A CFO’s View on Managing Millennials
“We can no longer talk about the Millennials as the generation to come, as they are the generation among us.”
Melanie tees up the discussion with a brief overview of who Millennials are and the negative labels and perceptions surrounding them: Lazy, slacker, and entitled.
She asks the audience to reframe their negative thoughts of Millennials, “Their generation is doing things that we never thought were possible.”
Melanie then asks the Panelists, “What influences are you seeing the Millennials have on your organizations today? Not just as employees but also as customers of what you do.”
Carol responds explaining that Emory University is a complicated structure with 30,000 people in a multi-generational workforce across the university, higher education, and health care systems. When she looks at her organization from the financial division, it leans towards an older population of people, and as you bring in a new workforce, they work differently.
She talks about the challenges that Atlanta is facing as a city and that Millennials want to be in exciting urban settings with a sustainable transportation infrastructure and lower rent. While Atlanta is a wonderful growing city, it is more spread out and does not have the transportation infrastructure cities like Washington D.C. offer. “It is important for Atlanta as a city to figure out an infrastructure that is conducive to younger people and the way they work,” Carol suggests.
Brent is asked, “How is Chick-fil-A responding to the changing expectations of Millennials?”
Brent replies that 40% of Chick-fil-A’s workforce is made up of Millennials at the home office and the company is thinking about changing everything dramatically to connect with them. “We’ve been very intentional about how we make a work environment that is conducive to their values and how they think and believe,” Brent states. For example, from a consumer standpoint, they know that Millennials want an interface through technology, so they rolled out a mobile app last week that has been a big success.
Melanie asks, “How have you seen the Millennial generation influence the culture at Chick-fil-A and the way in which you are engaging with your employees and team members?”
Darya makes the connection that Millennials represent the concerns and desires that people of all generations have, but they are more vocal at
expressing them. She says that Chick-fil-A is focusing on the synergies across generations that they can leverage. “It’s all about effective teaming.”
Darya expresses. Describing the shift Chick-fil-A is taking from being a consensus-driven environment to focusing on increasing collaboration.
Darya points to three focuses they have when looking at culture and Millennials.
1. Meaningfulness- the desire to change the culture of the business into a place that has meaningful work
3. Career pathing & development – more open dialogue about how we get where they want to go
Brent expands on Darya’s point by showing pictures of their workplace remodel. They now have modern, open, collective spaces, and are increasing office utilization from a financial perspective. They have info boards where employees can see statistics almost every minute. “From a technology standpoint you can immediately communicate what’s going on in the business with your employees,” Brent says, giving an example of how to provide excitement and a synergy of goals to everyone in the company.
Melanie asks Carol her perspective from higher education.
Carol responds by stating that while the Emory campus looks like what Brent showed, there is a disconnect from what their staff’s infrastructure looks like. She explains that they are currently in the feasibility study phase on how to move toward what Chick-fil-A is doing because they don’t want to have two separate cultures.
Melanie asks, “What advice would you give to the CFO’s about why they might want to begin to think about modifying the approach to their employees, students, consumers in stores in regards to Millennials?” Carol responds, “In 10 years, most of the workforce will be Millennials. 70% estimated by 2025. That alone is the driver for us to figure out how to create a work environment that supports that labor.”
Carol stresses the extraordinary importance of:
•Career pathing and talent development
•Connection to community or philanthropy
•Giving Millennials high performing, highly collaborative teams
•Focusing on feedback- Millennials need constant feedback.
Darya agrees that the continuous feedback loop is critically important making the connection to the fact that Millennials are digital natives and accustomed to having access to information consistently.
Darya also advises creating a strong focus on wellness. “Well-being is crucial to Millennials. Look at what initiatives you can create around well-being in the workplace.”
Lastly, Darya advises equipping your leadership to manage Millennials effectively. “Millennials don’t want to be managed hands on, they want to be led, be inspired, a part of a team, and have meaningful work.”
Brent expresses how the factors Carol and Darya talked about are affecting the future, “I can envision a day when we don’t have an accounting or an IT department, but you are going to have project teams that will have people embedded in the teams that will get that work done. I think this is the next phase of what we are going to have to focus on.”
Ron Domanico, former CFO of HD Supply asks, “How do you get millennial representation at the board level?”
Darya points out that there are advisory capacities that you can leverage to seek Millennials visions without necessarily having them sit on your board. Chick-fil-A uses something called a foresight forum to engage people cross-functionally and across generations to help think about the future of Chick-fil-A. The best ideas get shared with the Executive Committee, Strategy Team, and Board.
Melanie offers an example from Deloitte on how they identify the next generation of potential board members to create a board council. The board council can observe, learn, and provide insight- growing the next generation of board members.
Chris Arndt asks, “When you think about the benefits that turnover has on your business, meaning people are coming in with new and different thoughts, and then you are building a culture of stay with us for a long time, how do you think of balancing that out?”
Brent expresses that since they are a growing company, he doesn’t have an answer for that yet, but he is thinking about potential benefit plans that encourage people once they get to a certain point in their career to make it easy and beneficial for them to exit.
Carol brings up the option of using Emory as a complex place to their benefit. Bringing together all of the heads from the different entities represented under Emory with the objective of giving opportunities for people to move within the enterprise.
David Pipes, CFO of Arby’s inquires, “
It seems that whatever we are doing for Millennials, for the most part, works well across the organization. Are there things you are doing that work differently for the different age groups?”
“The big issue for us is a management philosophy shift from manage to lead,” Darya says. How do we continue to engage all the generations, having a particular focus on what’s happenin
g to them. You have to be careful. Everything cannot be about the Millennials. They don’t like to be called Millennials by the way.”
Melanie summarizes the group’s points by bringing up the need for change management to help the organization transition from where it is to where you want it to be. “You have to meet people where they are. It’s a ‘one size fits one model’, as opposed to a ‘one size fits all model.”
Brent and Darya agree with the need to communicate to older generations that this is not just something for the
next few years, this is about the business surviving. Darya adds, “We can’t call it a trend, because it’s not a fad, it’s not something that is going to go away, it is the future”.
Bo Keatley, Executive Managing Director at Savills Studley asks, “Doesn’t there need to be some measure or process in place to measure the productivity that you are going through with your office?”
Brent explains that they are in the first year of a four-year process, so there isn’t a concrete measurement in place yet.
Carol declares, “All the traditional things we are doing as CFO’s, create value and establish performance management structures to make things work; those are all things we are doing anyhow. Your metrics just might be a little bit different, but they are all driven to provide value.”
Darya emphasizes moving toward a direction of continuous feedback, more metrics around productivity, increased collaboration, and innovation along with traditional things they look at like occupancy and flexibility that are enabling increased productivity, greater use of technology, and new tools introduced.
Brent concludes by stressing marrying the mission and efforts. That it is an underlying communication that they have with all of their leaders.