Engaging Millennials

Engaging Millennials

I have a new article in Public CIO magazine called Trophy Kids at Work.

Millennials may be having a tough time finding work–perhaps they are down, but they are certainly not out!

The article explores how to successfully engage millennials in the workforce by:

– Connecting in person and through social media

– Offering leading-edge technologies with room to experiment and innovate, and

– Providing a sense of meaning through professional contributions.

Hope you enjoy,

Andy

Bringing The Marriage Back Into Our Jobs

Federal Times (11 Sept 2011) reported on a human capital study done by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and Deloitte that found that “after the three-year [employment] mark, employee’ satisfaction scores plummets” from 77.2 the first year to 66.2 after the third year.

Tim McManus, the VP for PPS underscored the significance of employee dissatisfaction on productivity and retention, when he stated that “it’s more than just the end of the honeymoon period; your marriage is on the rocks.”

For sometime now, we have been hearing about the high frequency of job changing for Gen Xers and Yers; this week, I actually heard of someone who had changed jobs literally 50 times before the age of 30!

Certainly, I would imagine that living in a high-tech, fast-paced culture that we do now, contributes to the number and rate of job changes, where people are looking for lots of responsibility and recognition in short order or they simply move on. There is a notion that life is too short to waste it in an unproductive or unfulfilling job.

Further, the poor economy, where layoffs have become commonplace has likewise contributed to an employment culture where employers and employees no longer feel beholden to each other, and each is looking out for their own best interests rather than their mutual success.

Unfortunately, what is getting lost in this employment picture is the notion of career. To employers, a person has become a human capital asset–kept on-board only as long as they remain more of an asset than a liability. And correspondingly, to many employees a “job is just a job” now-a-days–it is a temporary phenomena for X hours a weeks for “as long as it lasts,” rather than a long-term place for personal and professional growth.

In a class this week, I had the privilege of hearing a terrific career development officer discuss the lifecycle of a job, as follows:

1) Steep Learning Curve — We all go through it…can anyway say, “how do you use the copy machine?”

2) Strong Expertise — This is the point where we are really excelling…we have become subject matter experts and are valued for that expertise.

3) Losing Your Edge — At a certain point, people start to lose interest, performance, or get out of sync with their boss or the organization.

4) Hitting Rock Bottom — If there is no course correction, employees who have “lost their edge” go on to become restless and dissatisfied and risk a precipitous decline.

Picture step 4 as a potential big SPLAT.

Most people start off their careers “bright eyes and bushy tailed,” but at some point, if they are not well-managed, they become discouraged, disillusioned, demoralized and so on.

Obviously, this hurts the organization and the employee–both suffer when the two are out of sync. However, employees may change jobs at any stage in the lifecycle of a job, but the later stages become more painful for boss and employee.

So as leaders, are there things we can do to keep job satisfaction scores high or does the very notion of a lifecycle of a job mean that eventually “all good things must come to an end”?

I think we certainly can do things to make for a longer and more fulfilling job life cycle–training and career opportunities, ethical management, good communication, recognition and rewards, mentoring and coaching, work-life balance, treating people fairly, and more.

At the same time, even in ideal situations, people, organizations, and markets change, and we must change with them. It is important to recognize, when things have changed inside ourselves and our organizations, and when it’s time to make a change outside in the job market. This is healthy when it’s done for the right reasons and when it results in new opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute.

Every situation brings new challenges and opportunities and we need to meet those head-on striving for job satisfaction, working through times of dissatisfaction, and recognizing life cycles are normal and natural–we are all human.

Good luck!

>It Time to Stop the Negativity and Move towards Constructive Change

>Recently, there was an article in Nextgov (http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2008/12/the_industry_advisory_council.php) about the Industry Advisory Council (IAC), a well respected industry-government consortium under the Auspices of the American Council for Technology, that recommended to the incoming Obama Administration the standup of an innovation agency under the auspices of the new Chief Technology Officer.

