have praised her existence, let me explain why I feel this way. Years of working under her have proven that I can trust her, she is dedicated to being part of the team and she focuses on developing people to be the best employees they can be.
Each week I have a 30-minute meeting scheduled with my boss, the VP of Operations, to go over everything we believe to be important. Our time is usually spent talking through questions about projects that I may be unsure on, reviewing my goals and objectives, or giving/receiving feedback in a way that is comfortable for both of us. While this half hour of scheduled time is nice, there are definitely days that we end up sitting in a room bullshitting for 30 minutes about our lives. That being said, having a 30-minute block of time each week with her is ideal for inquiries that can wait and when I do not need an answer immediately, but when it comes down to it, she makes herself available whenever I need her. She understands that some issues or escalations cannot wait 2 days until our scheduled time together.
One of traits that I admire most about her is that she is never focused on what caused a mess; she is always more concerned with jumping in and doing whatever she can to help clean it up. I have never been yelled at for failing. Of course I make mistakes, but I am given the tools and constructive criticism to ensure that I do not make them again, and then followed up with points I can improve upon to become more efficient. The difference is made when I am consistently given these things in a way that encourages me to want to do better, not in a way that makes me wonder if I am going to be fired if I make another mistake. The practice of waiting to bring up an issue until a yearly or half yearly review is not practical; the sooner you confront an issue, the sooner it gets corrected and resolved.
Unpopular (but honest) opinion: If you are a salaried worker, you are not being paid to work eight hours a day; you are being paid to get a job done. Being a salaried employee myself, I understand the need for security that comes with the guarantee of being compensated regularly. That being said, I also understand the importance of give and take in these situations.
I know that I am probably going to offend a lot of people with my next statement, and if you are one of these people, please know that I am only saying this because I have found it to be very true and I am probably doing you a favor by telling you. Employees (not entrepreneurs) who work 12+ hour days on a regular basis are doing one of three things: creating more work for themselves and those around them, do not really understand what it is that they are doing or truly have way too much work on their plate.
On any given weekday, I would estimate that I get somewhere between 35–55 emails each hour during standard business hours. Of those emails, I would say about 20 percent of them I am simply CC’d, and a response from me is not necessary. My ideal time to do work is between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight. During this time, I generally can fire off at least a dozen emails, and not have twice as many in my inbox by the time I am done. I have gotten the “What were you doing up working at that hour?!” response to an email more times than I can keep track of. Well, luckily for me, I work for a company that understands the needs of a night owl and allows me to adjust my work schedule to adapt to my life rather than the other way around.
89 percent of millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 position [Odesk]. The idea that everyone has to be sitting in a cubicle 40 hours a week to efficiently work is a dying notion that companies must be willing to overcome if they want to attract and retain top talent. If you do not trust me to get my work done, regardless of where I am getting it done from, why did you hire me in the first place?
Something else to take into consideration when determining if working from home could work for your team is the commute! If you are anything like me, you spend up to TWO hours a day getting to and from your workplace. Imagine if instead of sitting in the car driving, you are able to spend those two hours being productive. Video and web conferencing, file sharing and web tools allow people to collaborate in real time across not only the office but across the world. Are the wheels in your head starting to turn yet?
The Anti-Dress Code
Recently I came across an article that focused on General Motors’ CEO, Mary Barra, and more specifically, on corporate America’s dress code. During the interview, Mary said that “the smallest biggest change” she’s made at GM involved changing the dress code while she was the vice president of global human resources. The change? A two-word dress code that simply states, “Dress appropriately”. As I read on, all I could think was if GM, a global company with 180,000 employees, makes the decision to trust their employees then what could possibly be stopping everyone else from following suit?
My favorite example for the anti-dress code argument is billionaire businessman Mark Cuban. If you’re not familiar with the Shark Tank Investor / Dallas Maverick Owner / any of the hundreds of companies he has started or invested in, do me a favor and Google him. Mark wrote a blog post titled “Why I Don’t Wear a Suit and Can’t Figure Out Why Anyone Does !” and the part that jumped off the page to me while reading was “The minute you open your mouth, all those people who might think you have a great suit, forget about the suit and have to deal with the person wearing it.”. I may or may not have screamed “YESSS finally someone who understands what I am thinking” over and over again while dramatically throwing my hands in the air every five seconds. The article can be found here, and I promise it is worth the read.
Now, I’m not going to say that a dress code is a make it or break it when deciding whether to take a job. However, if presented with two identical offers from two great companies, you better believe I am going to favor the offer from the company that is more concerned about the work I am producing than what I am wearing.
