Managing Millennials

Anil Somaney, Senior Vice President of Business Development, Lifesize
Date: Thursday, February 1, 2018

Millennials have surpassed Gen X as the largest concentration in today’s workforce. Join Anil Somaney as he shares his knowledge of how to better engage with a digitally native workforce.

Video Transcript

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Lifesize Live!, the live web show produced entirely through the Lifesize platform.

I'm your host Julian Fields, and with me today is the Senior Vice President of Global Business development at Lifesize and longtime people manager, Anil Somaney. Welcome.

Thank you. Happy to be here.

So, I say “long-time people manager” because today's topic is all about managing people and, more specifically, managing millennials. When we talk about millennials, we’re talking about the ’80s and ’90s kids. Now they're in their 20s and 30s. They're kind of new in their careers, maybe it’s their first career ever— still green, still impressionable. A really key time for them to have great managers and role models.

Anyway, let's kick things off. Tell me a little bit about the workplace environment that you like to drive for millennials.

So, you know, as we preface all of this, we use the term [millennials] kind of generically. Obviously, as you manage and engage with different workforces, you do that on an individual level. But in terms of the work environment, there are a couple of things that I like to consider.

One, from a millennial perspective, work/life balance is just extremely important to them. Millennials no longer value that eight-hour workday that my parents are used to. Don’t mistake it for them not working hard or not putting in their time, if you will. They just do so in a different way. Remember, these employees play on soccer teams, basketball teams, they go spend time with their parents, brothers and sisters. They're all over place, so a lot of times flexibility in the workplace is really important, and using collaboration tools is actually a great way to engage millennials when they are in remote workforces or remote areas.

The second thing is that these workers come from an environment where they work in teams. They've had to partner with their brothers, sisters and then all through college they've been in groups. Now they might be in their first or second job out of school, so working in teams is just natural for this workforce. Encourage and motivate that skill set — not only with the millennials within your group but actually cross-functionally and across multiple generations as well. Mix them into dispersed or diverse workforces, and I think you'll see millennials shine.

And the last piece is around learning and development. Millennials just came out of school, and their minds are all about learning. How can I learn more? What can I learn about? What can I do to kinda enhance my skill set? One way to do this is by giving them special projects. “Hey, can you work on a career development plan for the organization?” “Hey, can you talk about how to grow the company culture in the organization?” I constantly give them projects to keep their minds turning and learning.

Okay. So, you mentioned culture. What are some key culture elements that you should consider for a millennial workforce?

The first thing is they have to feel like they are being a part of something bigger. I think a lot of us have seen the I Love Lucy episode where they're on the chocolate factory line, having to wrap the chocolates, right? Millennials can't be a cog in a wheel. They can't be a piece of a factory line. Most companies have these core values and a way they're centered around how they do business. Take the time to break those core values down and dive into what it means for employees in general and millennials specifically. They have to buy into it, they have to understand and they have to believe in it. Or else there's just this big disconnect.

The second part of it is that they have to be a part of a strong company culture. And if they see others acting outside of that company culture, they get a little bit antsy. They will ask the question, "Why is that happening, when it's against what we're saying?” They absolutely have to believe in the values, and then they have to see a company culture.

And, I'd say, the last piece of it is they want to have fun. They want go to lunch with their peers, they want Happy Hours afterwards, they want to join basketball teams and so on. On our work floor, we've got Nerf guns, we've got gongs and we just have a great time when we're closing deals.

So make sure to keep those as a priority or at least keep them as an understanding in your mind. That’s important to them, so make sure we reserve time for that sort of thing.

I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about career-pathing. Obviously, that's a major role in a manager's responsibilities. I mentioned in the last episode that I worked from home for a really long time and thinking about having face time with the boss and understanding that he or she sees what I'm doing and is able to help me progress in my career is really important. What are some things that you can do with this group of people that you might do slightly differently?

So the first piece is understanding that money's important. Money's important to all of us, but it's not the only thing for this millennial workforce. They absolutely value things like working from home and cutting out a little bit early if they have to take the dogs to a vet. Lunch coupons, bringing breakfast in on Monday and Wednesday, things like that.

