Summer 2017 Cover Story
About Nancye M. Combs, AEP, SPHR
Nancye Combs is a voice of authority on human resources and organizational development. She speaks, consults, writes and offers expert witness testimony on workplace issues. She is president and CEO of HR Enterprise, Inc., in Louisville, Ky., and spent 20 years as a corporate business executive before founding a consulting practice. She provides management advisory services to hundreds of executives in business, industry, education, and government in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.
Nancye also is the retained consultant for the members of trade associations, such as Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association, one of America’s largest trade associations, and works extensively with distributors and manufacturers worldwide. Nancy has been a featured speaker at the White House on programs with the President, the Vice President and members of the U.S. Cabinet. She was named one of the top women business owners in Louisville and received the Award of Professional Excellence from the Louisville Society for Human Resource Management, which awards a scholarship in her name.
Nancye can be reached at email@example.com, or at 502-896-0503.
Do you sleep with your phone under your pillow to be certain you don’t miss a message? Congratulations, you are very likely to have been born after 1980. People watchers confirm that employees now suffer from “technology creep.” The 25-50 year-olds also are developing the same bad habit, while those born before 1950 are saying, “What is this world coming to?” They will soon learn that they need to settle down and hold on because we have a new normal that has been created by the millennials and their smartphones. Welcome to the 24-hour workcycle.
Dad is quoting the price for adhesives while he waits for his oil change. Mom is checking her flight schedule on her phone as she packs lunch for two kids under eight, who are waiting to bound out the door for school. This marketing representative and her sales manager spouse have been married to each other for 10 years, and this is their normal. They share parenting and the desire to succeed in the 24-hour workcycle. It works because it is all they know. They never had a nine-to-five job with family life clearly separated from work. Yet, each craves balance and snatches at every little snippet they can find. They are millennials.
They are remarkably resilient and will shamelessly dump their kids at their parents’ house to spend a few hours at a sports bar watching the “big game.” Don’t hit on them; they are just millennials. On the positive side, they are not bigots and will point out that personal differences are a strength. They love Mother Earth and find work that focuses on preserving the planet to be very appealing. They are tech savvy and when your screen freezes or turns green, they will fix it in a flash. On the painful side, although some of them grew up with wonderful parents, many more grew up with no parent in the home to socialize them. No one taught them that working from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. means you are actually expected to arrive on time and work all of those hours. However, they do not hate the workplace. As many as 80 percent state that coworkers are like a second family, and they expect to find employers who understand them.
Supervisor as parent started about 1980, as the first generation of latchkey children entered the workplace. They were the first generation of one-parent homes and mom (or sometimes dad) had no choice but to work. They learned conflict resolution on TV — “You hit me and I will hit your harder!” They were introduced to violence with video games where blowing up the enemy determined who wins. Their behavior bewildered their teachers, who lamented that they were “teachers, not counselors.” They found their next adult authority figure at work with the title “supervisor,” and the supervisor became the resource for the myriad of personal problems they brought to the workplace.
Because it was overwhelming to supervisors and managers, the company looked for an outside resource and the concept of employee assistant programs (EAP) was born. EAP on contract, as a resource to help employees address problems of anger, addiction, financial crisis and marriage problems, is now common in the workplace. It was no surprise to those who watch changing behaviors in the workplace to see the rise in workplace violence during the 1980s, including the new horrifying actions by emotionally deranged employees labeled, “going postal.” Employers were stunned to learn that workplace homicide rose to the third leading cause of death on the job. The millennials are the offspring of this generation!
We must accept the reality, however, that by 2020, 80 percent of millennials will be in the workforce and it will be hard to find a boomer, except in an executive positions. This creates a sense of urgency for employers who depend on them as their future workforce.
Societal changes, along with changes in the economy, created new workplace realities. The backbone of the workforce, the baby boomers, ramped up for retirement, began their exit and were replaced by millennials. At the end of the recession, many boomers were back at work, at least part time. We must accept the reality, however, that by 2020, 80 percent of millennials will be in the workforce and it will be hard to find a boomer, except in an executive positions. This creates a sense of urgency for employers who depend on them as their future workforce. What will it take to attract them, to engage and to retain them as part of the succession plan of the business?
It should be no surprise that money is at the top of their list. There is an abundance of workforce research by credible entities, such as World@Work, Gallup and the Society for Human Resource Management, that indicates that 70 percent of millennials say that growth in wages is essential to attract and keep them. When there is no opportunity for promotion, then it is essential that they have the opportunity to enrich their jobs and learn new skills, such as project management and strategic leadership. Along with growth is the desire to make certain they have access to technology advancement. None will be willing to work with technology that is grossly out of date. The tech generation started school with a computer, and they have been through many technology improvement generations since then.
Work-life balance has a prominent place on the TOP FIVE list of what millennials seek to remain engaged in their work. Recently, a large group of employees went on strike in the distilling industry. Their grievance was overtime! They were just tired of working overtime. This event triggered the importance of work-life balance for another generation — the baby boomers. The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll found there is only a 6 percent difference in how millennials and boomers feel about quality of life. Money and benefits were not their grievance; lack of life quality became more important to most, as they live for now and are living longer.
The newest generation in the workplace wants a sense of belonging. They grew up on a teeball team, a soccer team or one of the many school-sponsored teams during their educational years. They competed as a team and they liked having a coach, boundaries, clear rules and a strategy to win. Few found satisfaction competing against classmates and friends. Individual quotas are not as much fun as a team goal. If you see one, you can be sure there are more. Don’t believe me? Just go to the mall and see for yourself.
Supervisors have begun to recognize that millennials need specific attention. They expect to have supervisors who are flexible. Millennials may not embrace standard work hours, and they may not be ready to stay over two extra hours just because a truck driver was late delivering parts.
Mindless and meaningless work will not engage them, but they are super cool with whatever they can do to earn the money they need to experience life on their terms. They are also willing to help the team — in this case, the company — win too!
Don’t threaten them because there is a job on every corner and two on some! In addition to on-the-job training, they will benefit from learning how a business works. Those with a degree in business will not be in the warehouse pulling orders, staging deliveries, loading trucks and managing the inventory. No matter where they work, they need basic business education to understand how they fit into the overall success of the company and how just-in-time delivery affects their paycheck. They need help to connect the dots between how their work fits into the overall company operation and their influence on profit and loss. Mindless and meaningless work will not engage them, but they are super cool with whatever they can do to earn the money they need to experience life on their terms. They are also willing to help the team — in this case, the company — win too!
They may stay with the company if they need a specific benefit, such as health insurance, but don’t count on it. What they want is paid time off. Paid time off allows them to do what they like best, which is travel and experience new technology. Fewer are getting married at a young age and having children because they are not ready for a home, and they may have enormous student debt that must be paid off. Although owning a home at an early age is beyond their sight, they will donate dozens of hours to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
Money, job growth, paid time off and an encouraging supervisor may seem like a tall order, but the reward will be worth it. The return on that investment is a young, smart, energetic, healthy employee, who can be amazingly productive, who can unfreeze your computer screen in a flash, and show you how fast two fingers can find the best price and quickest delivery for that broken part that has your entire conveyor system down. Although you are completely frustrated, they see that assignment as fun, and they can do that without breaking a sweat. Their bottom line is they get what they want, and you get what you want.
The future of a business lies in its ability to find and keep a stable workforce. Because we know that as many as 70 percent of employees come to us through employee referral, the challenge is to find the pathway that leads everyone to a profitable company where employees will be happy to be a recruiting resource and will tout to everyone that your place is “a great place to work.”