The Government Innovation Agency “would serve as an incubator for new ideas, serve as a central repository for best practices and incorporate an innovation review in every project. As we envision it, the Government Innovation Agency would house Centers of Excellence that would focus on ways to achieve performance breakthroughs and leverage technology to improve decision making, institute good business practices and improve problem solving by government employees.:”

While I am a big proponent for innovation and leveraging best practices, what was interesting to me was not so much the proposal from IAC (which I am not advocating for by the way), so much as one of the blistering comments posted anonymously from one of the readers, under the pseudonym “concerned retiree,” which I am posting in its entirety as follows:

“Hmmmmm….”innovation”…”central repository of new ideas”……can this be just empty news release jargon? Just more slow-news day, free-range clichés scampering into the daily news hole?.. .or perhaps this item is simply a small sized news item without the required room to wisely explicate on the real life banalities of the government sponsored “innovation” world…such as: 1)patent problems – is the US going to be soaking up, or handing out patent worthy goodies via the “innovation” czar or czarina? Attention patent attorneys, gravy train a comin’ 2)”leverage technology to improve decision making” – wow! a phrase foretelling a boon-doggle bonanza, especially since it’s wonderfully undefined and thereby, prompting generous seed money to explore it’s vast potential (less just fund it at say, $20-30 million?); 3) the “Government Innovation Agency” – -well now, just how can we integrate this new member to the current herd of government “innovation” cows, including: A) a the Dod labs, like say the Naval Research Lab, or the Dept of Commerce lab that produced the Nobel prize winner (oh, I see now, the proposal would be for “computer” type innovation pursuits – oh, how wise, like the health research lobbyists, we’re now about slicing “innovation” and/or research to match our vendor supplier concerns, how scientific!, how MBAishly wise); B) existing labs in private industry (e.g. former Bell Labs. GM-Detroit area “labs”/innovation groups), C) university labs – currently watered by all manner of Uncle Sam dollars via the great roiling ocean of research grants. Finally – given the current Wall Street melt-down and general skepticism for American business nimbleness (this too will pass, of course) — what’s the deal with all the Harvard Grad School-type hyper-ventilation on the bubbling creativity (destructive or otherwise) of American capitalism – -surely the GAO/Commerce/SEC could pop out some stats on the progressive deterioration of expenditures — capital and otherwise–on “innovation”. Or perhaps the sponsors of the “Government Innovation Agency” – will be happy to explain at the authorization hearing – how all the dough to date spent to date on development of the green automobile has yet to put a consumer friendly one on the road from a US corp — a fact that argues either for a vast expansion of the GIA, or, the merciful euthenasiaing of this dotty idea. See you all at the authorizing hearing?”

What’s so disheartening about this retiree’s comments?

It’s not that there is not some truth intermixed with the blistering comments, but it is the sheer magnitude of the cynicism, bitterness, negativity, resistance to ”new” (or at times reformulated) ideas, and “been-there-done-that” attitude that unfairly provides a bad name to other government workers who are smart, innovative, positive, and hard-charging and want to continuously improve effectiveness and efficiency of government for the benefit of the nation and to serve our citizens.

Sure, we need to listen and learn from those that preceded us–those with age, experience, expertise, and certainly vast amounts of wisdom. And yes, those of us who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat it. So we must be mindful to be respectful, collaborative, inclusive, and careful to vet new ideas and changes.

However, those that have served before or have been serving a long time now should also give hope, innovation, change (not for change’s sake, but based on genuine learning and growth) and continuous improvement a chance.

It is always easier to be a naysayer, a doomsday prognosticator, and to tear down and destroy. It is much, much harder to be positive, hopeful, and constructive—to seek to build a brighter future rather than rest on the laurels of the past.

Unfortunately, many people have been hurt by past mistakes, false leaders, broken promises, and dashed hopes, so they become resistant to change, in addition to, of course, fearing change.

Those of us in information technology and other fields (like science, engineering, product design and development, and so many others—in fact all of us can make a difference) need to be stay strong amidst the harsh rhetoric of negativity and pessimism, and instead continue to strive for a better tomorrow.