Archive for the ‘All Things Generations’ Category


Why I Teach Millennials Email

August 27, 2014

I hear it all of the time from recent college grads…confusion over how best to manage their email, how best to communicate using email, how to fit in the business world where our communication resolves around email. 

They aren’t prepared.

We shouldn’t expect them to be. 

Many things are taught in college, but a session or class on email is not one of them.  If we aren’t prepared to show them how best to use it, leverage it, and control it, email will control them.  They will become that 30 or 40 year old who hates email because it never ends, it won’t go away and they can’t get it under control.

So while the PEW Research center talks about the decreasing trend of teenager email usage, the business community has to understand that we need to prepare our college students and new hires on how to use email.  It is not a part of their vocabulary or skill repertoire.  To a Millennial – having the email app on their phone is not nearly as important as the ability to text or have Instagram, Twitter, or the SnapChat app installed.  Because text messaging and social media is how they communicate with friends, family and their professors (my students are more likely to text me than email me).  They are certainly wired to understand email we just have to give them the tools.  But just because our Millennials are digital natives doesn’t mean they should be expected to “figure email out” on their own. 

And before you say it – yes – Millennials do have exposure to email.  They probably have some experience with Gmail, Yahoo or their school email system.  But exposure to and limited experience with the beast that is email is different than having an email address you give to J. Crew or Banana Republic to receive sale notices.   

We have to be proactive in teaching them the best way to communicate via email (not the same as text messaging), how to leverage the folders and task list, and how to set up rules that make their inbox do some of the work.  We also have to help them to discern when you email and when you get up and go talk to the other person.  Helping our younger employees overcome the ‘email divide’ is one of the easiest training you could ever deploy and in doing so they will become more productive.  Helping someone become more productive is a wonderful gift. 

Here’s to your employees becoming their productive selves!


Well That is Just Depressing

November 7, 2013

I recently read in my local paper an article titled “Not happy with work? Wait till you’re 50 or older.”  The article provided data from a study conducted by The Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  The study found that 9 in 10 workers who are 50 years or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.  It seems older workers, regardless of who they are, reported higher satisfaction with their job.  The assumption drawn from the study was that “older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense.”  The study also reports that 38% of young adults express deep satisfaction with their work as compared to 63% of those 65 years and older.

So if I’m not engaged and satisfied with my work I should just wait until I get older?   That can’t be right.  Yes, I understand the subtle point the article is making…there are more variables to cause me unhappiness in a job the younger I am.  And as I age I can become more settled in the direction of my life and my career.  But waiting till I am 50 years or older to be satisfied in my work is just depressing.

When I work with companies or teach classes/workshops on employee engagement I break engagement down into four parts, four equal parts yet some are truly more important than others.  Those four parts are the individual, the manager, the team, the company. (For smaller companies there may only be three parts as the company isn’t large enough to have different teams.)  Engagement starts with the individual so the idea of just waiting around to grow older to become satisfied or engaged doesn’t add up.  You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated but it is an employee’s responsibility to show up willing, with a mindset, that he or she wants to and can be engaged in their work.  And that doesn’t just happen with age.  That happens by choice.


Who is Gen Z

March 28, 2012

During the month of March I gave two presentations on Gen Z.  Have you heard of them?  Well if you haven’t you soon will.  Let me be the first to introduce you to them.

Gen Z by the Numbers
Some demographers and researchers describe them as the 1990s babies (born 1990-1999) and others use the 1995 – 2004 birth years as the defining age range.  Which means the years which define Gen Z are fluid (for now), unlike the generations we have been chatting about for years…Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen X.  Being born in the 1990s (or up until 2004) places a Gen Zer in the 8 year-old to 20 year old range.  Which means Gen Z is the basically the second half of the Millennials.  The first half of the Millennials were born in the 1980s and are now in their 20s…you know, that young kid working beside you.  (Just so I don’t confuse anyone the term “Millennial” and “Gen Y” can be used interchangeably.)

Generational Disclaimer Alert:
When I or anyone discusses the generations we are talking about 10s of millions of people and we make broad generalizations for a group of people that spans 10 to 20 years.  You are stuck in your generation because of your birth year (blame your parents if you don’t like your generation) but that does not mean you won’t have commonalities with another generation’s characteristics.  And understanding someone by their age is just one slice of the onion when it comes to understanding why someone is the way they are.

What Goes Around, Comes Around
Strauss and Howe explain that generations are cyclical and we go round and round between two types.  A team generation is followed by an individualist generation which is followed by a team generation and the cycle continues. So the theory goes Baby Boomers are a team generation, Generation X is an individualist generation, Millennials are team and Gen Z will be individualist. But Gen Z is basically the younger version of Millennials so this point could still be up for debate.  Remember – the cycle impacts how companies respond to the growth and development needs of the workforce.  Do you need the work environment to support working in teams peppered with constant feedback, or not?

