The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Hiring a Millennial
There are a lot of preconceptions about millennials; the media often refers to them as entitled, self-absorbed, lacking commitment and loyalty, overly reliant on social media, and very demanding when it comes to who they deign to work for.
All this might make any employer wish to stay clear of millennials when looking for new staff. But how true are these statements, and are they all as negative as they first appear?
For a start, the comments are mass generalizations based on an entire group and it's like saying that all boomers want to hang on to their jobs forever just to prevent young people from taking over. Millennials' self-absorption is less about arrogance and more about focus; any lack of commitment or loyalty is more about employers not understanding their need to be challenged and their skills used to their best advantage. And, if they are reliant on social media - so what? Wake up and smell the roses, that's the world we all live in today, that genie is well out of the lamp (apologies for the mixed metaphors).
Rather than focus on what we don't understand, or perhaps relate to, when interacting with this generation, we should be looking at how we can better engage with them and get the best out of them as employees.
The future success of our economy lies in how effectively we engage and interact with this cohort. Within the next ten year's millennials will make up approximately three-quarters of the workforce.
What do We Know About Millennials?
They vote, they do community service, and they are politically active. The HR Management Center in the U.S. recently reported that 91 per cent of millennials are registered to vote, 53 per cent are politically active and 63 percent participate in community service.
They are ambitious, tech savvy, and they want to change the world - or at very least make an impact on it. They are environmentally aware and engaged and they want their fair trade coffee made to their exact specifications.
How do you Keep Millennials Motivated?
Millennials tend to move jobs frequently, but this is less about loyalty or commitment and more about employers needing to keep them engaged, challenged and doing meaningful work. This cohort are surprisingly quick learners. Just because they don't know a particular software program, doesn't mean they can't learn it in a very short period of time - often in their own time, if it means they can move on to more meaningful projects.
What's Really Important to Them?
Flexibility - sure work is important, but so is life. Millennials are happy to work hard, but they want to play hard too. If you want to keep this generation happy you need to realize they will not be satisfied with a 9 to 5 schedule. They'll put the required hours in, but on their terms.
Surprisingly, millennials look for mentors and expect good leadership. They do not suffer fools gladly.
Prestige, and meaningful work is often more important than money - although, owning their own home is a high priority.
Go back as little as 20-years and an interviewer expected an applicant to fight for a job. Employers would say something like, "So, what can you bring to the company?" today applicants are as likely to ask, "What can your company offer me?" Is this arrogance? Maybe, but it doesn't come from a bad place; millennials are looking for the right fit. They will talk about work/life balance, flexible hours, future career opportunities, professional development. They want to see that you are a progressive company - one that is winning in the market place.
If you have a good applicant that you consider might be a good fit, ask them about their career and job expectations and talk about the level of responsibility and empowerment they will enjoy with your company. Remember too, that prestige is important but so is being rewarded for achieving, or exceeding goals.
The bottom line is millennials make excellent employees and will help your company grow. However, you have to realize they are different, very different, from previous generations - treat them like your older employees and you will not get the best out of them, nor will they hang around for long.
AI, Automation and your Small Business
Artificial Intelligence (AI): The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. (Oxford English Dictionary)
The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with; artificial intelligence and automation in manufacturing, retail and service industries is reaching consumers' everyday lives quicker than anyone expected. What pundits predicted for as far ahead as 2040 is happening now.
Self-driving taxis can be seen on the streets of Singapore, and closer to home Pittsburgh. The science is ready, it's government, the legal system, and insurers that are holding things up.
Affordable drones are in our skies, Nike has self-lacing trainers and Nissan has office chairs that put themselves away at the end of the workday. There is no stopping the massive amount of fully, or semi-automated products and services that will hit the market in the next few years.
Why is this important to small, and even micro-businesses? Because these products and services will reframe your customer's expectations. Consumers will want, even demand, higher levels of efficiency, convenience and value.
If you are looking at this and thinking in terms of it being a potential dystopian nightmare, then you are probably not alone. There have been many movies such as I, Robot starring Will Smith in 2004, which showed how robots could take over the world. It may be just Hollywood, but the thought of artificial intelligence still scares many people. Concerns over massive job losses as computers and robots take over mundane, and maybe not so mundane tasks are real.
Countering this fear however, are consumers' desire for cheaper, better, benefit-driven, exciting products. Consider, over 10-million Roombas (the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner) have been sold by iRobot and are now going about their business while owners are at work. While the Roomba is expensive, an affordable version recently launched in China at approximately one-third of the price and when prices drop, adoption rates speed up.
In the U.K. the world's first robot lawyer is handling driver's parking fines, with a 64 per cent record of successfully appealing fines.
