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Generation Y, The Downturn and Your Business

Dr Graeme Codrington explains why Generation Y is different, and what you can do to get the most out of them, especially during a recession.

Entrepreneur

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The matric students of 2009 were born after Nelson Mandela was released and have done their entire schooling in the new South Africa. They are part of a group of young people known internationally as Generation Y. The oldest of this generation is already working for you, and they bring a very different attitude to the workplace. Why Generation Y is different, and what you can do to get the most out of them, especially during a recession?

It’s been 20 years since some of the most amazing moments of human history changed our world forever. In the first few months of 1989, students led a Chinese revolution, culminating in June’s iconic Tiananmen Square protests. In Iran, the Ayatollah’s funeral brought two million young Iranians to the streets on 6 June 1989. On 23 August 1989, two million people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania held hands across their countries to form a single human chain to protest Soviet occupation.

On 9 November that same year, the Berlin wall came down, and a few days later Prague experienced a “velvet revolution” as hundreds of thousands took to the streets. On Christmas day, 1989, the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu was hanged outside his palace. The following day, Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed perestroika and banned the communist party in Russia. And, on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in jail.

Eight months, and the entire world was changed – north, south, east and west. And today’s 20-something young people can’t remember any of it – for them, it’s just history. They’ve grown up in a new world, not just politically, but also technologically. Windows was released in 1992, the first SMS was sent from a cellphone in Finland in 1993, and Netscape Navigator was launched in 1994, quickly capturing 90% of the Internet browsing market.

And economically, they’ve never really experienced much of a downturn. The IT bust of March 2000, following the complete non-event of the Y2K bug (remember that?), now seems like a mere blip in what was an almost unbroken boom period through the 1990s to September 2008.

Generation Y: Freedom’s children

This quick history lesson is important context. Generational theory explains that people born during the same era are influenced, shaped and moulded by society’s reaction to world events. Today’s young people, sometimes called Generation Y, have grown up in a very different world, and have different values and attitudes. Understanding this will make it easier to identify what motivates and drives your younger employees and consumers and how you can influence them. It’s important to understand that they’re unlike any generation that has preceded them.

There is no consensus over the exact birth dates that define Generation Y. In America, and therefore in most mainstream media, they are normally defined as the young people born from 1978 to 2002. In South Africa, they’re generally regarded as the children who cannot remember apartheid, born from the late 1980s onwards. Either way, they’re your youngest employees and customers, and more of them are “coming soon to an office near you”.

Wake up call

We’re talking about a generation of people who have experienced very little adversity in their lives thus far. This is their first economic downturn, and most of them have been taken by surprise. I was speaking with a business owner recently, who had just realised that most of his young sales team had never actually sold anything. His industry had been growing so much over the past 10 years, with his products so easy to sell, that in all honesty, his “sales” team had been more of an order taking team; they had never needed to chase down sales or do cold calling.

As the recession hit, they needed to develop real selling skills. After a few difficult months, this business owner had done some hard-core sales training. He turned his young team around – from low morale, almost depressed, to thriving and excited about hunting for new leads and closing sales. These young people might exude confidence, but they’re actually new to the world of work, and might need a bit more handholding and training than they appear to.

Because this generation of young people grew up with digital technology, they expect everyone else to be as comfortable as they are using it. And because they grew up in a world filled with the optimism about change, they became fearless about the future. As a result, they may be somewhat lost in this time of economic recession. Because this generation has been extremely pampered and nurtured since they were toddlers, with every moment of their days filled with adult-led activities, they are both high-performance and high-maintenance, with a strong sense of self-worth.

In other words, if you’re prepared to put in some effort, they could be brilliant for you right now.

A different frame of mind

Leaders need to understand that a younger generation of staff and customers, who have never experienced a downturn, have different expectations of the workplace and will respond to the stress of the current environment in different ways to older people. Not just because they are younger, but also because they have a different set of generational values guiding their attitudes and behaviours. As frustrating as they might sometimes be, your business can benefit greatly from their outlook, energy and passion. But it will take dedicated leadership – and a mindset shift – to make it happen.