And so when they look at the companies and cultures and just their careers in general, they look for all these other things, not only what's my paycheck, what's my commission check, how much am I going to make.

And then, in the second piece, I would say is movement, career movement. In the past, at previous companies I was at, it was, “Once a year, I'll sit down with you, Julian, and I'll have a discussion about your career.” It's no longer enough. Once a year is not frequent enough.

That's funny. I remember my dad's advice, “Every time you do something great, make a note card and put it in your desk so that when that time of the year comes around you can remember all the things that you did.” No, we need to have a constant conversation.

It's funny because it starts the minute that person walks in the door. Not only do they want it, but do they expect it. And it's incumbent upon us as leaders of the business to deliver that for them. So Person A walks in the door, and we have to have a defined career plan for them after, obviously, having had a discussion.

Here is your path. And typically what I like to do is zero to three months, you're ramping up. Three months to about 12 months, you're learning the business and you're performing. All along we're delivering skill sets, and we're helping you grow as a person, refining along the way. You may think that you want to be in marketing, and we tweak that and start to specialize in the demand gen part of marketing. So, you tweak that, but then, you know, 12 to 18 months, they need mentors and they may need a real defined path of how to get there.

And then the last piece of that is being a mentor, not a boss to them. Millennials expect to learn something from their leaders. They have an infamous lack of respect for the traditional corporate hierarchy. I remember, so many times my team would come up to me and say, “Hey, I've got this problem.” Great, did you talk to your boss, or your boss's boss?” "No, I just came straight to you." And so, as a leader you have to be very, very open to just a completely flat organization. It really does help promote the learning and the environment of being heard from a millennial perspective.

Now, there's an E word that gets thrown around with millennials. It's the entitled word. And I wanted to get your impression on that. And keep in mind that there is an ’80s kid in this room right now…

Yeah. One of the two of us has gray hair and one of us doesn't. So, the entitled word, I think, is a little bit of a fallacy, right? I hear so many people referring to that group and that generation as entitled. I think it's just flat out wrong. Now there is absolutely a need from a millennial perspective, for a need for recognition, but quite candidly that's all of us, right? Who doesn't mind a pat on the back and a “great job” and an atta boy? And you should actually encourage that self-assurance. That positive personal image is important to the millennial workforce.

It’s so important that they're on LinkedIn, Twitter, and you see that personal and work life blending a little bit. They will post and they will articulate how great they did at work. And so I would say turn that into a positive for you and learn how to embrace and cherish that, but also use that.

As experts in these technologies, teaching them how to use that for good and not for evil is critical. You're company's doing great things. How do you share that with everyone you're talking to? How do you become a subject matter expert yourself and start taking on some of that responsibility for the industry that you're in?

Yeah, for the industry and the company.

All right, well, let's see, as we wrap up, any finishing thoughts there?

I'd say first, embrace the millennial workforce, right. I mean, like any workforce, there are good and bad that comes along with them.

I think we're at 40% of the workforce right now, according to the latest studies, and in the next 10 years it's projected to be around 75% of the workforce.

They're coming, right, they're coming. But from a learning perspective, from a organizational change perspective, there are so many times that you'll sit down with someone who is brand new to the workforce who just says, "Hey, why do we do it this way?"

And, you know, from our minds, we've done it this way for years and that's the way we're going to continue to do it.


Famous words, "We've always done it this way."

It is, right.

And so the millennial workforce comes in and, "Hey, why do we…?" And I'm like, “That's a great idea.” So, embrace that team and embrace that generation of future leaders. Capitalize on their networking, their affinity for networking. We talked about LinkedIn, Facebook, all that. There's such a need for positive self-promotion from their perspective, but turn them into brand ambassadors, turn them into Lifesize ambassadors, or your company's name, or your industry's expert, right. Turning that into a positive for the company and the greater good is important.

And then I'd say, take the good with the bad. There's a positive and negative to every workforce, but these people have a ton of value to add to the workforce and organizations.

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