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Training Millennials: Just Add Toppings

So, you took my advice and recently hired some 20-something, baby-faced college graduate based on his ambition and determination, hoping he’ll turn into one of your key, high potential youths. But you quickly realized he lacks the real-world knowledge many of your other hires bring with them.

Let’s face it, many Millennials lack relevant experience and are missing some of those professional skills that are taught over the course of a career. But don’t worry; every great professional was once an amateur.

Think of the group as a bowl of vanilla ice cream. There’s a good base, but it’s the supervisor’s responsibility to add the “toppings.”

Here are four ideas on how to engage your Millennials to learn and help speed up that professional development process:

1.     Chocolate Syrup – “Automobile University” (Podcasts)

Unless your employees are working from home, most will face a significant amount of windshield time. Some lucky employees only spend 30-45 minutes commuting to and from work. If they work in sales, they may spend a substantial amount of time in a car. Employers should suggest that ambitious employees use this down time to learn more on the industry. I suggest podcasts.

A podcast is a form of audio broadcasting on the Internet, similar to informative radio talk shows. People can simply download a podcast or series of podcasts onto their phone or iPod and plug it into their stereo using an aux cord for their daily travel (don’t worry, your Millennials will know how to do it). Your auditory learners can efficiently gain some industry insight when they’re simply doing what they’re going to have to do: drive to work.

These podcast can help your Millennials get some industry insight on current issues from experts for free. If you need a list of podcast series to suggest to your team, Duke Revard wrote a good article: 7 Stitcher Podcast Any Insurance Agent Will Benefit From. As a manager or mentor, you can have follow-up meetings with your subordinates and allow time to answer lingering questions or clarify how something they learned may apply in their positions or your organization.

2.     Whipped Cream – Article of the Day

Reading helps you move up the learning curve but can be time- consuming, and it’s hard to filter through all the articles. As a manager, you can simplify this process for your young employees who are looking for some extra help getting up to speed.

Get in a routine where you send your team a daily email with “The Article of the Day,” which is simply a short read you found relevant and beneficial. Subscribe to some industry news websites such as Property Casualty 360 or Insurance Thought Leadership for places to start sifting through an abundant amount of topics.

3.     Sprinkles – Junior Management Cabinet

Name it what you want, but the idea is simple. This would be an investment in a group of your younger employees who show high potential for future leadership spots in your organizational. This group would serve many purposes.

First, it could reduce your dysfunctional turnover. Key employees would understand their importance and that they have a place in the future of the organization. Nothing makes me want to work harder and be more dedicated than knowing that I am valued. “You invest in me, I’ll invest in you.”

Second, this could be used as a tool to train young employees who show the most promise. Organizations could have their “junior management cabinet” meet once a month to discuss a new management problem, then design a solution and present it to a group of managers. Other ideas for the cabinet include participating in top executive mentoring programs, being sent to informative conferences, shadowing board meetings and having more extensive performance appraisals with not only their manager but a development team.

4.     Cherry – Stress the Importance of Professional Development

This is a simple thought but often overlooked. Many supervisors or managers are disappointed in the progression of their employees yet do not stress the importance of development. One way to solve this is by adding “professional development” as a critical criterion on performance reviews. Help Millennials design new ways to progress in their knowledge along with evaluating them on how well they’re currently performing.

Another idea is to apply the 80/20 rule: 80% of your time at the office is spent on completing core tasks while the other 20% is spent simulating. Google using this tactic for employees to innovate and design new ideas or concepts. The insurance industry can use the same concept on professional development. During simulation, employees should be encouraged to learn more about parts of the industry that they find fascinating. They could attend workshops, have lunch with an expert from your organization, peruse articles on their favorite website or even be encouraged to write their own thoughts on a topic.

Maybe you don’t have 20% of a day to free your employees from, so maybe change it to 30 minutes a day or two flexible hours a week. Who knows what will come of it?

Food for Thought:

“Recently,” a manager says, “I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?'”