#7: Bridge the Generation Gap

January 12, 2017By Lisa Brown, CPA, CGMABlog, Collaboration, Future of Work and Change Management, Talent Management and People

Consider the context and create great teams

I recently heard that Millennials do not like being referred to as Millennials, and who can blame them. Often, something unflattering follows the term. Even the mere word evokes knowing head nods from a room full of Baby Boomers.

As a college professor, I interact with Millennials on a daily basis. Millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history. They’re the fastest growing generation in the workforce. And by 2017, they are predicted to outspend Baby Boomers.

We can’t neatly put each generation into a stereotype box, but we can use these broad strokes of information as clues to how we can best communicate with one another. Understanding why the members of the “other” generation are the way they are and how to bridge our generational gap is extremely important. Understanding how to effectively communicate among generations is important for everyone, as we interact with each other on a daily, continual basis.

I was interested to read a blog post in the Huffington Post about Millennials. The author attended a conference on Millennials where the CEO of The Center for Generational Kinetics, Jason Dorsey, was one of the speakers. The top five interesting perspectives and opinions the author noted in a humorous way are:

  1. Eye contact is an increasingly unnatural behavior for Millennials.
  2. Emails are OK. Just don’t expect them to read more than the subject line.
  3. Phone calls are often seen as an invasion of privacy, so don’t call them unless your name is Mom. (And even if it is, they will still forward you to voicemail — which they never check.)
  4. They will not read blocks of text. Save the effort.
  5. They are visual thinkers and learners. Do not try to educate them or sell them something using a long, linear approach.

I have learned from my own experience that most of these examples ring true. According to Curt Steinhorst, the preferred methods of communication for millennials Millennials are text, email, and social media. Think about the technology this generation is immersed in every day and how it shapes their context. Thinking about the popularity of YouTube makes you realize how the internet has shaped this generation into visual thinkers and learners.

Inc. recently listed nine tips for communicating with Millennials which not surprisingly, corresponds with the perspectives listed above.

  1. Keep it brief, but meaningful
  2. At the same time, provide detail
  3. Choose the best medium for communication
  4. Understand the 24/7 communication cycle
  5. Communicate the path to career growth
  6. Don’t condescend or make jokes about age
  7. Demonstrate fairness in the workplace
  8. Commit to a social bottom line
  9. Nurture their passion

Twitter has helped Millennials convey their thoughts in 140 characters or less. They appreciate brevity. At the same time, they are outcome driven and want to know what the end result should be and what they need to do to achieve it. Just be concise!

One of the largest generation gaps is in the workplace concerns how we work. Baby Boomers measure work ethic by hours in the office, where they are seen. Millennials exist in a world where communication is available 24/7 and productivity can occur outside the office walls. That same technology has broken down hierarchy for this generation. They can communicate via social media with celebrities, politicians, and even the president. They see no issue in approaching the CEO with their ideas and opinions. Millennials want to be taken seriously, and sometimes believe they should be promoted within two years. It’s important to let Millennials know how they are doing and what their career path looks like. Finally, Millennials are passionate. Communicating how they can meaningfully contribute to a greater good is very important to them.

Great teams can be formulated from the experience of the Baby Boomers and the enthusiasm of Millennials. Understanding where each generation comes from will help us better communicate and foster wonderful multigenerational relationships.

If you are a Gen X’er or Baby Boomer, what key strategies do you have for effectively communicating with Millennials?

If you are a Millennial, help us be better communicators. What do want us to know about communicating with you?

Make this the year you start to bridge those generation gaps. You may be surprised by the results.

Lisa Brown, CPA, CGMA, is an assistant professor, accounting & finance, at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. Among the topics she teaches are accounting principles, corporate taxation and corporate finance. Brown previously worked in public accounting for Balestra, Harr, Scherer, CPAs in Ohio and in industry for an Ohio school district and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She is a campus presenter for the Indiana CPA Society and a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession.  

#2: Plan to Lead

January 5, 2017By Lisa Fleck, CPABlog, Critical Thinking and Non-Technical Skills, Learning and Career Development, Talent Management and People

Make professional development a priority, not an afterthought

In looking at the year ahead, do you know where you want to be by the end of the year? If not, this is the perfect time to start thinking about your skillset and professional development options. Resolve to have a plan this year. No time better than the present!