**Pro Tip: If having your employees look nice for significant meetings and/or events is important, ask them to keep a spare change of clothes in their desk or give them a heads up when you know you will require it!**
Incentives (Pay for Performance)
“Millennials are entitled! They don’t want to work hard, they expect certain positions/salaries right out of college and they think they can just walk in and do whatever they want and make up their own rules.” All these stereotypes almost prove my entire point for me! When you read “incentives”, knowing this was written by a millennial, I would be willing to bet that your first thought was “Why should I have to incentivize my employees to do their jobs? That’s what their hourly pay/salary is for!” and that is 100 percent true, and you are absolutely right. But allow me to play devil’s advocate to that statement for just a minute , because money talks.
At age 23, I became the first project coordinator in the history of my previous company to be promoted from a coordinator role to a project manager role in less than a year. I did not receive that promotion because I acted entitled, complained that any tasks were below me or was related to the owner. I received it because I worked my ass off, and quickly realized that the harder I worked, the more incentives I received. I could have easily coasted on my base salary for a few years, but as soon as I got a taste of the rewards and recognition that came with putting in the extra work, the more I wanted to succeed. Six months into working as a project manager at my current company, I was promoted to become one of three senior project managers. Again, I EXCEED my goals not only because it was my job, but also knowing it benefited me. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, I was able to exceed my projected profit margin by six percent. Each time I closed a job with a higher than projected profit margin and a happy customer, I knew I would be rewarded for doing so.
This structure CAN work for almost every business model, you just have to figure out in which way. Smaller businesses can save money upfront by offering a lower base salary, and employees are then incentivized based on what they can do to help the business grow. Larger businesses and corporations incentivize by basing higher ranked employees by what they can do to help the employees under them succeed, and the entry and associate level employees by performance factors such as meeting specific targets or organizational achievements.
Now, I do feel the need to include a good faith disclaimer regarding this: incentives and pay for performance programs should be used as an INCENTIVE to do well. However, it is both the employee and the business’s responsibility to make sure the goals they are setting and approving are obtainable without creating an unhealthy amount of stress for employees or competition in the workplace.
I know this is the last bullet point, but it is the most important. In the short 16 months that I have been with my current company, I have been reached out to and offered more than a dozen interviews by customers who I have done work for in the past or by former coworkers who have moved on and try to inspire me to follow. I have not turned these down because I am comfortable where I am, but because I know that these companies and the leaders that I would report to are not going to encourage me to leave early to make it to my niece’s kindergarten graduation on a typical Wednesday afternoon, or allow me the freedom to work remotely for two weeks to travel across the country while I am young, single and able. When I spoke up regarding a controversial issue that I was passionate about supporting, I was pulled into the CEO’s office to be assured that I would have the company’s full backing for anything I needed to support the cause. I cannot speak for CEOs across the world, but how many do you know that would have this same response?
One of my favorite stories to tell about why I love my job comes from one of our company-wide weekly meetings that took place a few months back. Our VP of Strategic Partnerships shared an inspiring story he had heard about a company who gave an employee two months paid leave while he was taking care of his sick family member. The employee had come in to resign, and after hearing why, his company decided they were not going to allow him to leave because of choosing something out of his control that could happen to anyone. This story was not shared in our meeting to roll out a new sick or paid leave policy; it was an opportunity for us as a company to set the stage for standards that we are inspired by.
I know more than a dozen people who work for a company that has been voted “Best company to work for” more than 10 years in a row. The one thing all these people have in common: I have rarely seen them since they began working here. One of my college classmates said to me, “The health insurance is great! Well, but I don’t have to time to actually use it”. WHAT?! Now, I know that I said this wasn’t a war on snacks, but offering free snacks, coffee, workout classes and whatever else while on the job/ “after hours” is great, but you’re still at work. Another former coworker of mine told me she was going into the office on a Saturday because it counted as a “free day”, where the hours she worked didn’t count against her monthly numbers. She looked at me like I was insane when I responded with “Yeah, but you are still going into work on a Saturday after you have already worked 60 hours this week?”.
I know it is crazy to think everyone has a life outside of work, but everyone (including your customers!) will benefit from employees who are balanced and happy. Mind = Blown.
mike bc says
Although well written, seeing this article in MTD is a bit disappointing: an article that delineates how to deal with a specific group of people — lumped together simply by their age range — is both condescending (to people of the same age range) and narcissistic (this article would be better titled “What Kelsey Wants At Work”). Replace the word “millennial” with any other qualifier (women, black, Asian, senior, etc.) and this article would likely never have been published, as it would have been labelled racist, sexist, etc.