How to get more from the me generation

  • Communicate differently. Generation Y’ers prefer short and sharp emails to long-winded memos, they stay connected via social media, and they are comfortable using text messages for formal communication. Improve your use of digital communication, and don’t restrict their access to it.
  • Meetings and teams. Older staff may expect a phone call or face-to-face meetings on important topics, but younger workers prefer virtual problem solving. They want meetings to be short, to the point, and interactive – they don’t see the value of a meeting or presentation if all you do is speak at them; rather just send an email. They work best in teams when they have a specific and unique contribution in the team.
  • They need to know “why”. They are less likely to respond to the traditional command-and-control type of management still popular in many of today’s workplaces. They’ve grown up questioning parents and teachers – and they will question their managers, too. Unless they have been given a reason to do something, they won’t be inclined to do it. This is a critical issue in difficult times – it may seem obvious to management that the strategy presented to the team makes sense and is appropriate for the situation, but has the reason why it will work been explained?
  • Give them constant feedback. An annual review is insufficient – they want feedback at the end of every project, whether it’s a day, week or month-long event. They also want a personal mentor or coach.
  • Help them grow and they’ll stay. In a world where there is no job security, today’s young people are passionate about developing their CVs and ensuring their skills are current and honed. The recession might give them a reason to stay with you slightly longer than they anticipated, but don’t be complacent about staff turnover. As an upturn begins, they might be the first out of the door if you take them for granted now. It may be a paradox, but the more confident your people are that they could get another job somewhere else, the more likely they are to stay with you. Spend time developing them, and finding out why they work for you, really (tip: it’s not because they want to make you or your shareholders rich). Help them achieve their personal goals, and they’ll help you achieve yours.
  • They hate being bored or doing insignificant work. They need to be kept busy, and they need to know that the work they do makes a meaningful contribution. They’re multi-taskers and they don’t like to stay too long on any one assignment
  • They have very different priorities. Whereas older staff members generally see loyalty to the company as a given and don’t have to be asked to work overtime and put their employer first; younger employees are much more likely to prioritise family and personal commitments, especially when they know you’re unlikely to be paying bonuses this year. They also want to have fun at the workplace – this might be easiest to forget during tough times.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Managing Staff

3 Ways You Can Help Your New Hires To Succeed

Filling a vacant position is expensive, and unless you do these three things, it’s liable to be an expensive waste of time.

Tiffany Delmore

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Let’s face it – the hiring process is painful, and not just because you have to look through reams of résumés. From posting job listings to conducting several rounds of candidate interviews to ultimately making a selection and then training a new employee, the time and money required to fill a vacant role add up quickly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs an average of $4,129 to hire a new employee. Considering this process takes an average of 42 days, it’s clear that you want to get it right the first time.

And just because you’ve made a candidate an offer and he or she has accepted it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. In fact, Tinypulse reports that 22 percent of turnovers occur within the first 45 days of an employee starting a new job. Without an effective onboarding process, you’re setting your business – and your new hire – up for failure. On the other hand, an effective and engaging onboarding programme allows companies to retain 91 percent of new hires for at least a year, according to the same research.

Successful training makes for successful employees, which in turn makes for a successful organisation. If your new employee onboarding and training programme is strong, your confused newbies are more likely to turn into productive contributors, and this transformation will take less time.

Don’t overlook these three key areas when training your new hire.

1. Teach trainees to identify basic cyber security threats

Cyber attacks are increasingly common, and they’re a threat to businesses of all shapes and sizes. While some hackers are conducting extremely sophisticated attacks, research by Cofense revealed that 91 percent of security breaches still stem from basic phishing emails. Because they’re unaware of their new company’s common practices, new hires are particularly susceptible to social engineering attacks. The most successful scammers start by gaining access to an executive’s actual email account; after all, who’s going to say no to a request from the CEO?

As David Wagner, president and CEO of email security firm Zix, explains, “Any messages then sent out automatically bypass authentication tools, making unsuspecting recipients the last line of defense.” If you’ve trained your employees on what they should and shouldn’t send over email – and can and can’t expect to receive via email – your organisation has a decent shot at escaping unscathed. If not, the oversight could cost you a fortune. Make sure your training materials show your new hires examples of phishing emails and provide a list of the types of company information that should never be shared via email.

Related: 3 Pragmatic Tips For Start-Ups Making Those Critical Initial Hires

2. Help them to buddy up

Relationships are an important part of employee engagement. Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report found that workplace friendships drive employee engagement and performance. In fact, the report determined that organisations can better engage customers and increase profits by increasing the number of their employees who feel they have a close friend at work. So include your new employees in the social circle at work and provide get-to-know-you opportunities so they can quickly feel like they’re part of the team.

Encouraging new employee assimilation could be as simple as making sure newcomers have someone to eat lunch with for the first few weeks. An even more effective way to promote engagement involves pairing up a new employee with a peer mentor for the first few months on the job. Mentorship programmes have seen great success, and they’re utilised by around 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies, according to the Association of Talent Development.