Where do you start? Hmmm? Do you even have time for this? The answer is yes! Investing back into ourselves and improving our leadership skills is one of the most important steps to take as we plan and prepare for this new year.

Self-awareness is one of the first steps you can take … but how do you know which skills are the ones you can use to move your leadership meter in the right direction? Do you take an inventory of your leadership skills like you do in your business?

This popular article from Forbes lists the top 10 traits of leadership:

  1. Honesty — by living by this standard yourself, you influence this in your environment
  2. Delegate — trust your team with the vision
  3. Communicate — to clearly communicate your vision ensures alignment; miss this and you and your team could be going in different directions
  4. Confidence — your team takes cues from you
  5. Commitment — Lead by example and your team will follow
  6. Positive Attitude —  if your team is happy, chances are they won’t mind putting in the extra effort.
  7. Creativity — not all best decisions are black and white
  8. Intuition — draw upon past experience but don’t forget to reach out to mentors
  9. Inspire — appreciation of the hard work completed and vision of the end in mind will keep your team inspired
  10. Approach — direct and to the point vs. subtle; Millennial vs. Generation X vs. Generation Y; cultural difference? Your approach is critical for the situation and people involved. Know your audience!

What about listening? What about caring? Leaders I’ve admired are good listeners and show how much they care. Listening and caring are two very key leadership traits that carry weight and move the needle when bundled with the Forbes Top 10 list. I’m sure one could argue for other top traits as well.

When planning my personal development for the new year, I like to start with the skill that I feel I need the most help with. Working and improving in my lesser skills, coupled with my stronger skills, is when I start seeing results shine through.

Where will you start your leadership journey in 2017?

Lisa Fleck, CPA, is the financial manager for Kimball Inc., in Jasper, Ind. She enjoys managerial and cost accounting; forecasting, profitability and cost control/management. Fleck’s passion is getting useful information in a timely manner so that quick decisions can be made to move the company profitably in the right direction. She is a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession. 

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#1: Stop Conforming

January 4, 2017By David Griffiths, Ph.D.Blog, Future of Work and Change Management, Talent Management and People

End the dreaded annual performance appraisal

Every year managers are required to provide an overview of staff performance. Each staff member’s performance is rigorously analyzed and, in many cases, an individual’s yearlong efforts are reduced to a series of numbers representing output. It is estimated that the cost for each appraisal, on average, equates to four to 10 hours of time per employee, depending on the type of analysis used. You are spending approximately $120-$400 per employee in salary-based cost.

Have you ever stopped to consider why you make your staff go through this annual performance appraisals process – one that originates from World War I “merit rating” systems developed by the U.S. Army? Created to identify and dismiss poor performers, about 60% of U.S. companies adopted this system after World War II, with 90% of companies adhering by the 1960s, according to Harvard Business Review.

Now, consider some of the challenges with the annual performance appraisal process.

  • Annual appraisals do not fit with the nature of today’s business environment. The environment is constantly changing, requiring adjustments across the year. So, why do people set rigid 12-month performance targets?
  • Performance appraisals tend to drive competition at the cost of collaboration.
  • Performance is a result of behaviors, processes and structures within the organization. People don’t intentionally set out to deliver a poor performance, therefore, when an employee is falling short, in terms of performance expectation, why do appraisals only focus on the individual performance? What about the processes and structures (the management) that contribute to the performance?
  • The recall of performance is impacted by primacy (performance that happened early in the year) and recent (performance that happened close to the appraisal process), while much of what happened in the middle of the year is forgotten.
  • Managers and reports can suffer from a number of unconscious biases, such as: availability cascade, the bandwagon effect, bias blind spot, choice-supportive bias, conservatism, fundamental attribution error, courtesy bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, focusing effect, illusionary correlation, negativity bias, optimism bias, and that is just the start. So, why do organizations tend to place so much stock in the opinion of one person, the line manager?
  • The process is often opaque and alienates employees, increasing the risk of talent loss.
  • Annual appraisals can cause tension between a line manager and his or her direct report.
  • If you are interested in the acquiring and retaining the best talent, shouldn’t you be more interested in developing people, as opposed to ranking them?

All this considered, why do you persist with annual performance appraisals? Why persist with a highly subjective, judgment-driven process that costs, on average $1,200-$4,000 per group of 10 employees; to say nothing of productivity loss due to tensions created between line manager and direct reports?

