Archive for Hiring

Is “Conventional Wisdom” Wrong About Millennials?

We are, all of us, creatures of habit. We find our comfort zones and are wont to stay there.

One of the elements of any comfort zone is our reliance, to some degree, on the concept of “conventional wisdom,” sets of tried-and-true beliefs and aphorisms that help guide the way we make decisions and manage risks. One example is the saying that working hard is the path to success. It may not always be true, of course, but it certainly makes success more likely, and so is useful. Another is that education leads to a higher standard of living, an equally useful tidbit, as are many others.

Such conventional wisdom often serves us well, but not always.

Sometimes conventional wisdom can be annoyingly, devastatingly wrong. One has only to remember that there was a time when the conventional wisdom had most people believing that the earth was flat. As Mark from marksdailyapple.com writes, conventional wisdom can be “a lumbering beast: slow to move, but difficult to alter course once its big bullish head is set on moving in a certain direction. It’s the pigheaded, stubborn curmudgeon yelling at those darn kids to get off his lawn.” And often that’s true.

Why all this preface? It’s because we came across an article recently that challenges a very specific conventional wisdom—this one about millennials.

We’ve all gotten quite comfortable with the generational nomenclature by now. We recognize our GenXers and our Boomers and our Millennials. Theories have been written about generational differences, and we’ve incorporated a lot of that thinking into the way we hire, develop, and lead. In many ways we’ve internalized “conventional wisdom” about these generational classifications.

Now, a new study is asking that we take a hard look at what we think we know.

The study, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value (and reported in this month’s HR Magazine) reports that Millennials are much more like the rest of us than conventional wisdom suggests:

  • Millennials’ career goals are nearly the same as those reported by GenXers and Boomers, focusing on financial security and seniority to the same degrees as these other categories.
  • Millennials do not live in a world where “everyone gets a trophy,” nor do they expect it. What they want is transparency and a chance to be heard.
  • Millennials are much more interested in face-to-face interactions than supposed; though they are more versatile in virtual situations than older workers, they don’t always prefer it.

There are a few other example in the article as well, but the point is less about the specifics and more about this point: As leaders and HR experts, we must challenge our pre-conceived notions, challenge the “conventional wisdom” in order to create the best environment for our employees. This study brings home the importance of that message. All is not always as it seems.

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Three Easy Steps to Hiring the Right Leader

Thanks this week go to our Guest Blogger, Robin Eichert of PeopleSense Consulting, for this thoughtful and interesting article.

I wish I could tell you that every person I ever hired worked out perfectly. They didn’t.

There were some great hiring decisions I made when I was managing boatloads of people, and also some wonderful outcomes when I’ve been a part of a hiring team. But, unfortunately, there have been a few notable flops as well.

Sometimes I could tell after a few days, other times it took a few months, but in the general scheme of things, it didn’t take long before I knew I had made a mistake.

We all know how critical a decision it is when we bring a new person on to a leadership team. Of course we expect high levels of skill and competence in their area of expertise, but even that can easily be misjudged, especially if we only go by the information they provide about their past experiences. Just because someone has been a CEO at a company before doesn’t necessarily mean they were a good one.

When we hire into a management role, we don’t usually plan for the same generous ramp-up time that we do in entry-level or middle-management roles, either. We expect leaders to hit the ground running, making changes that will turn around big issues that we’ve been struggling with, either because the last person in the role wasn’t successful or our growth demands new expertise.

There is a lot resting on this new person’s shoulders from Day One—and yours, too, if you make the wrong choice.

What makes it so hard to get the hiring decision right?

There are a number of factors, but I believe the most common reason for failure when hiring at the executive level is that the person doesn’t fit the culture of the organization. We move too quickly when we get absorbed in all they say they are capable of doing, or we make a decision because we genuinely like the person sitting across the table. We fail to explore how they achieved their results, what methods or systems they used, and then evaluate if that approach will be effective in our culture.

There are three steps you can take to increase your odds of success. These steps aren’t difficult; it just takes discipline and commitment to the process.

  • Slow down. Hold multiple conversations with the candidate, even if on the phone, to explore different topics. Ask about the person’s past experiences, and listen carefully. Be curious about the types of projects they got involved in, understand the process they took to move it along, what results occurred, and what lessons were learned? Listen for realistic situations and honest recollections; be wary of sugar-coated stories where everything went right all the time.
  • Use assessments. Getting objective data absolutely helps you understand a candidate more thoroughly. None of us can uncover the nuances in a typical interview that you will learn from using a reliable, valid assessment instrument. There are great tools on the market; explore the ones that you feel comfortable with and that measure the areas that are important to you. Ask for reliability and validity scores from the publisher to ensure that you can trust the data.
  • Understand your organization’s culture. If you aren’t clear in your own mind what the important characteristics of your culture are, then you are destined to bring on someone that doesn’t fit it. For example, does your organization make decisions quickly without much involvement or discussion throughout the functional teams, or do changes in policy take time and consideration from multiple groups before moving ahead? Understand how the candidate’s natural style matches to your organization or you will introduce conflict and frustration before anyone gets on solid ground. You may want this hire to effect a change in your current methods, and that can work, too. But you have to know the starting point and where you’re headed.

Want to make the perfect choice every time? I wish I could tell you that you will.

Be thoughtful in your process, be curious about the other person, and understand what you want. Glaring differences will uncover themselves when you focus on the cultural fit between the candidate and your organization. Discovering that will be beneficial to everyone involved.

These are easy steps. Not foolproof. But what do you have to lose?

Robin Eichert is the Owner and Principle of PeopleSense Consulting LLC.  PeopleSense helps business leaders select and retain inspired employees who match the job and fit the culture of their organization. Together, we can create respectful, productive, and rewarding workplaces.

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