Ask the veterans on your team to sign up as mentors and set clear parameters for what that entails. Will they be an as-needed resource for new employees, check in on them weekly, or be integrally involved in their training? Decide what works best for your team.

3. Give your training materials a makeover

Nothing causes employees to tune out faster than sitting them down in front of a computer screen with an employee manual and training videos that clearly should have been left back in the ’90s. If your onboarding materials quote Ferris Bueller or reference the original “MacGyver,” it’s probably time to freshen things up. When you upgrade your training materials, incorporate interactive elements that encourage active participation.

Related: Team Resolutions: 11 Tips To Uncover Passion And Potential In New Hires

Fun activities like a scavenger hunt will help new employees learn their way around the office, and interviews with other members of the company will help familiarise them with their colleagues. Before you plan training for your new hires, make sure you understand their learning styles and offer training activities that best meet their needs. You could even have them fill out a learning styles questionnaire and use that information to personalise aspects of their training. If your new hires learn best by doing, include opportunities for them to jump into a task. Or if your new employees are visual learners, focus more written materials than oral presentations or in-person chats to ensure the information sticks.

It takes time to get a new employee up to speed, but there are steps you can take to accelerate their training. If your onboarding process hasn’t changed in years, be sure to prioritise these three things in your next update. They’ll protect your organisation, improve engagement and put new hires on the fast track to success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

Why Small Teams Get It Done Better, Faster And Under Budget

How is a project delivered four months ahead of schedule and R2 million under budget? Because small teams deliver work within significantly shorter time frames and with smaller budgets. Here’s how.

THE TEAM SECRET

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The challenge

We will focus on teams that are given tasks that must be completed within a specific time frame, for instance a set number of items by close of business or objectives to be reached by a specific date, and we will also investigate the difference in performance between larger and smaller teams. Our case studies are based on client interventions by a management consulting company that co-author Anton Burger worked for. During these client interventions he worked with and managed teams ranging from two to 110 people across various industries.

An interesting truth was revealed during two such client interventions several years apart when two teams, one large and one small, had to deliver the same type of solution. The smaller team delivered the work within a significantly shorter time frame and with a smaller budget.

Over the 19-year period that our co-author Anton Burger worked with and managed teams, the question was often asked, why are smaller teams able to achieve so much more? Let’s look at the following example.

A big life insurance company wanted to computerise their business processes to improve operational efficiencies. This would not only bring down operational cost but also improve customer experience.

Related: Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

The management team of the organisation approached Victor Pereira (pseudonym), a management consultant, to assist with the selection of suitable software to computerise the business and to put a team together to implement the system. A system was soon selected and a seven-member team was established.

The team consisted of a team leader, a two-man development team, an IT expert and a three-man business analysis (to determine the needs of the business) and testing team. The members of the team were all specialists in their fields and had much experience.

Besides the normal challenges that go with a project of this nature, there was one additional challenge — the version of the software in question had never before been implemented anywhere in the world. The client would be the first.

Adding to this challenge was the fact that, should any software code issues come up, they could only be resolved by the software provider based in the United States. This meant the team needed to be flexible and had to work after hours in South Africa to coincide with the working hours of the software provider.

However, the project team took ownership of the challenges and was determined to solve the issues and implement the system. The relatively small size of the team made communication and decision-making easier.

Large teams heighten complexity

Each team member was adaptable, committed to the project goals, and took ownership. This insured effective and high-quality deliverables. A combination of factors, such as the size of the team, the right people with the right skills and their commitment to the goals, ensured that the project was delivered four months ahead of schedule and R2 million under budget.

After the successful completion of the project, Victor was approached by the life insurance company to salvage a project to replace their outdated and disparate transactional systems (that had already been computerised) with a single modern system. The company had already spent some time and money trying to implement a new transactional system but little progress had been made. As project director, Victor was confronted with the challenge to restart the project and complete it within the original time frame with a smaller budget.

Given the time pressure, the company believed throwing a big team at the problem would help solve it. Up until this point in his career, Victor had predominantly worked with smaller teams and had never experienced the challenges surrounding teamwork in a team of this size.

A mixture of existing and new teams was assigned to the project. This overall team, totalling 110, was made up of multiple sub-teams ranging between four and 12, each with their own team leader. Multiple vendors supplied software components, which had to be integrated with each other and existing interfaces.

