Millennials, Schmennials!

The event industry needs to stop kowtowing to this one demographic, says event expert Tami Forero of Forte Events.  While attending The Special Event conference two weeks ago, I heard several smart, successful business owners ask their peers for advice. One topic came up repeatedly: These entrepreneurs wanted to know how to keep their companies’ millennial-aged employees happy enough that they won’t continually leave for greener pastures and better goodies at other companies.  It seems the more money, benefits and perks the competition offers, the harder it is to hang on to the members of this fickle and gifted generation.

The Stats According to Fortune.com, millennials are the generation in the workplace who are currently between18 and 34 years old, making up one-third of the American work force. As a rule, they are tech-savvy and reported to be “high performing.” Millennials want to feel engaged, they want to make a difference, and they want to be recognized for their efforts. My question is—who doesn’t? Are we all really that different? Why are the millennials singled out for special treatment?  Why does corporate America and the small business owner feel pressured to comply with their needs?  Is it all really necessary?

Ummm … No You may have judged from my tone that I am not partaking in this whole thing. I own an event-planning firm and I treat all our team members equally whether they are 22 years old or 72 years old. We have millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all working together harmoniously–we do not have high turnover.

I think it’s sad that business owners are turning themselves inside out to hold the attention of a sect of workers who have limited experience and want the same things everyone does. It is a privilege to have a job today and a miracle to work in our industry. I say, look for qualities in potential employment candidates (no matter what their age) such as honesty, integrity, enthusiasm, and team spirit. All the other event specific skills can be taught.  If millennials need gym memberships, smoothie bars, and uber-cool workspaces to function and you feel like you can’t keep up with your competition to accommodate their needs, stop doing it!  Don’t buy into the hype that this is all necessary. There are plenty of amazing people looking for work–stop targeting a group of people who are causing you so much stress.

Think about this…

1. Hire a Mom: There is a gold mine available to us that many have not fully tapped into–Moms. Many women (and men) left lucrative and impressive careers to return home and raise children. Those kids are now off to school, leaving Mom wanting a more creative career part-time.  Salary is often not the key factor–flexibility is king with this group.  They are generally not a needy lot, preferring to work hard using their amazing experience and connections for five hours per day as long as they are home in time to take their kids to soccer, ensuring a balanced home life. My personal experience has been more than positive with these team members. They are great to work with, open to instruction, grateful and loyal. I am fortunate to have these women and men on my team.

2. Don’t forget about the Boomers: Talk about an amazing workforce! Many of these folks have retired from one or more careers and are too talented and motivated to stay fully retired. They are bored. They love a challenge and are not motivated by money. They want to be challenged, and on our team, they enjoy “hanging out” and learning about technology from millennials. It’s a great thing to see and be a part of!  I highly recommend seeking these professionals out and hiring them.

3. Adjust your expectations: People do not stay at companies long term, no matter what their age. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the tenure of salaried employees is 4.6 years on average. In my corporate experience, employees averaged three years, but I won’t argue with real statistics. In my own company, I am fortunate that my older team members have stayed between six to 10 years of our 10 years in business.  Our current millennial teammates have worked with us for three years, but we have had millennials leave after one year.  Guess what? I’m totally fine with it.  Is it hard to train people just to have them leave?  Yes.  Does it cost money to advertise, hire, train and set up new employees?  Yes. Will this process change?  Probably not. 

4. What we should be offering everyone: I offer everything to anyone we choose to work with at Forté Events.  I happily share knowledge, experience, insight, training, money and perks like flexible work schedules, remote officing, and a hands-off management style.  We offer support and freedom, structure and flexibility.  If this in itself is not enough for some segments of the work force, then I’m okay with not hiring them.  We are an awesome place to work and we are very selective in who joins us … and that’s okay.

5. Look at your company: Maybe what your millennials and other teammates are missing are not the perks but the genuine impartation of useful information.  Maybe you’re a micro manager or a control freak and that is what is driving your talent to the competition.  We can blame our failures on many things but before you give up or give over all your profits to the next hiring fad, look at what you can offer your team.  Are you the best leader you can be?  Start there and leave the napping nests and dance parties behind.  What people crave at any age is authenticity and something to believe in–a company and people worth their time, talent, and heart.  Offer that.  I promise it works.  Everyone else you can afford to lose.

6. Think about good millennials: I think it’s only fair to mention that there are people in the millennial age category who are great employees.  They have not succumbed to the lie of entitlement; they are hard-working and understand they may have to start at the bottom when they are new to an industry.  I am fortunate to work with these millennials.

When I thought about what makes our team different, I realized that our millennials are children of entrepreneurs.  They grew up learning from good parents the value of money, time and relationships.  They witnessed firsthand how difficult business can be and they know the inner workings. I did not look for this background when interviewing people in this age group; I only realized it when writing this blog.  Maybe there’s something to this.  Regardless, I think we need to judge each person individually regardless of age when considering candidates for employment.

7. Be encouraged: There’s another generation coming behind the millennials, and I’m sure business publications and HR professionals will define them in another needy way.  Maybe it’s true … maybe it isn’t. All I know is inspiration is timeless.  Great leaders have important things to offer employees in every age category.  If you are a teachable, flexible and genuine leader, you will not be able to keep up with the influx of talent that will seek you and your company out. Flip the script and I guarantee you’ll see the right people come to you and stay.

Tami Forero is a strategic event planner and CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company Forté Events. With 22 years of event planning experience, she helps clients meet goals using experiential events and is a sought-after speaker across the U.S. on the subjects of sales, work-life balance and profitability.

Source: Millennials, Schmennials!

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