To be fair, many of the things you mentioned are good ideas for ALL employees: everyone — regardless of age — “has a life,” so to speak. And, part of that life is their job, which — as an employee — means being part of an organization that expects certain things by a certain time. Allowing flexible hours to maintain that balance — as well as deal with unforeseen life issues — is a valuable, intangible commodity that many people prize. However, some — perhaps even most — positions require people being in the same place at the same time most of the time: when I worked for AVDB Group a few years back, the Administrative Coordinators in each office (there were four) worked four 10-hour days. Since none of them had the same schedule — and the company used a centralized software platform for everything the Admins did — the idea was that there would always be 3/4 of the Admins available and any one of them could fill in for the one who happened to be off. It didn’t work — it forced people in Operations in one office to explain (for the second time) what they needed to the “fill-in” Admin, wasting even more time and prompting the fill-in Admin to send a second set of emails dealing with the same issue, wasting even more time of everyone involved. From your title, it looks like you’re in a Sales/CS/AM type of role, which is much more suited to flexible hours than anyone in Operations — it may even be advantageous in that type of role as it allows you to meet with clients on their schedule. That being said, there are still other team members who rely on you for information and input and you need to be available to them on their schedule, too.
As for dress code, I agree: “Dress appropriately” is a fine mantra. However, I would expound a bit: dress appropriately for your environment, taking into account with whom you’re meeting (co-worker? boss? client?) and where you’re meeting (your office? theirs? the job site?) Also, don’t be a distraction to your own brilliance: make sure that whatever comes out of your mouth outweighs your wardrobe/personal hygiene choices. Always assume that there is someone smarter than you in that meeting (in my experience, there usually is) and that they will be unimpressed by your sharing. Therefore, they may very well judge you by what you’re wearing. Perhaps not fair, but that’s how the world sometimes works.
Lastly, as far as the bean bags and pool tables and such go — if, as an employer, I am giving you time to relax and play at the office, I expect you to work (as needed) when you’re away relaxing and playing. In my mind, this is part of that work/life balance you wrote of: I find it much easier to not try to separate “work” from “personal” — I am only one person and I carry the respective responsibilities of those two domains 100% of the time. Sometimes the work part requires my full, undivided attention for several days in a row; sometimes my personal life does the same. On occasion, that looks like a vacation, which — Top Tip! — works best when you go somewhere that has no internet; other times, this may look like caring for an elderly parent or helping a neighbor recover from a house fire.
If I could leave you with one takeaway, it would be this: you are just one player on a large team; just as your goals in life require others to fulfill their responsibilities, they are counting on you to deliver on yours. Your wishes for a “perfect” workplace are not everyone else’s and may even be in conflict with what the organization needs from you to function smoothly. As a LEADer you will realize that each person — even if they’re the same age range as you — has their own unique goals and dreams and needs; if you want the best performance out of them, you will need to mold yourself in a way that helps them win — even if it means working late in a beige cubicle while wearing a horrid business suit.
Jonathan Blackwood says
Thanks for the input Mike. I think it’s very healthy to debate articles we put up on the site, and I think you make some great points about how more than just millennials value work/life balance.
Where I do have a problem with your response is that saying this should not have been published on the site. Many companies are looking to understand how to attract millenial talent. Many studies have been done into millennials in the workplace and what they value. The same has been done for every other generation, as well as for many groups of people, segmenting along lines such as race, gender, and age.
To your initial point, we would gladly publish an article that explains what different groups value in the workplace. Women are a great example – especially with technology companies that generally have an underrepresentation of women in the workplace. To learn more about what women value in companies – generally, of course, it’s impossible to segment down to the individual and all research must make some sort of larger segmentation in order to exist – would be a huge benefit to many companies. I don’t see that as sexist, I see it as thoughtful and understanding that, in general, different groups value different experiences. Trying to be more inclusive to the needs of different types of employees is just the opposite of prejudiced.
Now, you’re right, this is Kelsey’s opinion. It’s an op-ed piece about her experience in the workplace as a millennial. That doesn’t disvalue her statement in any way – she’s giving her experience, same as you have given your experience in your comment. Neither of you offers research backing up your claims, or posits that what you are saying will undoubtedly apply to everyone in a certain group. You’re simply giving your perspective based on your own life and the observance of peers. Which is still valuable – it gives a human element to much of the research already out there that makes broader strokes without giving specific examples.
I’m sorry you’re dissappointed in the piece, but it certaintly seems to have spurred you to contemplate the experience of employees in the workplace. I see that as a good thing. If you’d like to offer a formal rebuttal, or write about your own experiences in the workplace, I’d be glad to consider that as well. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail!