Bridging the Generation Gap

By Sandy Fekete, an EO Columbus member and President of Marketing Works

As a “Baby Boomer” entrepreneur, I have to stay flexible when it comes to managing staff expectations. That’s especially true now that my firm is attracting younger employees. More and more Millennials, specifically, have joined my business over the years. In this time, I’ve learned that they want change— and they want it now. Millennials thrive on opportunity; money doesn’t matter as much as intangibles like personal growth and skills development. What’s more, they not only embrace company culture, they hold you accountable for it. And yet it doesn’t necessarily retain them.

To help with employee retention in my company, I hired a coaching consultant who specializes in the Millennial generation to serve as a “bridging voice” in our operations. I call her a Culture Catalyst (CC), and she works to align each individual’s goals for growth with our culture and business goals, while also delivering metrics-based results on employee satisfaction and productivity. One of our team members describes this approach as a “hybrid of professional business coaching from a work standpoint, but also life coaching from a personal standpoint.”

We’ve had a lot of great feedback regarding this approach, and I’m often asked if this communication model is transferrable to other businesses. Absolutely! Here are the steps we took to implement an internal coaching and support program.

  1. Set a Clear Foundation: Success with a CC is dependent upon a defined vision and set of values, as well as solid goals, good strategy and a plan to get there. To make sure we achieved this clarity within our staff, we implemented the Entrepreneur’s Operating System, as described in the book, “Traction,” by Gino Wickman, an EO Detroit member. This system helps inform our team about where we want to go as a company and what personal drive or passion is leading everyone to realize their ultimate goal.
  2. Find Someone Trustworthy and Relatable: Whether it’s an external or internal resource, find someone you can trust. We saw the need for a trained coach, and two of her defining strengths include her relatability to Millennials and her business savvy. She pushes the team to take risks, helps them understand what goes on behind the scenes and provides a safe place for transparent communication. She also encourages them to grow as a team by keeping each other accountable and asking challenging questions. The leadership team ranks this hire as the best investment we’ve made, based on employee feedback.
  3. Set Goals that Connect Individuals with the Company: Our CC plays a large role in facilitating communication between our team and administration. She meets with each team member bi-weekly and establishes a personal growth plan with them; monthly, she surveys the entire team. Afterward, she’ll report to leadership with a dashboard of metrics for each goal, along with useful insights, trends and recommendations. Feedback like this is also gathered on a larger scale semi-annually with an all-team roundtable.
  4. Respect Confidentiality: As much as our company wants open communication channels, we also respect confidentiality and allow team members to work out conflicts with each other. If this can’t be done by individuals themselves, we ask our CC to facilitate a formal exchange. Allowing a third party to manage this keeps administration out of any low-level drama, and also informs suggestions or tactics the CC might propose for business growth and success.
  5. Continue Nurturing Internal Relationships: The CC or coach can’t act as a substitute for my relationship with my team. We all continue to communicate one on one and as a group often. We also celebrate and encourage milestones. Our CC enhances these victories, both big and small, because she helps make them possible. As much as she is a third party, she’s a special part of our team, too.

Perhaps the most compelling result of this initiative is that the staff ranks coaching as the number-one benefit they receive. It improves their skill sets, as well as their ability to achieve goals based on where and how they define success. That’s a win in my book!

Categories: LEADERSHIP members Productivity WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS


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