After a career in consulting, Rosie Ernst moved into a new role two years ago, helping to prepare recent college graduates for their first consulting assignments.
One of the reasons for her career move was her daughter, now age 15 — “my own little millennial,” Ernst said. “I decided I needed to get off the road.”
In the G10 Associates Program (GAP), “We give associates a block of training before they set foot on the client site,” Ernst said. “Half of it is a mock project. The other half is what the workplace is like — organizational structure, how to handle conflict, communications, how to network.
“We assign them a delivery director who is their coach. It’s a very structured process for the first six to 12 months. When the associate gets hired in, we transition the managing.”
Born in New Zealand, one of five children, Ernst found a program that helped her pay for her accounting degree by doing four years of government work afterward. Her last assignment was an information technology project. “I was working on a data model. Information engineering just fascinated me. It wasn’t reporting the past like accounting — you’re designing for the future. The accounting stuff just paled by comparison,” she said.
She soon took a job with the American consulting company that had managed the project. As a consultant, she was involved in a number of projects in the Twin Cities, and friends referred her to the GAP position with Genesis 10.
Although some employers express concerns about millennials’ work readiness, “We have an 80 percent placement rate,” Ernst said. “It isn’t unsolvable.”
What are the strengths of millennials?
Their knowledge of technology is astonishing. They started as babies with a Blackberry or computer in front of them. Also they like learning new things and showing that they can do things. They’re a lot more collaborative than the prior generation was — there’s less resistance to working with people of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. Race, creed and color — they don’t even notice. They’re so used to it.
What are the challenges?
This generation got raised in a way that gave them quite a sense of entitlement. We did some things with the way we constantly rewarded them for effort. We’ve got to introduce parity — “You’ve got to wait your turn.” Kids in gymnastics or martial arts are used to that — those same rules exist. There are a lot more millennials who have not had that.
What tips would you give managers of millennials?
We’re beyond work/life balance. Now it’s work/life integration. They like flexibility — to go over lunch for long a workout at the gym, then come back and add another hour at the end of the day. They’re putting in the time, just not in 8-to-5 blocks. Increase the pace of feedback. They need it, they crave it. The annual performance review needs to go away or be supplemented. It doesn’t have to be good feedback — don’t wait six months to tell them they’re doing something that’s really bad. Get a little bit more relaxed about rules. If you’re not client-facing, do you really need to wear a tie? The millennial says, “Are you just doing that to keep me under your thumb?” They will respect you for your knowledge, your experience, your coaching style — not because you show up in a suit every day. □