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The Old Lady and the Millennials

hr best practices hr compliance hr department hr leadership team work Feb 20, 2023

Teamwork to me has an easy definition – a collaboration of people with a similar goal that assembles to drive initiatives forward. I immediately smile, and think of my team at HR partners. HR partners was my first consulting company which I started in 1998. Over the years, it grew to 7 team members – and was purchased by Arthur J Gallagher in 2007. I always credit my team for the growth and development that we created together that lead to being attractive to a multi-national organization.  And today, at HR Topics I embrace Millennials and have 2 on my team I couldn’t run my business without.

Building the team

Creating a team is a strategic endeavour. So often teams exist because they were thrown together. Some work and some don’t. But to have a team that you will count on to drive your vision forward – you’ve got to be deliberate. When I hired my first team member, I found someone with the same knowledge and background in human resources that I could count on to be my #2 person. Then we strategically looked for millennials that could support our high level work – and we could train to perform the HR consulting work the way we wanted it done. In all, we hired 4 amazing millennials and 1 (then) stay at home mom to round out our team.

Why millennials?

Enough about millennials and their bad work ethic. I am passionate about great millennials. It’s about hiring the right ones! I find millennials to be passionate, committed and eager to learn. While they do tend to “think they know it all,” I find that their views bring ideas to the table that I would have never thought of. When their idea won’t work – there is often a piece of the suggestion that causes me to alter my original assumption. Focused on a desire to move ahead, they are sponges that will happily soak up all the Old Lady had to teach. And…the technology skills they brought to our office were invaluable!

Teamwork to serve clients

Our model was one of continued connection with employees, so multiple team members were assigned to each account. Because we had taught the entry level consultants “our way”, senior consultants could be confident the day-to-day contact would act as we would with our clients and their employees. Each client was assigned an Old Lady and a Millennial. We created mini-teams which were built on respect and collaboration. The younger team member had time to spread their wings and shine at the client – while still having the safety net of an experienced HR professional to guide them in complex situations. The senior consultant also had the new experiences of coaching and mentoring. It was an example of teamwork that was a win for the business, the client, and individual growth and development.

When teams go south

So, not everything was always rosy! We did have team members that were just not a good fit, had their priorities aligned outside the group norm, or those that just didn’t pull their weight. Issues must be addressed when they arise. Team members should be respectfully reminded what the group expectations are, and given a chance to realign with the team. If they choose not to, then the decision to separate must be made swiftly. We had a situation where a team member insisted on being very causal, setting her own agenda and not considering high quality work a goal. This was not working for the rest of us. Over the course of a month she was given a chance to align with our values, and when it was clear she would not we terminated her employment. The productivity of the entire team went up immediately – they had felt if she could act like that why not everyone.

Teamwork Takeaways

As I reflect on all the teams I have been a part of, I know that in almost every case the end result has been better off for the team participation. Yes, I can often get things done more quickly on my own – and ultimately they’d be my way... But I also understand the value of collaboration and utilizing multiple viewpoints to ensure I am arriving at the best solution – which much to my dismay – is not always my way!

And now – on to Gen Z!

Millennials are quickly becoming the majority of the workforce, and Gen Z is entering the scene with a bang.  They will bring their own strengths and challenges.  What we do know, is if we look at each employee as an individual, we’ll see where they add value and where development will be helpful.  Like all areas of diversity, equity and inclusion they will bring new ideas and that is sure to help us all succeed.

Thanks for reading!

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