World Events
For those who study the generations (or just find them interesting) you know we look at two big areas for information on what will shape a generation.  First is world events impacting the formative years and parenting styles.  Some world events to consider which will shape the perceptions and values of Gen Z are 9/11, the recent recession on a local, national and global scale, the constancy of war, global civic unrest, and new advances in technology.  Pop culture also influences a generation as well but to a lesser degree.

Impact of Technology
Most people have been describing Millennials are digital natives but when you look a little deeper, the older Millennials were in their 20s when tablet fever took hold. True, computers and cell phones were very much part of their daily lives but the speed of communication and new technology introductions really began to take hold throughout the last decade or so, meaning older Millennials didn’t grow up with that kind of technology from birth.  To be described as a native…you need to not know life without it.  Many claim Gen Z will be our true digital natives but I question if the generation following Gen Z – those under 10 years old (and all generations that follow) – will more likely deserve that label.  Consider the 5 year old who tried to change the TV channel by sliding the screen (and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working) or the growing number of 3 year olds with their own iPads.

Who Are Their Parents and Why Do We Care?
Gen Z parents are in their 30s and 40s – for the most part – which means Gen Z is being raised by Gen X.  How Generation X raises their children will say a lot of about who they become, as a collective.  What we do know …the ‘every kid is a winner and deserves a trophy’ mantra and mindset continues for adolescents today.  And it is creeping into our preschools.  Parenting magazine (It’s Only a Game, p. 23, April 2012) ran an article on the growing trends of preschools opting to remove games with clear winners and losers.  In addition there is some traction being reported that parenting is moving from the flurry of activities (the more the better) to “slow parenting” or “free-range parenting” in which the idea is to not over-program your kid.  The recession of course plays a big role in this as well as the squeeze on the middle class.

So Gen Z is here to stay…what are your thoughts on them?


Did the PwC Chairman read my Accounting Today article?

September 15, 2011

In October of last year I published an article in Accounting Today magazine titled “Managing the Millennials…Firms must deal with their changing expectations.”  In the article I discuss how accounting firms are finding themselves stuck between the way the business has been run for decades and the changing expectations of Millennials as they consider their long-range career track. I made the argument that :

“Accountants and auditors are valued precisely because of their deep knowledge and expertise, so radically altering the business model is unrealistic. Yet the looming demand for accounting services and the shrinking talent pool give urgency to finding ways to accommodate the expectations of young workers.” 

Millennials want to develop their skills, be challenged and not pigeonholed into one job or function for the rest of their career (sound familiar?).  Cross-training is considered a valuable growth opportunity as Millennials develop skills that give them mobility. In the article I urge accounting firms to start the conversation now on how to better grow and develop this need in their young talent. 

Well is seems the PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Dennis Nally may have read my article.  In a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, when asked what is the biggest challenge for companies when trying to recruit talented staff, Nally responded with:

“This millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they’re not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they’re looking for skill development, they’re looking for mobility, they’re looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past.” (July 11, 2011, “PwC Chairman Aims to Keep Millennials Happy”)

Mr. Nally – I couldn’t agree more and if my article helped you formulate your people strategy I am pleased it was of use to you. To other companies, not just accounting firms, it is time to understand how the needs of the Millennials regarding career growth and future expectations are changing your workplace and workforce. 


*Please note – SBR Consulting, LLC is becoming Randall Research… Data-driven solutions for people-driven companies™.  Our services have not changed but our new name better reflects our core mission of using data to drive employee engagement and productivity.  Our new website will be *


A University Recruiting Perspective on Millennials and the Recession

August 6, 2011

Our expert series continues with a conversation with Lisa Simmons who is the assistant director of recruiting for the Schools of Business at Wake Forest University.  Our research uncovered interesting findings on the value of education and degrees and Lisa provides insight from her perspective of working within higher education.  Enjoy!

Q: As the Assistant Director, Recruiting for the Wake Forest Schools of Business, what were your initial reactions to the findings in the white paper? 

A: Actually, several points really struck a chord with me.

  • Distrust of “big business“ – Millennials hold out a larger and more holistic ideal for companies than the profit motive.  Their model business is engaged in sustainability, diversity, and is giving back to the community. By and large, they are people and not profit focused.  They believe in “doing good” and expect to be treated as a human being and not a commodity by their employers.  
  • Dissatisfaction with current employment – Your findings about Millennials actually reflect that of the larger American workforce.  So, while this was no surprise, it did reinforce the belief that college students need careful career exploration and a career plan.  
  • Doubt about cost versus value of college education – This has been in the news a lot lately.  Parents, students, and even various pundits have been discussing the issue.  There is no doubt that college can be an expensive endeavor.  Yet, without a degree, it is difficult for young adults to find work and then to grow.  That’s not to say that it cannot happen; only that it is very rare. It is just very difficult to get a foot in the door of a company without the requisite education.  