As the people at www.trendwatching.com say, this type of AI use looks to consumers more utopian than dystopian. Given the chance not to have to do all the things that aren't fun in life, what do you think consumers will choose?
The affordability factor is important where small business is concerned. While prices remain stratospheric only high-end consumers can afford these technological trinkets but once prices drop, consumers at every level will expect their local businesses to offer these types of products and services.
You may be asking yourself, "But I thought local and artisanal was in? This is the opposite of that." It is of course; however, the two will exist side by side with artificial intelligence making inroads into more creative services. The Tate art gallery, in England, in association with Microsoft ran a competition which was won by an AI program called Recognition. Recognition is basically an automated gallery curator which created a show which matched current events with artwork in the Tate's collection.
Even the world of beer is being infiltrated by AI; algorithms can process consumer feedback and create recipes to make beer that reflects what the beer drinking customer wants. This is where artisanal meets AI. It won't be long before we see whether artisan products such as bread can be made better by an artisan baker, or an AI equipped oven. Is this scary for you as a small business owner? It depends on whether you see the inevitable as a threat or an opportunity.
The world of intelligent assistants whose job is to help us lead healthier lives by making us eat better, improve our fitness, even provide personal, physical, mental health and business coaching is here - now.
In the retail world, we already know that online shopping is growing faster every year, as AI helps customers by finding, not only exactly what they are looking for but what they never knew they really wanted. Consumers will be/are supported and nurtured by what trendwatching.com calls CLEVER COMMERCE platforms and services.
Where consumers currently visit Yelp and other product or service review sites, AI programs can now read the reviews for them, filtering out fake ones, and providing a concise product, or service, analysis. Another chore done away with by your friendly AI program.
The new trend toward automation using artificial intelligence isn't going to go away - it will begin to affect every aspect of our lives and businesses, so being aware of what's happening is vital for small businesses. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is not relevant to your small business - see it as an opportunity to keep up with your competition, especially those who are larger and better funded. The cost of new technology always drops rapidly; small business winners will be those secondary adopters who identify how AI can help their business and customers by adopting it at the first cost-effective point. Start by thinking how you could better serve your customer base if the right technology existed - because it probably does!
Coach's Corner - Practice Makes Perfect
"Practice makes perfect," is an old saying, that we all have heard many times over the years. In looking at these three words, two questions come to mind. What does practice look like? What does perfect mean?
You see, you may habitually practice, whether it is the piano, a gymnastic routine, or preparing a business report or a sales presentation. Practicing does not always mean that you are practicing the correct way and therefore improving. Sometimes it feels like you are going through the motions and not progressing at all.
It is when there is mindful, deliberate practice that improvement is realized. In her book, GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth speaks of four basics to the idea of deliberate practice.
A clearly defined stretch goal with full concentration and effort, followed by immediate and informative feedback, and all are repeated with reflection and refinement. Let's look at what Duckworth means and how you can apply it to the daily practice of your business profession, craft, sport, or whatever is important to you.
The idea of a stretch goal is not necessarily the ultimate goal. It is what you strive for and are challenged by. It can be a short term goal within your longer term dream. What does the route to that stretch goal look like? What are the steps you need to take to attain that goal?
The practice needs to be deliberate with the utmost of concentration and energy applied. It needs to be designed in a way that the goal has been broken down into smaller steps and each step leading to mastery, to reaching the "stretch goal." World-class athletes, artists, business leaders have all taken time to master their skills; they developed those skills by honing them.
An important part of honing our skills with meaningful practice is to incorporate immediate and informative feedback. Thomas Crane, author of The Heart of Coaching, talks about effective feedback as being "Delivered in the moment - or soon;" being "Authentic - candid yet compassionate;" and "Describes observed behaviours and impacts." This allows us to view what we have done and ascertain whether we have reached the stage or goal for which we were striving or if we require more refinement, more practice.
It is this habitual repetition with the deliberate practice, feedback, and refinement with our goal constantly in mind that moves us to success.
What does this mean for everyday practice? As a salesperson, you may want more effective sales calls which lead to an increase of sales and more revenue. Your stretch goal may be making cold calls which are not always easy or comfortable. How do you turn those cold calls into actual sales? What do you say to grab a potential client's attention in a meaningful and authentic way? It may mean having a script of questions that engages the person and finding out their needs, or it may mean developing an "elevator pitch" to describe what you offer succinctly and quickly. Once you have developed your approach, you may want to practice with a colleague, friend, coach or mentor to get some meaningful feedback. Better still what's stopping you from practising "live" on the sales call and reflect how engaged or receptive the person was to your questions or pitch? That becomes your feedback to help refine what you are saying and moving on to your next call. Each call then becomes part of your feedback loop. Reflect on what was said. What would you change next call?
While perfection may never be truly realized, there is always room for continual improvement.