By Michael Wayland, Byte-Werx & ASCII Group Member
Millennials: a word that seems to conjure up so much in the psyche of our culture, mostly negative. These are just a few things we’ve been told to believe about working Millennials: they’re lazy, obsessed with technology, want a “trophy” for every little achievement, have little or no work ethic, want everything now without “paying their dues”, and have no loyalty to their employers.
As one of the few Millennials in a leadership role within our industry, I am constantly hearing broad generalizations such as these but I’m always assured that I’m “one of the good ones”. Business owners in our industry have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Millennials value, why they value it, and what motivates them. This leaves many MSPs unable to hire Millennial employees and/or unable maximize the amount of work, quality of work, and accountability of those employees.
Let’s start with a working definition. Millennials are people born from 1980-1996, are now in their mid-20s to 30s, and are currently the largest generation in the work force. For the purpose of this article we will be painting with broad strokes across entire swathes of people based primarily on a lifetime of observations, and conversations with peers.
This is a blunt instrument for top-level understanding, and there will always be nuance and exceptions lost in this type of analysis. Because demographics are an important component of this conversation, here are mine: I am a 35-year old Millennial in Houston who has followed closely to the mean measurements of Millennials. I have an MBA, married later in life at 29, and have two children ages 4 and 2. I was not a homeowner until my early 30’s and had eight jobs before I started my MSP in 2013.
As a generation, there is one prevailing myth told more than any other: Millennials are lazy and have no work ethic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A recent study from Microsoft shows Millennials to be the most productive generation. In fact, Millennials in that study list productivity as one of the primary keys to happiness.
The biggest misunderstanding between generations is the idea of how work and pay should be structured. For older generations, wages — a simple exchange of time for money — has been the workplace norm. An employee gives 40 hours of their life every week in exchange for dollars. Most professional Millennials find this notion verging on insanity.
Millennials believe wages should be constructed as an exchange of productivity for dollars. Why should an employee get paid the same, or often less, if they finish in 20 hours what takes another employee 25? The business owner receives the same production. Employees should earn compensation based on their production, and if they are more efficient would have more time for themselves or personal/business development. This single concept requires the largest mind shift between generations. Most other generational work activities and business cultural misunderstandings stem from this.
How might this look in practice? It comes down to flexibility, setting up a decentralized work environment, and creating clear goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to schedule. Much of what we do as MSPs can easily be done from anywhere and monitored. We hire and manage based on this decentralized principal.
We have no brick and mortar office; new hires are issued a laptop, cloud accounts, and VoIP phone for their home office. They are expected to complete a certain amount of productivity each week (whether it’s measured as work completed, tickets closed, or some other metric) and we rotate on-calls. Projects are planned well in advance and work schedules are known. We encourage time shifting for employees. Yes, take your daughter to ballet this morning at 10 a.m. and take off at 3:30 p.m. to take your son to t-ball practice. Then, after the kids are in bed, work through the evening to complete unfinished tasks. During downtime we encourage continual learning (work on your Azure certification or deep dive into Microsoft BI and see how it can benefit our client base).
This industry laments the difficulty of hiring and keeping good technicians and engineers. Many owners have been searching for new hires for over a year. On the other hand, employees and technicians warn about extreme high-stress work, constant “crunch” mode with long hours, and being constantly on-call. This is causing high levels of burn-out and exacerbating the labor issue.
All of this while also having one of the lowest unemployment rates and rising wages in modern history means there are many options for these employees. Businesses not able to make this transition to the work-life balance and work style Millennials desire will continue to see brain drain and lower morale with higher turnover.
As MSPs, often our greatest sources of profits are through automation and efficiencies. These should be encouraged and highly rewarded as part of our benefit and employment packages. We pay bonuses for any process or script that an employee creates that is automated and scalable.
This understanding and implementation of a new way of doing business has helped us draw Millennial talent, increase their productivity, greatly increase their morale, and has given us a hiring advantage against our competitors.
About The Author
Michael Wayland is Managing Director at Byte-Werx and has been a member of The ASCII Group since 2013. He has a BBA from the University of Houston in Marketing and an MBA in Enterprise Resource Planning and Logistics from Lamar University.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solutions providers. Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction. ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. ASCII is the oldest and largest group of independent information technology (IT) solutions providers, integrators and value added resellers (VARs) in the world. Learn more at www.ascii.com.