In only 12 years, 75% of American employees will be Millennials.  By then, even the last of the Baby Boomers will be 66 and on social security (though a few of us might still be working).  Generation X is a smaller cohort and some of its 54-65 year olds will already be retired.  The oldest Generation Zers will only be 34 at that time.   Yes, in 2030, the Millennials, aged 35 to 53, will be the backbone of the economy and country.

What an exciting time to be alive!  Can you imagine all the changes that may occur in the next 12 years?  Just consider that just 14 years ago Blockbuster Video had 9,000 stores and is now down to one last store in Oregon. 2004 was also the year Facebook was launched.

Yes, new reality can be exciting and challenging.  The Millennials bring with them their own expectations of life, work and values.  Those organizations and communities that embrace generational diversity will undoubtedly thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future.

Jennifer Brown, author of “Reversing the Generation Equation: Mentoring in the New Age of Work,” indicates that Millennials “possess the most diverse attitudes, tendencies and requirements of any preceding generation and they are bringing that to work and life and demanding to be welcomed, valued, respected and heard.”  They’ve grown up with being in the center of the activity and expect to stay there.

The Pew Research Center’s “Millennials in Adulthood” takes a look at just how unique this generation is and how the social, political and economic realities in their formative years have shaped them.  Due to a disconnect between Millennials and many organizations not willing to meet them half-way, it’s no surprise that Millennials have experienced greater job dissatisfaction than Generation X and Baby Boomers.

A study conducted by Deloitte showed that 56% of Millennials have “ruled out working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.”  49% have declined a task assigned to them that was thought to go against personal values or rules of ethics.  According to the study, Millennials are seeking a good work/life balance (more than monetary compensation), their own homes, a partner, flexible working conditions and financial security.  Furthermore, this group does not necessarily defer to seniority as seen in previous generations. For them, respect must be earned.  Which brings us to the concept of “Reverse Mentoring.”

Jack Welch of GE was one of the early pioneers of reverse mentoring.  Twenty years ago, as technological changes were sweeping our country, Mr. Welch encouraged 500 top-level executives at GE to reach out to people younger than them to learn about the internet.  Since then, reverse mentoring has gone beyond technological learning and expanded into ideas, advice and insights.  Organizations such as PWC and AARP are among those who have launched programs.

At PWC, the young mentors are in their early 20s and have been working long enough to understand how it works and short enough to still have a fresh perspective.  The AARP Foundation created a Mentor Up program in 2013 where teens and young adults come together with older generations to keep them current and connected with the younger world.  The young mentor the older mentees on technology and health and fitness.  They also exchange Valentine’s Day cards.  In short, intergenerational connections were made, skills exchanged, understanding obtained and mutual respect and admiration were achieved.

At DWM, we have two excellent young team members; Grant Maddox in Charleston and Jake Rickord in Palatine.  We are just starting a reverse mentoring program at DWM where Grant and Jake will be the mentors and Brett, Jenny, Ginny and I will be the mentees.  Once a month, we set aside lunch time for the mentor to share a topic, theme or idea they are interested in sharing and to explain two-way learning opportunities.  We invest time to learn, get to know one another better and increase our trust and respect for each other.  We are also starting to dismantle the old paradigm that “seniority always knows best.”

Our goal is generational diversity and respect for all.  Yes, the Millennials are coming. And, yes, they come with the most diverse attitudes, tendencies and requirements of any preceding generation.  As they say in World Cup Champion France, “Vive la Difference.”

Voice Mail: Perhaps Archaic, Yet Still Needed

can phoneLate last year, Coca-Cola said it was eliminating voice mail at its headquarters in Atlanta. JPMorgan Chase announced last week that it was doing away with office voice mail for many of its employees. They tied their decision to tightening expense controls. They will save $10 per month per line.

Certainly, office voice mail is not the medium of choice for everyone. Millennial Amy Brown posted a popular joke on twitter on ways to get in touch with her: “1. text, 2. facebook chat, 3. tweet, 4. e-mail, …998. skywriting, 999. smoke signals, 1000. voice mail.” Text messaging, largely the domain of friends and families, is starting to be seen more in the professional realm. As millennials become the largest generation in the workforce, their habits are going to have a huge influence on workplace practices. Jena McGregor of the Washington Post puts it this way: “When it comes to voice mail, Millennials are pretty much over it, while their love affair with texting seems to know no bounds.”

Of course, I’m not a millennial. Heck, I remember when cell phones were the size of a brick and almost as heavy. I applaud the continual improvements in technology and try my best to understand and use them all. I recognize that voice mail is on the decline.

However, in my opinion, the form of communication shouldn’t be based on what’s easiest or less costly for me, but, more importantly, what works best for our clients and makes it easiest for them to get in touch and stay in touch with us.