Q: From your perspective, what are some best practices employed by Wake Forest University Schools of Business in preparing students for the “real world?”


  • Focus on lifetime career management – Our career staff provides students with the necessary tools to manage their career and job search, not just while in college, but for a lifetime.
  • For-credit career education – Career education is a mandatory part of the curriculum.  While academics are of supreme importance, the student’s ultimate success will be measured by employment.
  • Four P’s Program – The career coaching staff trains students in the Four P’s of Purpose, Passion, Preparation, and Performance, which is a solid foundation for career contentment and achievement.
  • Dedicated Employer Relations – Having a dedicated staff allows full-time pursuit and development of employer relationships.  Some models I have seen place the responsibility for employer relations on the career coaching staff.  That leaves less time for specialization in either area. 
  • Mentorship Program – Career staff carefully pair corporate volunteers with students to provide a more rounded real-world experience.
  • Supportive administration – Our administrators understand the importance of student success in our own success as a school.  They supported the building of a career staff that could meet the needs of students.  Wake Forest Schools of Business was featured in a June 10, 2011 Inside Higher Ed article entitled MBA in Job-Hunting?

Q: Do you find that students ask different questions than students did 5 or 10 years ago regarding the ROI on their college education investment?

A: It’s my opinion that the value of a college education has not changed but the perception of its value has in the weak job market.  A college education has been understood to be the usual gateway to the “American Dream.”  It is a door opener and a box that must be checked for many jobs. While it is still true that a college degree is a necessary step on the path to a career, given the state of the job market, some students (and even parents) may have begun to doubt. 

The competition for jobs is high.  Job seekers not only need a degree for many jobs, but also must be competitive in job seeking. It’s like the adage, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”  Thus, job seekers need to outpace the competition.  The resume, elevator speech, and interview skills must be polished.  The candidate needs to be able to relay his or her value to the employer.  In addition, the candidate should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the company, industry, and competition.  That is why university career services offices are crucial to student success.  

Q: As mentioned in the white paper, there have been numerous recently released statistics regarding people looking to make a move and my research showed 70% of Millennials were considering the possibility of changing jobs.  As someone on the ground floor working with the Millennial generation, what is your reaction to these type of statistics?

A: I think there may be a few factors at play here.  First, as students step out into the world for the first time, they may learn that things are not quite as they once imagined.  Reality may shake apart previously held idealistic views when they finally get on the job.  Perhaps the job that they thought they wanted no longer seems to be a good fit, or maybe the industry in which they are working is no longer desirable.  Of course, the current economic conditions are not facilitating employee satisfaction by and large.  The temptation for employers is to try to do more with less, and this usually falls on the shoulders of the employees via increased workload, light to non-existent raises, few promotion opportunities, and benefit cuts.  There may even be inadequate funds for professional development and other needs / programs.

Another reason that Millennials might be unhappy is that they did not receive enough career assistance while in college.  Either their school did not stress career management or students never believed it to be necessary.  They may have taken the first job offered rather than having set and pursued a goal throughout college, culminating in a close approximation to their dream job.  How many undergrad students become engaged with career services when they are freshman or sophomores versus the last semester of their senior year when graduation is knocking on the door?  How many graduate students ignore the career resources at their disposal? The temptation may be to pursue the academics and let the career development take care of itself.  Unfortunately, that strategy works best at or near full employment and not during a recession. 

Wake Forest is concentrating on the development of the whole person since the launch of the Office of Personal & Career Development. Likewise, the Wake Forest Schools of Business, faculty and staff are very involved with students because our success is measured by their success.  Thus, shortly after orientation, our career staff begins to expose students to the work world through industry panels, company information sessions, company site visits and trips, practical learning opportunities and other career education opportunities.  In addition, they assist students in putting together a plan and a brand and provide a mentor.  This leads to more informed career decisions that are likely to boost eventual job satisfaction. 

Thank you Lisa for your time!


The Employee Experience…Not Just For Millennials

July 13, 2011

Our expert series continues as we look deeper at the survey results released in the Millennial Generation Today: Impact of economic environment on recruitment, retention and engagement white paper.  We are speaking with Bob Dean who is the Director of the North American business for Profiling Online, a global talent management solutions company. Bob has served as a senior executive for learning and talent management for Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton and Heidrick & Struggles. In 2006, he became one of the first ten people in the world to be certified in the models and frameworks of the The Experience Economy.  Bob uses this certification to design, develop, and deliver transformational customer and employee experiences for his clients.

Q: What are your initial thoughts on the survey results?