The multiple teams and vendors, combined with a highly regulated financial services environment, created an extremely complex project. The size of the greater team posed a significant challenge in terms of communication and co-ordination. Teams started planning their respective deliverables, sometimes without consulting or planning with other teams that were involved. Some team leaders excluded team members from the planning process, which meant that team members could not commit to time frames. This led to a lack of commitment with team members not taking ownership.

Consequently, the project struggled to gain momentum. A project of this scale requires careful planning and coordination between the different teams involved. Teams depended on deliverables from other teams to meet deadlines. For example, the development team could not start development unless the business analysis team had completed their business needs specifications.

The problems were exacerbated by the fact that team leaders did not have the right authority levels to make decisions on the spot and this also hampered progress. One of the key teams started missing critical deliverables, which had a negative impact on all the other teams.

The moment non-delivery becomes a reality, pressure mounts for all parties involved. At times like these the level of trust among team members is the glue that holds things together. However, in this case there was a breakdown in trust among some members of the overall leadership team.

At this point Victor realised that at the current rate of progress the team would not reach the project goals. An intervention was needed. He red-flagged it with the managing director of the company and it was decided that a different approach to coordination was urgently needed.

The project was stopped and the approach reevaluated. The entire project was re-planned but this time with all the team leaders and team members involved. Victor was astounded by the complete about-turn in the team morale. This resulted in more realistic timelines and commitment from all team members, which fostered a sense of ownership.

The project made good progress but sadly, due to the significant delays, the original launch dates could not be achieved and the project was over budget. Surprisingly (or not), the small team that was incorporated into the bigger team made excellent progress and delivered on their scope of work, on time.

Related: 7 Team Building Ideas To Create An Engaged Team

Small teams achieve better teamwork

The value of teamwork, the importance of managing teams well and even the effectiveness of smaller teams have been well documented and developed over the past 70 years. In the 1950s a more scientific approach was introduced to the concept of teamwork when two American engineers, Joseph M. Juran and W. Edwards Deming, took their philosophy on quality to Japan. They were invited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers to do something about the perceived poor quality of Japanese products.

Their thinking gave birth to the concept of Quality Circles — a system in which small teams of employees voluntarily come together to define and solve a quality or performance-related problem. Secondly, it led to Total Quality Management — a system of managerial, statistical and technological concepts and techniques aimed at achieving quality objectives throughout an organisation.

This system expanded into teams with the relevant authority (at low levels) to make decisions. During the late 1980s and early 1990s organisations across the globe were dominated by self-managing teams,  relatively small and highly autonomous work teams that take responsibility for a product, project or service, and self-directed teams,  small groups of employees who have day-to-day responsibility for managing themselves and their work.

Another type of team that is often used to improve organisational performance is a mission-directed work team. The aim of mission-directed work teams is to provide leaders and their teams with the skills to:

  • Achieve high and continually improving levels of quality, speed and cost effectiveness
  • Establish goal alignment and business focus
  • Benchmark themselves against best leadership and workplace practices to identify and address high leverage areas for improvement in a systematic manner
  • Create a visual workplace (the use of pictures, graphics and other images to convey information and meaning quickly and simply) to simplify the management
  • of objectives
  • Achieve teamwork, participation and continuous learning.
  • Work teams have gained worldwide acceptance in organisations. However, while teamwork is essential to organisational performance, effective teamwork is often elusive.

A decline in effectiveness is often caused by teams that are too big, teams that do not have a clear purpose or a structured plan or are made up of the wrong members. Teams that are not trusted with great responsibility and are not allowed much freedom to make their own decisions may also fail. Conflict, mistrust and poor leadership are often the leading causes of poor performance by a team.

Professors Martin Hoegl, head of the Institute of Leadership and Organisation at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Hans Georg Gemuenden, of BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo and K. Praveen Parboteeah of University of Wisconsin–Whitewater investigated the effects of team size on teamwork quality among 58 software development projects. They found that the top five teams, in terms of teamwork quality, ranged in size from three to six members and the bottom five from seven to nine members. More significantly, on average, teams of three members achieved 63% of the teamwork quality of the best team, which is in stark contrast to teams of nine members which only achieved 28%.

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Managing Staff

7 Simple Steps To Strategise For 2019’s Success

To make that happen you will need to start strategising soon. So let’s talk about how all of us can create effective team strategies for 2019.

Revel Africa

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With the buzz and hoopla in full swing this holiday season, as managers and business owners it’s good to remember that the new year is right around the corner. We all want next year to be better than this one, and you probably have a few improvements in mind that you want to see come to fruition.

