Millennials and Executive Leadership Break Workforce Barriers, Exchange Insights

By Phylicia Teymer

Phylicia at IGF NA BP Summit

Phylicia at IGF NA BP Summit

I’m one of those, a millennial. I’m stereotyped by many factors, including my age as well as being born with digital technology at my fingertips. Supposedly, the stereotype around millennials (aged 21-34) is that we are “lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow”.1 Stereotypes consume both our personal and professional lives each and everyday, many of which are inaccurate, including the one stated previously. It’s time to debunk the myths that misconstrue our character and potential before we’ve ever had a chance to speak.

This past week I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at the IBM Global Financing North America Business Partner Summit for a panel discussion on “Millennials as Emerging Leaders Shaping the Future of Business.” Some of the biggest decision makers from multiple companies were in attendance. A very engaged & enlightening conversation ensued as we briefly referenced the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) Executive Report,  “Myths, Exaggerations, and Uncomfortable Truths: The Real Story of Behind Millennials in the Workplace”1 and encroached upon some uncomfortable, but relevant truths. An array of reactions, from humor to confusion and curiosity, occurred during our two-way Q&A panel discussion as we dispelled multiple myths which propagate the current workforce.

Host and Millennial Panel Speakers

Host and Millennial Panel Speakers

Our session started with personal introductions and a highlight of the IBV report. Our host was the Global Program Director of IBM Channel Marketing and Digital Strategy, Deborah Kestin-Schildkraut, and my fellow panelists included, Vice-President of Operations for InfoSystems, Brent Hales, and Digital Media Strategist for Corus360, Haley Schmidt. During the presentation, Schildkraut shared a few contrasting stats and millennial myths from the IBV study, a few which stood out to me included:

54% of Millennials don’t fully understand their organization’s business strategy (for Baby Boomers, it’s 58%)1

This was a startling truth exposed through the report as more than half of the study’s correspondents didn’t fully understand their company’s strategy1, nor their role within that strategy. In a competitive marketplace, it’s crucial for employees to understand their organization’s vision, mission, and their direct impact on it since employees represent and embody the brand itself.

47% of Gen X would leave their current job for another offering more money and a more innovative environment (for Millennials, it’s 42%)1 .

These data points in addition to a few others within the study, such as desiring more work responsibility and making a positive social/environmental impact, refute the myth that Millennials are more likely to change jobs if it doesn’t fulfill their passions.

70% of Baby Boomers don’t think their organization is effectively addressing the customer experience (for Millennials, it’s 60%)1

This uncomfortable truth was one that I feel is within an organization’s control if they determine which areas can become more efficient that directly impact customers, then implement innovative technologies to address those areas more quickly.

After several stats were shared, the Q&A portion of our panel discussion commenced. One of the questions directed towards me enabled me to highlight how a company’s talent search is a two-way interview process.

I was asked, “What would attract you to work for a company?”

I mentioned and briefly addressed the following 4 key areas which attract & motivate me to work for a company, those are:

  • Purpose: I want be a part of something much bigger than myself. I prefer to work for a company whose vision, mission, and purpose are empowering its workforce which drive positive changes on the world in which we live. It’s all about the “why?”. I feel the social media strategic work I do at IBM is changing the way we connect, engage, and market to our customers. By working at IBM (big picture perspective), I’m working for a place whose technology, such as IBM Watson (cognitive computing), will one day help discover cures for the world’s toughest diseases and will change the way we work and play as we know it today.
  • Impact: The roles I decide to take within a company during my lifetime will be those where my actions will make a positive impact on the bottom-line and the way the company does business. Organizational structure and leadership need to be aligned & open-minded enough to test new ideas, fail fast (as its part of the process), and embark on making history.

As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has said, “Growth and comfort don’t co-exist”. 

  • Growth: I prefer a company who has a vested interest in its most valuable asset – its employees. In order to grow, one must be continually challenged through new experiences and opportunities. I value my education, both through on-the-job lessons and via online or on-site educational classes. I enjoy being able to succeed and try new roles from within different departments to get an enhanced perspective of the business as a whole while increasing my skill set.
  • Social: I study a company, if not more, than it studies me. I prefer to work for a company with a social & digital media presence. No matter a company’s size, social & digital media allow for a direct line of communication to and for its customers. It enables a company to have a level of transparency with all those who want to learn and know more about them. I also find its important to work for a company who is cognizant of what the market is saying about them over digital & social media outlets and they actively participate in the conversation.

This was only one of many questions asked, and one I felt propelled to share. After the panel came to a close, I felt inspired, motivated, and encouraged through the lively interaction with executive leadership, and that they listened and heard directly from us. It provided a pleasant example of how perspectives matter, and how all generations should have a seat at the decision making table. Now, let’s see if we make this step in a new business model – One in which an advisory board comprised of both executive leadership and those at the start of their journey can come together, foster creativity, and bring new innovative ideas to life.

After the panel discussion

After the panel discussion

1 – Baird, Carolyn. “Myths, Exaggerations, and Uncomfortable Truths: The Real Story Behind Millennials in the Workplace.”  IBM Institute for Business Value. 2015. http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/millennialworkplace/

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