Participation Trophies at Work

Found this post while cleaning up my drafts and decided to publish it. I wrote this almost two years ago, yet didn’t need to change a thing.  

I have yet to meet a millennial that enjoys being called a millennial. I often hear from my fellow generation that they are often called out in meetings for probably being too young to understand a reference, or too young to remember such and such event or some other ridiculous comment. When there’s only one or two young folks in the meeting room out of twenty, this can be very uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing. We are often talked to like we are responsible for an entire generation of people, for example “your generation is lazy because you all received participation ribbons.” or “you have never lived without technology and that’s ruining you all.” I usually listen with a nice warming smile, but I’m screaming at you in my head. I don’t want to take responsibility for how my generation turned out (mostly because your generation raised us)!

I don’t understand the uproar over the participation ribbon phenomenon because we didn’t give them to ourselves. This particular topic is one that will send any boomer or gen xer into an uproar even though it can be linked directly back to them. Going back to the time we were all running around a soccer field as tots to now. Why up until now? Because they are still handing out participation ribbons. That problem employee that you wish had a better attitude, you aren’t correcting it and you’re still signing a paycheck for that person every week. That entitled employee that thinks he knows everything isn’t being counseled by you because you don’t feel like dealing with him, but you’ll sign his paycheck every week. That employee that’s late every single day isn’t getting written up because you don’t have the time to sit down with her, but you still sign her paycheck every week. That employee who is only grasping half of her job isn’t receiving any further training because you can’t deal with her millennial attitude, but you can still sign her paycheck every week.

We don’t live in a perfect world so the stereotypes will always exist. The next generation to enter the workforce will endure their hazing that every previous generation has endured in years before them. They will listen to the snarky comments and smile when being called out for being to young (or incompetent) to understand what every one is talking about. We can’t get rid of the stereotypes overnight, but what we can do is try to fix the problem instead of contribute to it. If you don’t like what your “millennials” are doing, then talk to them about it. Stop going to seminars (led by people who are not millennials) about how to work with millennials and how to talk to them and just treat them like human beings. I can tell you right now how to talk to millennials:

Step 1) Find a millennial

Step 2) Open mouth

Step 3) Say words

Bam! Easy enough? And you saved a couple hundred bucks. We are not super secret, hard to understand human beings. We are employees who come to work just like you do and need guidance and feedback sometimes. We are the future of your organization and we will be responsible for the generations after us, just like you should feel responsible for us. We will carry on the legacy of our chosen fields and the organizations that we work for. You will one day pass the torch on to our generation and we hope you can do so with words of wisdom and encouragement instead of crappy remarks about how we conduct ourselves. We aren’t all the same and we know that everyone in your generation isn’t the same.

Here’s what I really want to know: What are you doing at work to address your “millennial problems?” Are you still complaining about participation trophies, but letting your workforce go rewarded for poor performance?

Goal busting and failing forward

So this year (all 7 days of it) have brought a new challenge for me, which I knew was coming for years, but didn’t quite know how to prepare for. I’m about to turn 30 and that is like the end of the world for me. In fact I’ve prayed and prayed that I wouldn’t make it to 30 so I wouldn’t have to figure out how to handle this age, but I’m almost there so I better figure it out!cake

So I asked myself “Why do you hate 30?”. I know 30 isn’t old, but I will admit that spending so much time doing college recruiting and making offers to kids that were born in 1994 has me feeling older than I am. 30 is fine I guess. It’s weird to think after Sunday I can’t say I’m in my twenties anymore…. But 30 hasn’t DONE anything to me. I mean, I don’t look different (yet). I’m alright. What could it be?

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This is the actual face I make when a new employee tells me they were born in 1994. Like, should I be talking to your mom instead of you?

As I sit here in my betty boop pajamas, listening to the spice girls channel on my Pandora radio, I’m thinking back to those tween years where I listened to open house party every weekend and my biggest concern was whether or not I had the right Skechers and JNCO jeans. I try to remember what I wanted to do with my life at that age. I wanted to do something, right? I did. I wanted to be an independent, grown up and have my own place and an important job.

skechers
By the way, looking back I know that I DID NOT have the right skechers, look at these things!

I was getting lost in remembering all of my other terrible fashion decisions when Christina Aguilera popped up on the Pandora. That takes me back to the teenage years when TRL was part of my daily schedule and I knew every dance to every pop video played. What did I want to do with

xtina
Xtina was such a wonderful role model

my life then? Move out. Work hard. Make money. Pay bills. Go to college. Be a cool mature college kid. Ha!

Do you know what happened? I did work hard. I held down two jobs in high school and took college courses at night. I paid some of my own bills, spent the rest of my money on other junk. Went to college, but didn’t go to class (remember how I’m in college again now?). Not only did I move out, but I moved around. When I landed in Alabama I thought I’d finish college and go ahead and get my career rolling. Then my 22nd birthday rolled around and I remember crying at work when my friend came upstairs to my office to bring me a birthday gift (because I didn’t want to acknowledge my birthday that year). She’s older than me so she thought I was crazy, but I told her I thought I would be doing so much more at 22 than what I was doing. I wanted to do something big, I just never made a plan. Funny though, I buckled down after that birthday and worked my tail off to do something that no one else in the company had done at my age.

