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Millennial concerns? Get over it

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With a handful of birthdays to celebrate before he turns 50, Tim Harder surrounds himself all day with relative youngsters — so-called millennials — people who entered adulthood after 2000. Among the 100 employed by United Capital in its Dallas location where Harder ranks as a managing partner, the average age is under 30.

“We’ve stepped on a few bombs and side-stepped a few others,” Harder says about managing the new generation of employees.

Harder and other veteran advisers recognize that hiring that age group delivers benefits for a firm, so they have developed ways to help soothe the generational conflicts and misunderstandings that occur in a workplace that is home to employees in their 20s as well as those in their 60s.

Read more:The young and talented: Steps to attract Gen Y advisers

“First and foremost, don’t brand them as millennials,” he says, despite their sharing similar expectations and accommodations in a workplace.


This group is known for demanding flexible hours and a fluid approach to dress codes. They want clarity for career options, mentoring for advancement and regular feedback about their performance, the veterans say.

This is the generation that received awards for participation in their junior high league soccer tournaments, says Lisa Andrews, the career services manager at CFP Board.

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That description might make this young cohort seem overly demanding. But their presence offers advantages, Harder and others say. Regarding client development, veterans note the millennial hires can help build bridges to the adult children of existing clients — whom they are closer in age. When it comes to technology, they adjust more easily. And even their attitudes about flexible hours make a lot of sense in the 24/7 digital world, advisers have realized.

Don’t expect them to be bound by the clock. Unless there is a project that requires their presence in the office, most will not want to stick around just to please upper management. “Did the fact that we stayed an extra 20 minutes really make that much difference in our careers?” Harder asks.

On the flip side, he says the younger generation is “willing to work weekends and nights, whatever is needed. But they are not going to just sit around.”

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Sheila Shaffer, a 55-year-old adviser with Janney Montgomery Scott in the District of Columbia office, recently hired Eric Walker, 33. The two recognized both the challenges of understanding and adjusting to each other’s expectations as well as embracing the advantages of working together.

For his part, Walker welcomes the mentoring. At his former employer, one of the Wall Street investment banks his current employer prefers he not name, “We were given a desk and a phone and told ‘Good luck,’ ” Walker recalls.

The younger generation is “willing to work weekends and nights, whatever is needed. But they are not going to just sit around,” United Capital's Tim Harder says.

His ex-employer, who paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as a result of the financial crisis, set three-year sales goals for each new hire. Walker met the goals but remained dissatisfied because he says, there was no sense of cooperation or mentoring.

“My generation is not looking for coddling, but we are looking for an employer to invest a little into us,” he says. “I was looking for that team atmosphere, so I could learn and transition my own business to a higher level and work with larger accounts.”

With Janney Montgomery Scott’s structure, Walker is exposed to accounts of all sizes, Shaffer says.

“You can’t put a millennial in a silo and say simply, ‘This is what you do,’ ” Shaffer says.

Walker’s schedule, although not as regular as those of veterans in the office, suits Shaffer.

“First and foremost, don’t brand them as millennials,” says United Capital's Tim Harder.

“I don’t look to see if he is in at 7 in the morning. He makes up for it in other ways,” she says; both noted the five hours he spent on a recent weekend getting a deal completed.


At the CFP Board, Andrews has developed proposals for advisers who want to jump start successful hiring of millennials. She recommends reverse mentoring programs, so new hires learn from veterans but also share what they know such as their ease with technology and pop culture references.

“They have been surrounded by adults their entire lives and they are looking for that mentoring relationship. They have also been told they know everything, and they have a lot to offer, and they are not afraid to show their knowledge,” Andrews says.

She recommends conversations with the young hires outlining “when to express your opinion and when to sit back and listen.”

Try “We hired you for a reason. We want to know what you think and we will ask you for that,” Andrews says.

Millennials are “notorious job hoppers,” Andrews says. Figures from digital job-search sites support her conclusions. According to a LinkedIn study, people who graduated between 1986 and 1990 averaged more than 1.6 jobs in the five years after they graduated from college; but people who graduated between 2006 and 2010 averaged nearly 2.85 jobs in the same time period.

If employers want to keep millennial hires, they need to make time for them to express their ideas, Andrews says.

“I think they have a lot to offer, so I’m not saying ‘Don’t hire them.’ The problem comes when they don’t know their bounds,” says Andrews.

“They were given trophies just for participating in a sport or other activity.

They need to make a kind of transition where they understand that recognition is earned and not just handed out like candy like it was when they were growing up,” she says.

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