I’m A Boomer & I Like Avocado Toast

What is it about Millennials that drive every other generation crazy?

Image result for avocado toast

Can it really be their love for avocado toast?  I mean, I know it’s a piece of bread with some avocado smeared on it that costs too much money.  On the other hand, it’s delicious, so what’s the big deal?

Whatever the reason, that generation has spawned a significant number of ‘consultants’ who are making ungodly amounts of money for telling us how to manage Millennials, how to kowtow to Millennials, and how they are so much different than the rest of us.

Eric’s Leadership Hint: don’t manage them differently, don’t kowtow to them, and don’t assume they’re so different from the rest of us.

And it’s likely those consultants are the same people a few years ago who warned us not to stereotype a whole lot of people; that we needed to focus on “one size fits one”.  So much for that philosophy…

First, let’s start debunking some rumors.  After a lot of studying millennials through the dozens of clients we have, I’ve come to the same conclusion that Mel Kleiman has:

Millennials want:

  1. Technology that helps them be more productive
  2. Professional development opportunities
  3. Collaboration (a.k.a. teamwork)
  4. Work/life balance
  5. Purpose
  6. To be happy

So how is what “they” want so different than what the rest of us want?  It’s not.  (They may want all of this with more urgency than the rest of us, but that’s not a major issue).

Last year, I gave a keynote speech in Hawaii to a bunch of banking executives.  I had been asked to touch on the millennial issue, but the main focus of my talk was how to integrate younger leaders into the leadership team.

Right before I went on, my wife came up to me and said the previous speakers talked non-stop about millennials and how to manage them and what to do – basically duplicating what I was going to say.  She told me that they even took selfies of themselves speaking to illustrate how important that was to millennials.

So when I got to the ‘millennial’ part of my talk, I stopped and looked at the audience.  And said, “Is anyone here as tired as I am of talking about millennials?”

Well, I should have stopped right there, because the bankers were coming out of their seats to applaud that statement.  I was thus inspired to take a selfie as well, indicating “Boomers Can Take Selfies Too”.

My attempt at taking a selfie while speaking to 200 executives.       March, 2019

(The result of the photo showed that I can take a selfie, just not very well).

My point is this.  We’re all tired of “How To Manage Generations” articles and consultants.  We’re tired because it’s not fair to stereotype an entire generation.  People are different within generations. There are millennials who don’t like avocado toast, and there are some millennials who (gasp) don’t like taking selfies.  Just as there are boomers who are entitled snobs who think everything should be handed to them on a platter.

You don’t manage generations.  You manage individuals.

The world is one size fits one, and those who manage people based on a stereotype of an entire generation are doomed to failure.

The Art of Persuasion

It’s always a little strange to see your thoughts in writing – especially if they’re being written by someone else.

I was recently interviewed by students at the USC Marshall School of Business – they are candidates for Master’s degrees in Leadership and Management.  The focus of the interview was how to persuade employees to see your point of view.

Here’s the paper (and I didn’t edit at all!)

Background:  Eric Swenson has over 20 years of experience in management, sales, training and marketing. He has managed hundreds of employees and interviewed over 2,000 people in his career. RSJ/Swenson LLC is a management and human resources consulting firm with offices in California and Nevada.

Interview Summary: Eric shared his insightful thoughts about the leadership and persuasion. For Eric, persuasion is a natural process and he prefers soft tactics. He is always honest to his superiors and subordinates. Eric believes that effective leaders are very expressive when they come to everybody. They are very candid and direct and these personal traits play a key role for persuasion process. According to Eric, the three most important aspects for managing up and down are communication, openness, and setting a positive tone that focuses on the end result.

Persuasion Strategies:

  • Self Persuasion: “If you were in my position, how would you handle my problem?”
    • You should let team members identify the solutions on their own. You also remind them why they live in the same organization. This especially helps you deal with some conflicts with your members.
  • Logical reasoning: 
    • You use facts, figures, and belief that your idea is correct. You also consider the goals, needs, and interests of your subordinates/superiors you’re trying to persuade. The more they see an idea can help them, the more likely they are to help you.
  • Persuasion Tactics: 
    • Collaboration: You need to work with your subordinates, not at them, in order to get them to enthusiastically support your requests. You collaborate with team members, rather than using authority. You don’t need to overuse that power. The relationship based on the trust is a key for the collaboration.
    • Communication/Honesty: You should facilitate communication and be very honest to your people.
    • Improving Persuasive Skills: Appeal to the subject’s self-interest: You make it sure that what you need align with their best interests.
    • Present strong evidence to support your views/positions: You do intensive research and show the team members an idea that will likely work.
    • Establish credibility: You’re more likely to persuade your subordinates when trust and respect you. You promise to take the blame if it does not go well. This leads you to build up the trust and respect you’re your subordinates.
    • Make your objectives clear: You should get your team understand what you are doing and why are why you are doing that.