To make that happen you will need to start strategising soon. So let’s talk about how all of us can create effective team strategies for 2019.

1. First, clarify your goals

To know what the new year should look like, start by understanding what this year was like. Pull reports now while data is fresh, and look at this year’s performance. Identify the changes you’d like to see in the upcoming year.

Then you can clearly see what you want your team to achieve in the new year:

  • What specific metrics need work?
  • Do you want to see an increase in overall revenues by a certain percentage?
  • How about improving productivity and cutting costs?

2. Time to plan

Once you have an idea of what needs changing you can work out the details of how you will achieve it.

Consider the SMART acronym when putting your plan together. Is your plan:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

As leaders we need to lead with clarity and decisiveness, but we will do well to gain the input and ideas of those we lead.

Once you have your plan in place, you can bring in your team.

Related: Planning A Year End Function On A Budget? Five Fabulous Tips To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck

3. Book a break-away meeting

Plan your meeting after the holiday season has passed. The start of the year is a good time, as everything has calmed down, minds are fresh, and people are ready for vision. So, early in January, bring your key management team together and let them know you would like to discuss the goals for the upcoming year.

Plan a meeting away from the office so that the usual distractions are eliminated, and you can all focus on the key objectives. Sometimes we need help arranging these things, like finding a great venue, arranging food, including ice-breakers, creative starters and games to get the juices flowing, and so on. This is not your core skill set, so consider hiring an event planner and an MC to keep the day on track, so that you can focus on the main thing – getting the team focused and energised for success in 2019.

4. Setup the meeting agenda

Start the meeting by bringing everyone up to speed by reviewing last year’s stats. Show the results that you reviewed and allow them to see where the areas of success were, as well as the areas that need attention. If you haven’t already, recognise the team members who stood out in various important aspects of the business. This is tremendously motivating and encouraging.

Get a conversation going either in small teams, or around the table where ideas are brainstormed for how to solve the areas that need improvement. Find out from the team why they think the business struggled in these areas, and how they think improvements can be made.

Your agenda could cover these conversation starters:

  1. What are the three most important objectives for this year. Think “big picture” here, things that touch on profit and future achievement.
  2. Who is responsible for each of these?
  • What will you do?
  • How will you do it?
  • By when will you do it?
  1. Break the year up into monthly metrics and put quarterly goal-planning reviews on your calendar. This commits you to pause and measure every 90 days, while keeping a close eye on profits, clients, projects, revenue in 30-day intervals.
  2. Link up. Remember, lone wolves starve to death. Think about who can you partner with in 2019 to reach your goals – who are your advocates, allies, referral sources, and potential joint venture partners who can help you leapfrog over obstacles and who complement your own products and services. Get contact details and build your relationship with them so you can collaborate more closely – starting right now.

Remember to take breaks that are fun and creative in order to unhook from this intense deep dive into strategy. You don’t want to burn out your team right at the start of the year. Keep snacks, water, and activities going so that they have fuel to keep on but start the year motivated and positive.

5. Draw up the final plan

Once done, it is time to go through all of the input you have received to supplement your strategies, and draw up the final plan. When your final plan is ready, bring the remainder of your team together and lay out the plan for 2019. This can be done via a video recording, Skype, an email, a meeting, or one-on-one conversations, depending on the size and locations of your team. Be clear about what they need to bring to the table in 2019 and how it will be measured. Then ask for a commitment from each team member to work toward the improvement in the coming year.

6. Tracking and Measuring

Once the team is committed and bought into the 2019 strategy, you’ve only just begun. Set policies and procedures in place to track progress, provide updates, and hold people accountable to their commitments. Some managers might opt to check the metrics daily and send out weekly updates, while others may check weekly and send out monthly updates. Whatever you decide, consistency is key to ensure you stay on track to achieve your goals in 2019.

7. Invest in resources for success in 2019

As this year winds down, commit yourself to leading, motivating, and inspiring your team to work together towards your common goal. Plan how you can come alongside your managers to ensure their success by offering mentoring, support, training, and whatever resources they need to achieve these goals.Their success is ultimately your success.

Similarly it might be a good time to invest more into your own growth – consider a mentor for the year ahead who can help take you past your own limitations and rutted thinking. Read books on leadership and other’s business successes; plan three mini-holidays in the year to keep you sharp and focused. Remember you can only give to others what you yourself have.

This simple yet effective strategy can be applied to whatever type of business you are in, and can help you gain the buy-in of your vision by your team and make 2019 a year of achievable success.

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