What We Can Learn From Millennials

TMF-CorpRetreat_1231

As we sat down for a nice, leisurely lunch, my friend and I subconsciously laid both of our phones atop the silk white tablecloth. Technology is almost an addiction for “millennials” – those of us born from 1982 to approximately 2002, so much so that we can’t even eat without a device. Instead of acting like the “ultimate millennials,” my friend and I exchanged our devices for some foreign face-to-face conversation. It’s certainly not unusual to see young professionals with tech devices and, because this is annoying at places like restaurants, our millennial generation can get a bad rap.

Setting my lunch story aside, millennials are on the cusp of remembering a time when technology didn’t exist. No iPhones, laptops, or social media; forget the one-click apps that reserve a table at the coolest restaurant. One professor elaborates, “Because they’ve grown up multitasking on their mobile, iPad and computer, I can’t expect them to work on one project for any amount of time without getting bored.”

From millennials being too dependent on parents – though it’s true that more of us have lived at home post-graduation – to those feeling entitled to undeserved raises, many employers’ complaints only continue. We’re the kids who always won trophies – even for last place – and, as a generation, are described as “so close to their parents that they haven’t been given the chance to learn how to do things by themselves.” Some employers see us as indecisive; willing to job-hop every few years or throw down thousands toward higher education in avoidance of the real world.

Perhaps the best way to describe my generation is as a double-edge sword, but it’s been predicted that by 2020, we’ll account for 46% of the US workforce. We’re the future of companies and, though everyone has faults, millennials may have more to bring to the table than you think. Call our generation too-tech savvy, but I disagree. We adapt to change, whether it’s a new computer system or tricky technical skills. We search the internet for answers instead of wasting others’ time. One executive notes, “Millennials are not much different than we were at their age–fearless, independent, and energetic go-getters. They’ve been raised with the technology tools to make their lives more efficient, which can prove the same for businesses.” If it isn’t already clear from your corporate surroundings, 77% of Fortune 500 companies own Twitter accounts, while 70% are on Facebook, and 69% on YouTube. It’s probably beneficial that millennials matured just as social media outlets, attributing toward our understanding of a now overpowering industry.

Instead of expecting nostalgic blue ribbons for professional wins, millennials crave regular feedback. Organizations should embrace honest relationships with all employees – not just the young ones – and remember that feedback can encourage positive performance. We’re open-minded and collaborative, and one site notes that integrating mentorships will only feed our success. Millennials are flexible enough to cover Generations X’ers with added life responsibilities in exchange for what we want – more experience. We’re willing to learn and grow into earned positions that actually aren’t granted out of entitlement.

To sum it up well, “If you manage millennials, take a step back and recognize the value they can offer through new perspectives and approaches to their work.” And if you’re on the fence, perhaps it’s worth scheduling a lunch. Just remember to put your phones away.

We’ll Send You on a Fool’s Errand — In a Good Way!

Fool's Errand

Fool's ErrandBy Laurie Street

Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.

The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.

At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.

I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.

Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.

If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.

Setting Goals for the New Year? Let Motivation Lead You to Success!

Goals

GoalsHow do you measure success in exercise? Do you measure it by X amount of pounds or body fat percentage lost? Or by X inches gained/lost, depending on your goal? How do you measure success in business or your personal life? Do you measure it by how many promotions or personal triumphs you’ve achieved? Success is incredibly relative to an individual but one common denominator that (should) define success is your effort level.

I recently read a great article in a popular health magazine, discussing what it takes to reach your absolute max potential in exercise. There is only a fraction of a percentage of folks who tap into their reserve, and literally give everything they have to whatever race, event, max lift, etc., they are attempting to complete. The example they provided was a physical stress test on a treadmill: Imagine you have nodes and a breathing apparatus attached to your body and you’re walking on a treadmill and gradually the doc increases the incline and speed to the point where you’re sprinting “as hard as you can go.” Are you in fact sprinting all out? Most likely, since this is just a stress test, you’d eventually give up as any normal person would. The example continues by asking the client what they would do if they were offered a million dollars to continue for another minute. Everyone in their right mind would do everything in their power to stay running for that extra 60 seconds. My point is that most people find themselves quitting before they really need to; I’m not advocating you push until injury, but there are many levels one can push themselves to between when they’d actually quit and their literal max.

If you aim to reach any of those levels in any aspect of your life, not just exercise, you’ll probably find yourself accomplishing a lot more than you thought was possible. I’ve helped mentor a handful of coworkers who have reached their personal success in very different ways. One Fool had the right mindset and wanted to get super healthy due to a risk of inheriting some unfavorable health traits. We came up with a 6% body fat reduction goal and he surpassed it by providing maximum effort every week, while shifting priorities and changing his lifestyle. Another Fool had a goal of working his dream job at TMF and,since I had recently lived this fantasy a couple years ago, I helped him realize his goal by doing everything in his power to succeed (volunteering on projects, putting in side work to help his cause, etc.) while letting the decision makers do the rest. Both Fools gave their 100% effort without knowing what the results would be. Both Fools happened to succeed.

With 2013 looming, we all have a great chance to start fresh through some New Year’s resolutions. Set yourself a few attainable goals and if you are 100%, without a reasonable doubt, giving your everything, you can live with the results whether good/bad; there is literally nothing else you could have done. Even upon “failing,” you have gained much more through maximum effort in terms of discipline and development. So let’s take 2013 as a time to lose the extra 10 pounds, or foster a better relationship with your coworkers, or spend more quality time with your family. Because if you’re not trying as hard as you can, why waste your energy and try at all?