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What happens when the Boomers are gone and the Millennials are in charge?

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According to Pew Research, the Millennials have finally overtaken Boomers in the workforce.  This demographic shift has a lot of repercussions in the workplace.  For years we’ve been talking about similarities and differences between the generations at work.  The stereotypes abound – Milliennials are digital natives, Boomers have trouble with the remote control; Millennials want it all now, Boomers worked their way up the ladder, etc.

Whether some of these multi-generations cliches are true or not, the Millennials are entering the management ranks as they mature and their Boomer bosses start to head for the retirement exit ramp.  What happens now?

I had that conversation recently with two of our Workforce Institute board members, Dan Schawbel and John-Anthony Meza.  Dan is a bestselling author and founder of WorkplaceTends.com, a research and advisory membership service for HR professionals, as well as managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm.  John-Anthony is the Human Resources Officer (HRO) for the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP), where as a member of the senior leadership team, he provides strategic leadership and direction for all facets of human resources.

Some of the topics we discussed included:

  • What is different about Millennials?
  • How should organizations be preparing for the Boomer brain drain?
  • What skills do Millennials need to develop in order to assume leadership roles?

You can listen to our conversation here.

What do you think? Is the rise of the Millennial Manager the dawn of a new age, or more of the same?

Relevant Links:

Sue Meisinger on When The Boomer Levee Breaks

Research conducted by Dan Schawbel:

GenX/Baby Boomers on what they think about Millennials   

Millennials and women not aspiring to senior leadership  

Millennials want more frequent feedback 

Millennials lack soft skills  

 

Customer Service Above and Beyond – in the Cloud

amazonLast week I attended the excellent CXPA Insight Exchange conference in San Diego.  CXPA is the Customer Experience Professionals Association.  At Kronos, I’m responsible for our voice of the customer program, and always welcome the opportunity to network and learn from peers in this profession.  I walked away from this conference with a few good ideas I think we can put to work at Kronos.

One presentation I really liked was by Bruce Temkin, one of the gurus of customer experience.  Bruce talked about 5 key trends that are shaping successful customer experience efforts to provide excellent customer service:

  1. Anticipatory experiences – that is, anticipating what the customer is ultimately trying to accomplish when they engage with you
  2. Mobile first: design processes with mobile end user in mind
  3. Value as a service: examples are firms like uber, airbnb, zipcar
  4. Continuous Insights: ensuring that you are collecting the right insight, at the right time, and in the right format as you seek to improve your customers’ experience
  5. Power of culture: the idea here is that if you create the right culture, your people will do the right thing by your customers without the need for excessive controls.

I was reminded of these trends today when I received the message below from Amazon Instant Video – on my phone.  This is a great example that hits on everything on Bruce’s list, and then some:

  1. They understand my goal is an uninterrupted movie experience.
  2. They designed their communication to me so that I could read it on my phone easily.
  3. Their very service is value as a service – movies and tv in the cloud.
  4. They used their own real time analytics to detect a problem – I took no action to get this credit.
  5. Clearly their culture enables processes that put customer loyalty ahead of increased profits.

Bravo, Amazon. I think I’ll keep paying for that Prime membership.

Note from Amazon:

Hello,

We noticed that you recently experienced poor video playback on Amazon Instant Video. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, and have issued you a refund for the following rental(s) and amount(s):

$3.99 – Network [HD]

While Amazon Instant Video transactions are typically not refundable, we are happy to make an exception in this case. This refund should be processed within the next 2 to 3 business days and will appear on your next billing statement for the same credit card used to purchase this item.

Please visit our troubleshooting page for tips on ways you can potentially improve your viewing experience:www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201431300

We hope to see you again soon,

Amazon Instant Video Team

Your IT Systems Can Use Some Spring Cleaning

0209_snow-carsThis has been a particularly brutal winter here in the Boston area. In fact, we got the highest seasonal snowfall in recorded history, racking up a whopping 110.6 inches. For those of you who don’t live in a snowbelt, let me paint a picture for you.

Storms earlier in the season are charming. The snow flutters down, we enjoy the picturesque transformation of the landscape around us. We make soup, bake bread, put the shovels by the front door, and settle in to catch up on Netflix. We work from home if we can to avoid the slippery roads. We’re all in this together.

After weeks of unrelenting cold and mounting snow, however, the regional mood changes dramatically. Commutes double in length as snowdrifts the consistency of cement narrow the roads and cripple the elderly infrastructure of our public transportation. Going shopping becomes a gladiatorial battle for fewer parking spots and short supply items like roof rakes, batteries and bottled water. Everybody including the family dog is depressed by the unrelentingly cold and gray landscape outside. We start reading post-apocalypse books for survival tips.

Eventually, after we’ve endured just about all we can, the spring arrives. We throw open the windows. We clean closets, attics, basements and yards. We embrace the shiny new weather and hope for the best.

Deciding to upgrade or replace your older IT technology is a lot like that transition from winter’s miseries to summer’s delights. Organizations will put up with a lot of inconvenience and outright lack of functionality rather than face the disruption of a technology project. Vendors sell not only against their competitors in this regard, but almost equally against the inertia of incumbent systems that are “good enough” to get by for another year.

But the moment inevitably arises when you can no longer avoid the technology project. Vendors stop supporting your old system, or your environment changes in ways that mandate new capabilities. You can look at the project with dread, or you can embrace the opportunity to make significant improvements in your business. As a veteran of both sides of this equation – systems buyer and seller – I’d like to offer the following strategies to make your next IT project predictably successful.

1. Be clear on your objectives. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Even the very best technology vendors don’t know your business as well as you do. Technology enables wise process and policy decisions, it doesn’t replace the need for humans to make those decisions. Before you go shopping for new technology, convene all of the key stakeholders to review what works and what doesn’t in your current environment and establish a vision for what the new system needs to accomplish. Be very specific at this stage about metrics that define success. Not “X needs to happen faster”, but “X needs to happen with 60 minutes of Y”.

2. Take the time to plan your project before you begin. Sometimes buyers are unhappily surprised by the level of effort they have to expend on a technology project once it gets underway. If you are working with consultants or vendors, ask very detailed questions about the time and skills that will be required from your team. Identify all of the factors that will impact the timeline for your project: acquisition of data, possible integrations, third parties that need to get involved, availability of key people needed to make the project successful, other projects competing for the same resources, etc. Now is not the time to engage in magical thinking. Plan for the inevitable surprises and delays.

3. Be disciplined about communications throughout your project. Document what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and who is responsible for executing every step in the process. Establish the channels and cadence of communication that will work for your organization to ensure you are executing your plan. Keep stakeholders outside of the project team informed about progress and setbacks.

4. Get insight from those who’ve gone before you. Ask your vendor for references you can talk to. Take it one step further and find ways to connect to references your vendor didn’t provide. Those back channel sources may be even more candid. Many vendors host online communities where their customers can find and talk to one another. Many industry associations similarly provide advice forums. Forewarned is forearmed.

5. Start engaging your end users early in the project. Involve representatives of your end user community in validating project objectives, evaluating alternative solutions, and previewing solutions before they are rolled out to the larger community. Take their feedback seriously and use it to refine your approach. No matter how masterfully you manage a technology deployment, the win happens when people actually use it to drive better results.

This article originally published in the Huffington Post.