This is Part 2 of a 3-Part Culture Series. Part 1 is How An Introverted Agency Partner Fostered a Culture That’s Won 9 Awards. Part 3 will be on culture’s ROI. 

6 years ago I was home for Christmas from college.

My mom and grandma had both been to the T-Mobile store to buy their very first drool-worthy iPhones. And as you can imagine, I had to put in quite a few free hours as our house’s elected Apple freelancer, walking them both through set-up and initial navigation. My mom…..gave up pretty early on. But after spending another hour with my grandma, I walked upstairs to my brother’s bedroom to try and school him on his own Xbox (hah, we all know *that* didn’t happen). 2 hours in, I suddenly get a text from my grandma:

“Your mom looking for you ;)”   (yes, grandma’s first text included a winky face. she’s a natural.)

So, I head downstairs to find my mom panting from walking around the house looking for me. First thing she says, “Hey! Were you on your phone or something?? I’ve been trying to find you!”

Apparently, technological savviness skipped a generation in our house. While my mom was taking the old-school approach of running and shouting around the house (btw, I had Xbox headphones on and couldn’t hear anything but Halo aliens dying), my grandma had figured out that texting was the #1/fastest way to get my attention.  #gograndmago

I bring up this weird Christmas story on January 17th because it emphasizes the impact of understanding inter-generational differences.

My mom’s perception was that my phone was keeping me from communicating with her; while my grandma figured out how to use my own phone to her benefit! #gograndmago

Similar to my mom’s innocently negative image of my iPhone addiction, many Baby Boomer and Gen-X-er agency owners have explained to me that “my generation” suffers from a host of afflictions (“your generation got a trophy for everything – how does that teach you hard work!”).

But what I rarely hear is how agency owners are turning perceived Millennial weaknesses into strengths, like my grandma’s uncanny insight 6 years ago to text instead of physically track down.

That is….until I chatted with Elizabeth Krystyn from Baldwin Krystyn Sherman, an insurance agency in my home state.  She and her 2 other BKS partners, Lowry Baldwin and Laura Sherman, think millennials are “geniuses.” (her words, not mine.)

Here’s her perception.

Argh, Millennials are so needy!

Elizabeth: “Yes, they want a lot of feedback. But they want it so they can get better at what they’re doing. Plus, they respond so well to mentoring. We have people with 20+ years of experience and then we have people with 2 years of experience and they are great teams.”

Argh, Millennials are always on those little devices!

Elizabeth: “They’re not afraid of technology, they’re not afraid of breaking a computer, they’re not afraid of rebooting a computer. They’re completely confident trying something new.”

Argh, Millennials are spoiled and lazy!

Elizabeth: “There are some things they don’t want to do because they place value on their free time. And thank goodness! What a great example. Stop being a workaholic. But the whole ‘all they want to do is get raises and they don’t really want to do the work.’ I call b.s. on that. They do want to do things that make an impact and make sense to them.”

Argh, Millennials are entitled (#trophiesforeveryone)!

Elizabeth: “They were given permission by their parents to have a voice in family decisions. When I was growing up? My parents said, “This is where we’re going on vacation, don’t ask me how long it’s going to take to get there, pack your bags, be ready to go and just suck it up.” Next generation parents are asking, “Where would you like to go on vacation and what would you like to do and how do you want to spend your time off this summer?” They come in not knowing that they haven’t earned the right to throw it out there. And thank goodness! Because what they’re thinking is what everyone else is thinking. But everyone else was raised in a different time when you didn’t speak your mind. They’re really like the voice of everybody.”

Above all else, what Elizabeth finds pure genius is what Millennials value: happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery.  “Coincidently, these same labels translate beautifully to our Azimuth attributes of Engaging, Purpose, Genuine, Discerning and Dreaming.  Add a strong dose of discretionary effort we call GRIT and you have the BKS Culture.”

[Sidenote: check out more about The Azimuth and BKS Culture in this article: How An Introverted Agency Partner Fostered A Culture That’s Won 9 Awards.]

Based on their understanding, here are 4 concrete ways the BKS trio (Elizabeth, Lowry and Laura) is motivating their Millennial workforce:

1. Colleague Recognition [Happiness/Sharing]

2.  BKS University [Discovery]

The BKS trio knows that Millennials value discovery; in other words, continually learning and growing from new ideas. BKS University is full of seminars, weekly educational tips and countless opportunities meant to empower individuals to pursue professional designations, training and continuing education.

3. Feedback Loop [Sharing/Diversity]

Listen, tweak, listen, tweak. The power in the BKS feedback loop isn’t just that they are “all ears” when it comes to Millennial ideas, suggestions, concerns and opinions; it’s that they take them seriously. They turn thoughts into actions.

4. Wii/Ping Pong Table [Happiness]

You didn’t actually think I was going to write an entire Millennial piece without mentioning Wii’s and ping pong tables, did you?? Designating a space to hang out helps people bond and take a break from professional-ease. Plus, some of the best brainstorming can happen over a solid game.

Check out all of the BKS benefits here.

Happy Tuesday!

Thanks for reading,

Syd

P.S. Random sidenote that Millennials are currently being paid $20k an hour just for being A Millennial: WSJ story.

P. P. S. I still haven’t figured out how to explain hashtags to grandma. Dying for any suggestions.

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