Other key factors:
Decision making is a collective effort: As a leader, you have to be honest to your team members. If you found you made a wrong decision, you would change the decision. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

Retaliation Claims on the Rise

It’s always been easier for lawyers to prove retaliation in the workplace than harassment, discrimination, or even wrongful termination.

With so many people now out of work, it’s natural that retaliation claims against employers is now on the rise – 23% this year over last.

The classic example of retaliation comes from an employee who did the right thing – a whistleblower notification, a complaint against a supervisor or fellow employee – and that was terminated, transferred or had other repercussions from their employer.

A good article on this trend is from the Wall Street Journal.

Credit Reports for Hiring? Still A Bad Idea!

Using a credit report is becoming more popular for businesses hiring employees.  We’ve always felt this was an unnecessary risk to employers because:

  1. What is the business justification?  If a job requires an employee to handle large amounts of cash, or have access to the same, that’s good justification.
  2. If someone has a bad credit report – especially in these economic times – does that make them a poor candidate for a job?  Not necessarily.
  3. There is a risk that women and minorities may be disproportionately affected, and that could cause big problems.

So unless you have a good reason to do it, don’t!

Nevada Wage & Hour Lawsuits

We’ve been warning employers for several months that wage & hour compliance issues will result in numerous lawsuits this year – especially in Nevada.

It’s starting to happen.

Wells Fargo & AutoZone have been sued (class-action status is currently pending) for mis-classifying employees.

With Wells Fargo, business banking specialists were allegedly mis-classified as exempt (from overtime, meal and rest breaks) when they were required to be ‘on-call’ on certain evenings.

In AutoZone’s case, Assistant Managers were not compensated for working overtime (this is a case very reminiscent of the Long’s Drugstore case in 2004).

The federal government is taking Wage & Hour violations seriously: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recently announced plans to add 250 field investigators, increasing staff by 33%. The DOL believes 7 out of 10 businesses are not in compliance with Wage & Hour laws.

Garry Mathiason of Littler recently wrote:

No employment-law trend is more certain, universal or important than the total wage-and-hour compliance initiative and stopping the epidemic of wage-and-hour class-action (lawsuits)…

More ominous and prescient are these words from Mathiason (and, I believe, completely true):

With thousands of plaintiffs’ attorneys examining every aspect of the payroll process, employers must expect maximum scrutiny…”Every employee who is terminated or demoted, or who experiences an unpleasant workplace event, is encouraged by Internet and television advertising to seek the advice of counsel. In almost every intake interview, the attorney’s questioning turns to wage-and-hour issues in an attempt to find additional claims. Inspired by the prospect of turning a small individual claim into a multimillion-dollar class-action, the organization’s wage-and-hour compliance goes under the microscope.”

Thanks to Las Vegas Sun.

Why Health Care Reform Is Necessary

It’s a deliberately provocative title. And this is not an article about which reform is best for our country.

But…

The Department of Labor just came out with their statistics regarding benefits paid by employers.

The cost of medical benefits to private employers has doubled in the past 10 years.

In March 1999, employers paid an average of $1.03 per employee per hour for medical benefits (about 5.4% of total compensation)

In March 2009, employers paid an average of $2.00 per employee per hour for medical (about 7.3% of total comp).

And based on my work with small and medium-sized businesses, the quality of those benefits has declined dramatically in the past 10 years (along with huge increases in deductibles, co-pays, etc.).

Twice the cost with half the benefits. All underwritten by private businesses.

Something must be done.

To Severance Or Not?

When laying off, or even terminating employees, the inevitable thought and process of offering a severance package comes up. Most businesses – especially small businesses, don’t have an existing written policy on severance packages. Therefore, a severance offer is not completely thought through.

I’ve had two clients in the last few weeks who needed to layoff employees and they had no existing policy. Suddenly, an issue which requires a great deal of thought had to be made immediately. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal which addressed this.

Some thoughts on offering severance:

  1. Get a policy in writing now. This helps greatly with consistency and avoids any claim of favoritism or discrimination. Even if you don’t contemplate layoffs, it’s still an important item to have in place.
  2. When you offer a severance package for laid off employees, be consistent. An example would be two weeks of pay for each completed year of service. You can’t show better programs for more favorite employees.
  3. Every employment attorney I’ve worked with says the same thing – never offer money without getting a ‘hold harmless’ agreement signed by that employee. Consult your labor attorney – it’s worth the cost.
  4. Consider paying medical insurance for several months. COBRA now requires employers to pay 65% of existing benefits; but offering to pay all of the premiums for longer is a small cost but shows you – the employer – are trying to do the right thing.
  5. If you’re terminating an ‘older worker’ (someone over the age of 40), make sure the agreement contains provision required by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.