Instead, decide to forgo annual performance appraisals for ongoing performance conversations. Engage and involve your employees in the design of this new performance feedback processes. Just imagine what you might create.

This is my challenge to you this year: Stop Conforming. Challenge your traditional beliefs and become a talent leader. You are competing in a talent-led knowledge economy, where talent is the currency of longevity. To acquire and retain the best people, you need leading-edge talent management processes.

David Griffiths, Ph.D. is the award winning managing director of K3-Cubed Limited, a consulting, advising and training company that specializes in organizational development, knowledge management, and strategic and change management. Griffiths has been an advisor to the Indiana CPA Society since 2012 and was the driving force behind the creation of the CPA Center of Excellence®. Griffiths is an internationally recognized author, blogger, learning design advisor and thought leader.

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Talking about Millennials again

December 20, 2016By Justin Hayes, CPABlog, Talent Management and People

It seems like no matter what business news source you look at lately there is at least one article on the Millennial generation. It makes sense, as this is the generation that is entering the workforce and is making up a significant amount of the younger workforce now. The AICPA ran an article related to the top five things to never say to a Millennial again. I sit right on the bubble of Generation X and the Millennials, which I feel gives me an interesting perspective on the millennial generation. As such, here is my take on the five statements they discussed.

The first saying is “be patient.” I see nothing wrong with this statement given the context that it is used in. The Millennial generation has lived their lives with a lot of instant gratification. Instant gratification is not how the real work works. While I do agree that you can’t tell a Millennial that is looking for a promotion that they need to be patient and wait about 10 years (you can’t tell this to any generation and expect them to stay), I think that it is perfectly fine to remind them that change does not occur overnight. It’s good to support our younger workforce and help them to bring new ideas to the table, but that also doesn’t mean that every idea brought to the table can happen immediately.

The second saying is “You’re not ready.” I think this statement is all in how you say it to someone. Again, I think that this goes across all generations. No one likes to hear the statement “You’re not ready,” when they truly think they are. I understand that Millennials have a lot of options these days when it comes to a job or a career, but to the same extent if someone is not ready to take on a new position/responsibility, then they need to hear that so they can grow. I think this statement should be used, but in a constructive way. You don’t have to state specifically “You’re not ready.” Instead look at something like “This is a great goal for you and one that can be achieved; let’s look at some steps that you can take in order to get there.” Simple, constructive, and yet you have let them know that they are not quite yet ready.

The third statement is “When I was coming up …” or “That’s not how it was when I came up …” While I hate to admit that I have found myself using this statement, I would agree that it should not be used. This statement is immediately seen as a refusal to whatever the Millennial is asking about or requesting a change to. All supervisors/managers need to be open to change, and just because something was done one way when you were coming up through the ranks, doesn’t mean it was the best option. I actually tend to see this statement used the most in the context of something negative. Be open to change and be open to ideas. That said, there is nothing wrong with trying to share your wisdom that you have gained through your experience — just try to do it constructively. I had a mentor who would use the statement “Have you thought about…”  I found this to be very helpful and it also allowed him to share wisdom he had gained, without immediately putting me on the defensive.

The fourth statement is “He/she must not be working because he/she isn’t here.” This is a hard statement to look at, as I feel that I hear this one quite a bit as well. I would agree it should not be used. Technology has changed a lot, even in the last five years, to allow for more flexible workdays. Many companies have invested heavily in technology that allows its workers to work remotely. If your company has invested heavily in this area and remote work is within the company’s policies, then there is no reason to say this. Most of the time I see it used in conjunction with “When I was coming up, we were at the office for 10-12 hours a day straight, and no one complained about it.” That’s great, but technology has allowed for that to change, so you need to adapt as well. Work flexibility has increased employee morale and reduced turnover significantly in the last five years. The nice thing is that this is a benefit all generations can enjoy. I have found, though, that it tends to be more of the Millennial generation that does take advantage of these benefits, as they are more comfortable with working remotely.

The final statement is “You can change this when I am gone.” I completely agree with the author of the article on this one. Using a statement like that shows you are not open to new ideas that could improve everyone’s life at your company as well as potentially improving the bottom line of the company, depending on the idea. We all need to be open to new ideas and to changes that will improve a company. Keeping a hard line of my way or the highway is a great way of getting employees on the phone with a recruiter fast.

So those are my thoughts on the five statements analyzed. What are yours?