37: Canaries in the Coalmine - Ignore Millennials at Your Peril

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Bruce Tulgan is back discussing his latest research and debunking myths about what millennials want and need in their careers. Bruce was one of our first guests (See Episode 4: The Needle in the Haystack & the Couch) during which he offered advice on coaching and developing millennials in the workplace. In this episode, Bruce talks about the shifting work dynamic (to short-term and transactional); the qualitative research he’s conducted across a wide, diverse demographic; and two organizations who understand millennials and are getting it right.
Bruce is internationally recognized as the leading expert on young people in the workplace and one of the leading experts on leadership and management. He is a best-selling author, an adviser to business leaders all over the world, and a sought-after keynote speaker and management trainer. Bruce is the founder of RainmakerThinking®, Inc., a management research, training and consulting firm and the leading authority on generational issues in the workplace. His latest book is an updated and expanded edition of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials.
Listen (above) in or watch the video (below) to catch Kyle's latest interview with Bruce.

HR Studio Podcast Guest Quote - Bruce TulganKey Learnings From This Episode

 Download the Show Notes

  • Millennials as Canaries in the Coalmine. For over 24 years, Bruce and the team have been doing in-depth interviews with managers and young people in the workplace. Over 500,000 people have participated in his organization’s research, including surveys, interviews and focus groups. They continue to try to keep their finger on the pulse of the new, young workforce as it continues to change and help business leaders and managers understand what young people are looking for and how to bring out the best in young talent. His research is qualitative in nature, exploring broad trends and common denominators, attitudes, behaviors, and expectations. Young people are on the leading edge. If you look at young people, they can be likened to ‘canaries in the coal mine’ – they show you where we are all headed. They are already there and they haven’t known it any other way. 
  • Work Environments – The Shift to Short-term, Transactional and Dynamic. Bruce’s team looks at their research data every day and advises organizations on what is changing when it comes to staffing strategy, how to attract the best young people, how to select the best employees, the best way to get people on board and up to speed, and what people are looking for. Flexibility and how to give millennials that flexibility is how the company drives performance. This is an era where people don’t believe in the long term promise that this is where they are going to be in five, ten or fifteen years – that doesn’t really work anymore because there is so much uncertainty. So how do you keep people engaged, how do you make people stay for the long term when you can’t do it with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? You have to do it on a day-to-day basis. What the team is doing with the research is following the trends as they develop. The biggest trend they have tracked over the last two decades is a shift away from the old-fashioned and long term hierarchical ‘pay your dues, climb the ladder, do as you are told, keep your head down, figure it out, and in the long run the system will take care of you’ to what is now a much more dynamic, short term transactional environment. Young people are very plugged into this short term, transactional environment. Older people are experiencing more radical change. 
  • What Millennials Want and Don’t Want. Bruce’s team tries to help business leaders and organizations understand that young people today are not disloyal. They just think in the short term, a transactional approach. It is similar to the kind of loyalty you get in the marketplace. You get what you pay for. It is the kind of loyalty you have with customers – if they stop paying you, you stop delivering. Many times more seasoned professionals look at young people and think ‘they want everything on a silver platter’. No, they don’t. They want to know ‘what do I need to do to earn that?’ A lot of people think millennials want to be humored at work, they want work to be fun. The research tells us that millennials don’t want to be humored – they want to be taken seriously. They don’t want to waste their time, they want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to sink or swim, they don’t want to reinvent the wheel. They want their employers to set them up for success, to spell out expectations every step of the way, to help them problem solve and troubleshoot, to help them keep score. What most young people want is to do a lot of work very well, very fast all day long and get credit for it. 
  • Are there companies out there who are doing a good job of implementing this in their culture? There are lots of companies doing this well. Two examples are: 
    • The United States Marine Corps. The Marines say we have a lot of extraordinary people, but we also have a lot of ordinary people that we get extraordinary performance out of all day, every day. These young people are 18, 19 years old.  When young people go into the Marine Corps, they are not paid very much, it is a dangerous job, they are brought into harm’s way, people are shooting at them. God bless them and keep them safe. So what is the approach that works for them? What it isn’t: we make work fun, everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, we take a soft approach, hey come to work whenever you feel like it and bring your dog? What it is: They grab a hold them - it is strong, highly engaged leadership every step of the way. They set them up and they build them up, taking them from an ordinary human being and turning them into a United States Marine. They don’t bark orders at you. Yes, you do a lot of push-ups in the sand, but that is because you need to get strong. They provide guidance, direction, support and coaching every step of the way. They hold people accountable and build people up, making them faster, stronger, better, and help them get rewarded. When they go the extra mile, they get rewarded. The Marines are an extreme example.
    • Enterprise Rent-A-Car® does a phenomenal job of managing young people. They take them seriously, they set them up for success, they take a teaching, coaching approach, and they put their money where their mouth is. When young people deliver for the business, the business delivers for them. In every industry, there are examples of ‘this is what we want from you and this is what we have to offer.’ They aren’t insulted that young people think short term, transactional – this is a business, this is what you do for a living, this is your career. It is win-win every step of the way, however, this is high maintenance. 
  • What can HR professionals do to design, implement and support processes to attract young talent? Start with staffing strategy – attraction, selection, onboarding and up to speed training. The entire process has to be about selling a growth experience, a self-building experience, a win-win experience, where it is really clear as to what all the downsides of the job are as well as all the rewards of the job - everything that will be demanded of the individual as well all the different ways the company is willing to invest in them. One of the things that can be sold to young, ambitious people is strong, highly engaged leadership.  At the front end of the process, you have to bring in people who want to be high performers. You also have to build a culture of strong, highly engaged coaching style leadership. Nobody should be in charge of anyone unless they are prepared to be a teacher and a coach every day.
Bruce Tulgan HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Bruce Tulgan HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 8:00am
Human Resources
Kyle O'Connor
Bruce Tulgan
HR Studio Podcast