We work with clients of all ages, some in their late 90s and some in their early 20s. Some older clients don’t own a computer, don’t use email, and certainly don’t text or tweet. Most of their communication is done by phone and they are quite comfortable leaving a voice mail if we’re on the other line or out of the office, knowing that they will likely get a call back in an hour or so.

Speaking personally, while I use email 80% or 90% of the time, there are certain times that I prefer using a phone. You can hear the other person’s voice and tone and usually a call offers more context. For me, it’s the next best thing to being there in person where you both can see reactions and observe body language. I use the phone for those who don’t use email, complex situations, very important topics and/or when I am concerned that an email message might not be understood or, worse yet, misunderstood.

It seems many companies have de facto given up on voice mail. These days, your call for help often results in the vendor trying to get you to their website (which is particularly annoying when your problem is that your internet service is down), putting you on hold for long stretches of time, asking you to call back later or just disconnecting you. Yes, I understand that it’s cheaper for a company to direct you to their website than have a fully staffed and trained customer service center.

But, again, the focus should be on customer service and adding value. As I mentioned in a DWM blog in March, Dr. Horst Schulze, one of the founders of the Ritz Carlton, offered his view on cost-cutting: “When we say it is deadly to cut costs that cheapen your product or service in ways that matter to your customer, we mean it.” Customers and clients are the lifeblood of any business. Excellent communication with them, using the medium or media appropriate for them is paramount.

Please be assured that we at DWM welcome your communication in any and all media. If you want to call, we’ll answer your call promptly. If we’re on the other line or out of the office, please leave a voice mail- we’ll get back to you shortly. We welcome the opportunity to stay connected.

And, if you have any thoughts or comments on this article or anything else, please contact us in your favorite medium: skywriting and smoke signals included.

Millenials – #NewEconomicTrends

MillenialsThere is a lot of buzz about this next generation of young adults in the U.S. workforce as they begin impacting and shaping the economy. Lately, the trend is to define a generation and to stereotype their culture to better understand what they have done in the past, predict what they might do in the future, and evaluate how this will affect us all. For example, there are the Traditionalists, born between 1925-’45, who are considered to be patient, respectful and hard-working. Next came the Baby Boomers, 1946-’64, who are thought to be optimistic, ambitious and cooperative. After that are the Gen X’ers, 1965-’81, described as skeptical, self-reliant and risk-taking. Now we have the Millenials, also called Generation Y, who are described as tech-savvy, hopeful and empathetic. Generalities, of course. However, the specific traits of these 18 to young 30-somethings may already be impacting trends in financial practices and corporate strategies.

Many see this group as comprised of “creatives” in the job market, interested in technical innovation and independent, stylistic pursuits. These young adults are purportedly skeptical of religious, political, and financial institutions, but embrace communalism, companies with good citizenship and are connected to everything around them through social media and smart technology. They are health-conscious, value quality of life over material acquisitions and look to use their incomes to exercise professional control. Increasingly, the Millenials are looking to be entrepreneurial, telecommuting and flexible enough financially to be independent professionally. By 2025, statistics report that Millenials will make up 75% of the workforce, so these trends may play a significant role in how this country does business. Start-ups, working from home, and placing importance on job satisfaction over wealth acquisition are key aspects. Millenials also expect corporations to be increasingly socially responsible. There is strong brand loyalty as both consumers and job-seekers by this generational segment to companies who participate in solutions to social concerns. Many are starting their careers in the Peace Corps, Americorps, and Teach for America. Future job market trends show growth in technology, childcare/education and preventitive healthcare, so the Millenials appear well-positioned to take advantage of these trends.

In their financial lives, Millenials tend to be extremely cautious. They watched their parents and older generations adversely affected by the 2000 tech bubble and the 2008 recession and it has impacted the way they approach their financial planning. Many are distrustful of banks, think the markets are rigged and believe that technology from services like Google, Amazon, Apple, Paypal or Square will overhaul the system of banking access and financial management. Those that have conquered their residual student loan debts are uber-conservative in their asset allocation and prefer to leave large percentages in cash, rather than trust their savings to equities investing. This is a mistake, cautions many advisors, as the younger investor has the most to gain from balanced, long-term investment strategies. Millenials are understanding of the importance of saving generally and know they cannot depend on the past retirement ‘givens’ of pensions and Social Security. However, only around 13% seek advice from advisors and their conservative and independent approach to their finances keeps them from taking advantage of proven long-term investment opportunities.

In all, the stereotype of the Millenials seems positive… innovative, socially responsible, and fiscally conservative. In pursuit of their long term success, we hope the Millenials develop another trait: recognizing the benefit of sound financial advice.