A: The survey covered information that is relevant today.  When you consider the financial meltdown and all that has happened in our country, and the world, information or articles on one generation from three years ago may not necessarily be as relevant today.

Q: Where or why have companies lost their way in engaging employee over the last few years?

A: Many corporate cultures have failed to adapt in the last 10 years.  Companies need to get back to their core values and what they stand for.  Companies should consider what culture they currently have and if it is the type of culture they need to sustain their businesses.  If it is a sustainable culture then the communication with employees has to change and have substance.  Communication has changed dramatically and communicating with employees is more than just an intranet or Facebook page.

Companies, especially large ones, have historically thought anything they needed to know as an organization they could find by tapping into their employees, their inside collective knowledge.  When they needed to know something they went to their employee source.  But what happens to companies when a large number of the employees leave through a layoff?  That company’s collective knowledge is now out in the market place.  And the marketplace now mirrors what the company once was in terms of knowledge. 

A company is either a closed culture or an open culture and those that are closed have lost their way and are not quick to understand the value of talent and tapping into collective knowledge. 

Q: Explain the employee experience concept?

A: Millions and billions of dollars is spent on corporate learning and development.  If you assess the retention and application of what’s covered in training sessions – it is maybe 20%.  So, much of the training has become a “check the box” activity.  Companies, spending that kind of money, need to get more out of their investment, should want to get more out of their investment.  The idea of the employee experience is to design learning experiences that deliver and make an impact.  Think about getting coffee at Starbucks versus your home.  It is the personal experience that differentiates what you remember and apply (in this case choosing to return to Starbucks).  The employee experience was adapted from The Experience Economywritten by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore in 1999.  I was certified in this book in 2006.  The concept started with differentiating the customer experience through customization and has been adapted for the employee experience. You can learn more at

Thank you Bob for your time and expertise.  I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with our readers.


Looking Deeper at Social Entrepreneurship: Here to Stay or a Fad?

June 18, 2011

We are enjoying our expert interview series as we dive deeper into our “The Millennial Generation Today” research results.  We have spoken with a financial expert for graduates, CEO of a staffing and recruiting agency, CEO of a national Millennial-led organization and we continue our blog series today with Christopher Gergen, a visiting lecturer and adjunct faculty member of the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University’s Terry Sanford School of Public Policy.  Our discussion continues with social entrepreneurship.

So let’s start with some food for thought…what does it mean for companies today – your company – that a majority of Millennials want to work for a company that does well by doing good?  According to our research 66% of Millennials believe it is important to work for a company that embraces and supports social responsibility and 69% want to work for a company that does well by doing good.  What does this mean for your company?

Q: So is social entrepreneurship here to stay or just a fad?  

A: I teach an undergrad class at Duke called “Leading as a Social Entrepreneur.”  I will be teaching it for the second time this coming fall and we already have 40 students on the wait list; this class fills fast.  Students are interested in taking these kinds of classes because they have a significant appetite for learning about opportunities that align with their values.  Consider the largest student group at Fuqua (Duke’s School of Business) is Net Impact.  Duke’s Net Impact mission states: 

As business school students, we believe our greatest benefit to future employers is not only increasing their bottom line, but doing so while creating a sustainable world. We believe sustainability will continue to emerge as a value creation opportunity for businesses in the 21st century.

There are Net Impact chapters at business schools all across the country and there are others opportunities for students to get involved including the Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard which is the largest student led conference, and the growing number of Changemaker campuses

Q: Our research shows that while it is important for Millennials to work for companies which embrace social responsibility there is a disconnect with Millennials being skeptical of companies and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) plans.  What are your thoughts?

A: I think this reflects a broader trend of growing corporate skepticism.  Companies claim they are green but in reality they are not, their statements are superficial.  There is a move toward a more authentic direction.  Standards are being created to define what social responsibility really means.  Through the B Lab a validation process certifies companies a B Corporations.  And companies that are authentic in their drive for the triple bottom line attract better talent, have a more loyal customer base, and attract a different kind of investor, an “impact investor” looking to make a difference. 

Q:  Our research found only 9% want to start their own company in the next five years but 46% do want to work for themselves.  What are your thoughts on these findings? 

A:  Millennials, like most of us, want control of their own destiny.  They want to live an intentional life that has a purposeful path.  They are seeking to work with smart, passionate people and want to be constantly challenged.  We all want these things but in this generation I see it more pronounced.  They want to pursue a path that keeps with their values.  In the classes I teach there is an entrepreneurial mindset. But it also depends on how you define “entrepreneur.”  There are different shades of entrepreneur – consider the free agent versus a scaled entrepreneur. 

Thank you Christopher for your time and providing great insight on social entrepreneurship and what it means to the Millennial generation. 


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