That seemed to satisfy me for a while, but here I sit a few days before 30 wondering where my life has gone and why I’m only doing what I’m doing. I’ve been fairly dramatic about how far behind I am right now compared to where I think I should be, but the cold hard truth is I didn’t plan for it. I had goals, in my head, or so I thought. I have this bad habit of not sitting down and thinking about how to get to the finish line. Too often I put my head down and push through, I just keep working until it’s done and then I come up for air. Even when I run I tell myself over and over “run through the finish line, not to the finish line.” While that’s appropriate for running, it’s not always appropriate for my day job, or the rest of my life. Sometimes I have to stop and make a plan. I have to stop and make sure my expectations are realistic. I need to really ask myself “where do you want to be, and what is it going to take to get there?”

A while back I text one of my former employees, the one I knew would be 1000% honest and not worry about hurting my feelings, and asked her for 1 thing I did really well as a manager. Her answer was awesome (I’ll cover it in another post)! I was thrilled about it, but I knew I had to ask the next question. What was I really bad at as a  manager? She told me acceptance. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but thanked her anyway. Today I know. I have to accept that I didn’t do what I thought I was going to do by now, but I can’t go back and change that. I can only move forward, sometimes failing and sometimes not. I have to remember failing is moving forward if I allow it to be. I have to accept that some people are always going to work the way they work or respond the way they do. I have to accept that not everyone’s best work is as good as my best work. I have to accept that sometimes my co-workers won’t have the same goals I have. I have to accept that some employees can’t be helped. I have to accept some things as fact and not let them derail me from everything else.

So what does this have to do with an HR blog? Well, it doesn’t HAVE to have anything to do with an HR blog because I’m an independent, almost 30 year old, awesome business person that can write whatever she wants! BUT I’ll give you what you came here for: What are you doing to help your folks plan to reach their goals? I see a lot of stuff about goal setting, metrics, performance appraisals, etc. and not enough substance about how your employee is going to get there. Just because your employee knows what their goal is doesn’t mean they know how to get there. How about we make sure they know what it’s going to take to get there. How about making sure that the meeting about goals and appraisals is more than a meeting to check off our yearly task list. What if we used that meeting to make a plan to reach the goal, a plan to satisfy the metrics? I think we also need to make sure everyone is being realistic, without crushing anyone’s ambition. That can be a fine line, but I think it’s important.

betty boop
And I’ll leave you with a picture of the betty boop pjs

HR Technology

Applicant. Tracking. Systems. Why do you need them and which one is for you? This is actually a hard concept for some pros to wrap theirtechnology head around. I myself didn’t even know what an ATS was until I had been using one for about five years. I didn’t know that’s what it was called, in fact no one used it when they hired me except to report hours for payroll. Literally, they would take paper time cards and figure them up and key them into a function of the ATS that communicated the information to another program. Sounds ridiculous right? So my former employer had bought this fancy system and no one was using it for its true purpose. They also hadn’t activated it through the website to capture applications, they were still peddling paper applications (this was only about eight years ago).

Where I currently work actually built their own applicant tracking system. You would think that was super bad ass because we are a highly technical company… it’s not. I was excited at first because this means you own it, you edit it, you tailor it how you want. The major downfalls: someone on our payroll has to make edits we want, it doesn’t communicate with Costpoint or Outlook or our educational assistance function, EDP function, etc. and it just plain doesn’t do what us recruiters need it to do.  I’ve been mumbling about needing an ATS since about my fourth day on the job here.

Last year at #SHRM13 I spent some time on the overwhelming vendor floor. At first look it was miles of sales people shoving the latest and greatest tool in your face, but once you get to a useful vendor and pocket a few awesome giveaways, you start to relax. It’s nice to be able to  compare vendors side by side and really evaluate where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. I spent some time with a couple of HRIS vendors that really rocked my socks, but I think my favorite was Halogen Software. What’s really sweet nowadays is that big players like Halogen are not just an ATS, they are every technological tool you need in one place. I chatted with a rep at the conference and had a few follow-up calls with the most amazing rep ever, Nancy!

Nancy let me ask a ton of questions to truly understand their product line and explore different scenarios to meet different needs. She also walked me through a demo or two! My favorite thing that Halogen can string together for a client, above the basic needs of applicant tracking system, is what they call the eAppraisal Professional Services. Most software tools are going to have this extra as an option these days, but Halogen is adamant that you should implement only what you need and they are willing to file that down with you. This function includes employee appraisals and project reviews, goal alignment and management, on boarding forms and task management capabilities, performance based development planning and other neat things to follow-up on these tasks faster than before! Their systems connect the HR function of talent management with the managers function of talent management and facilitates a one stop shop to weave every piece of it together. Their customer service really is amazing (straight from their site):

From award-winning products to stellar support and services, we’re raising the bar on what you can expect from a talent management vendor. In fact, being ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction means you can expect more from us.

Companies that have grown from small business to mid-size and have their sights set on being a mega size business tend to find themselves caught up in a pile of processes and a bunch of neat tools that don’t get the job done all the way. When you’re shopping for the right tools you need to keep in mind that these tools don’t replace HR or any of your HR functions they facilitate a faster track to implement all of your HR/talent management functions. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend connecting with Nancynwilkinson@halogensoftware.com or 1-866-311-5007) and letting her help you assess your needs and better understand the right custom suite for you and your organization.  If nothing else, mosey around their website and pick up white papers on HR metrics, retaining talent, managing employee goals and more! You can also pick up some great insight from any of their talented blog contributors.