I’m incredibly bored of the word “Millennial”

Since Christmas, my social media timeline has been filled with articles and blogs about “Why Managers are scared to hire Millennials” “What Millennials want from the workplace” “How Millennials are disrupting traditional HR practices” and even “A Millennial Explains what Millennials are all about”.

What are these strange creatures who are causing so much angst? Apparently they live their innermost lives on the internet, exposing their most private thoughts and activities for millions to share. They get excited by sitcoms about people sharing flats, they don’t know what a video recorder is and they talk in emojis and strange slang. Worse still, when it comes to work, they demand to be CEO on day 1, want slides in work and have no respect for existing ways of doing things, despite the fact they have no experience. And they expect the companies they work for to be ethical despite having no loyalty to their employer and changing jobs every couple of months. And – here’s the really sinister part – they were all born in 1990 or later.

Now some of you reading this may think “hang on, aren’t these just young people? Behaving in the way young people have done for generations? Having unrealistic expectations and being idealistic? Liking new technology and having their own cultural reference points?” But that would be complacent and, if I may say so, dangerous thinking.

Millennials are different. There’s been extensive research to say so. Conferences are devoted to the subject. Scholarly articles have been published. HR professionals talk of little else. So it must be true.

Forget the war for talent. Forget the metrics. Forget all that mindfulness stuff. This is the one area you must concentrate on if you want to be on trend with current HR thinking.

Corrections and Clarifications

It has been drawn to the author’s attention that

  1. Millennials may have been born in 1985 or later, or perhaps 1980 or later, or – well just pick a date that suits you.
  2. There has not in fact been extensive research. Lots of companies selling products have produced nebulous statistics which are then re-quoted as facts
  3. While a few scholarly articles have been produced, most are based on small samples of US students and the authors themselves warn against generalising from the findings.


HR Theory, HR Practice

As everyone gets ready for the CIPD’s Annual conference in Manchester this week, I thought I’d provide a helpful guide for newer attendees on some of the various  HR terms they may encounter and what they really mean

Best Practice

The Theory:

A series of academic studies which suggests there are universal “best practices” that an HR department should be doing to enhance organisational performance. These practices include rigorous selection procedures, allowing employees to have some form of ownership of the company, and a strong training and development ethos.

The Practice

  1. Taking ideas that appear to have been successful in other organisations and transplanting them into your own
  2. The killer argument when a sceptical CEO or Finance Director questions your new HR initiative – “But it’s best practice!”

The Ulrich Model

The Theory

An academic view, put forward by Professor David Ulrich, that HR has four basic functions in an organisation: Strategic (or Business) Partner, Change Agent, Admin Expert and Employee Champion.

The Practice

The reorganisation of HR departments, mostly by re-designating middle-ranking HR professionals as “HR Business Partners” and creating mindless admin jobs in “Shared Service” call centres (often then outsourced to developing countries).  Usually followed by further reorganisations of HR departments as “That Ulrich model is a load of (insert own term of abuse)”

Big Data

The Theory

Extremely large amount of information (often but not always created online) which is complex to analyse, but by doing so can sometimes lead to more accurate predictions of likely outcomes

The Practice

Introducing new software to churn out employee statistics – such as turnover, applicant tracking or absence, and to give this data red, amber or green “traffic lights”.

Talent Management

The Theory

There’s considerable academic debate about what talent means – whether it relates to an inherent genetic ability to do something or a willingness or commitment to the organisation and the work required. A related but separate debate is how talent management can be aligned to business strategy

The Practice

  1. Pushing up salaries to retain existing staff and to attract staff from competitors (“the war for talent”)
  2. Moaning about the poor standard of candidates when you are recruiting (“there’s a lack of talent in the market place”)
  3. Giving some employees (“the talent”) better training and development opportunities than others

Feel free to add your own in the Comments section below…

The High School Merry Go Round

Like many a parent of a 10/11 year old, I’m currently trekking around local secondary schools in order to make my preference choices in the next academic year.

Three schools have stood out, for different reasons.

School A, an “outstanding” and massively oversubscribed school, did very little on its open day to sell the school to prospective parents and pupils. The attitude was “We can pick the cream of the crop, and if you’re lucky enough to get in you’ll do really well here”

School B, an “outstanding” school, was welcoming and both staff and pupils put in a lot of effort to promote it. But their selection method (effectively a lottery) means that candidates have little or no chance of influencing the process

School C, a  “good” school with some outstanding characteristics, spent a lot of time talking about their values and ethos, and significantly let the pupils act as tour guides so that parents and children could ask questions. They also invited pupils separately to spend a day at the school.

What I found interesting was that the schools operated in the same way as many employers do when recruiting staff. Many companies take the view of School A. They assume that individuals would love to work for them and do little to sell themselves to job applicants. In a recession they can get away with it, but once the job market becomes more competitive they can struggle to find suitable staff.

School B is typical of many companies who’ve heard of “employer branding” but don’t fully understand what it means. They do a lot to convince candidates they are good firm to work for but then let something in the selection process let them down and make the candidate feel it is all window dressing

Companies like School C recognise they are competing for staff and have to convince people as to why they should work for them. Being open and honest about their culture, and recognising that “branding” is only part of it, is a key factor.

So which category does your organisation fall into? And if you are complaining currently about skill shortages, what are you doing to make your company the place that employees want to go?