bSmart Guide

Joan Kuhl has been sharing why millennials matter for over 10 years as a mentor, author, and speaker at college and corporate events.  Coaching business leaders and executives, Joan is passionate about empowering and inspiring millennials for active engagement and lasting employment.  She's outlined the keys to successful leadership for the largest generation in history in her books First Globals: Understanding, Managing, and Unleashing Our Millennial Generation and a new edition of Peter F. Drucker’s: Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Young Leaders.   Joan shares how all millennials can utilize their technology expertise, manage generational conflicts, and achieve their professional goals.

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As managers, employers and mentors, we need to encourage their confidence and creativity because they’re going to change the world with or without us.

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Millennial Matters

What makes the millennial generation unique?

Millennials are unique because they're the most diverse, educated and now largest generation in history.  What’s special about millennials is the talent they bring to the workplace that's different than any other generation.  They're known as 'digital natives,' meaning they’re extremely comfortable with technology and horizontal problem solvers.  Millennials in the workplace don’t go through the traditional lines of authority; rather they reach out to their mass network of friends on the Internet and on social media to look for creative solutions.  I think that’s why sometimes millennials have a hard time articulating to their boss, or in a traditional workplace, how their ideas are going to work.

Millennials are unique because they're the most diverse, educated and now largest generation in history.

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What are the challenges millennials face in order to achieve their potential? 

Millennials are facing record unemployment, as well as underemployment rates - underemployment means you have a job that is below your qualifications or doesn't require your college degree.  Also, there's a trillion dollars of college debt on the backs of millennials.  

Another challenge is the amount of press in the lives of millennials – the upside of social media is fantastic, you’re connected to peers all over the world, but the downside is you’re comparing yourself to your friends when it comes to achievement.  You constantly have the pressure of wanting to make it and have it all. 

Because you're taking any job you can get to afford the lifestyle you want right now, sometimes that limits the time we can spend investing in our passions or the skills that will put us on the trajectory towards our dream careers.  What I want millennials to know is that relationships are extremely important to accomplishing your goals: 60 - 80% of jobs today are a direct result of networking.  Making time to find mentors and sponsors for your career is critical.

How can we unleash the power and potential in millennials as employers and peers?

We need to change the conversation.  There's so much negative noise in the media about millennials being self-entitled, narcissistic, wanting to be CEO tomorrow and not do the work to get there.  I’ve seen the exact opposite day-in and day-out from the millennials who have worked for me, side-by-side with me and in community organizations.  As managers, employers and mentors, we need to encourage their confidence and creativity because I truly believe they’re going to change the world with or without us. 

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Watch Joan's bSMART interview here!

Despite a highly competitive world, they're cheering each other on and creating communities of support – that inspires me day-in and day-out.

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What is possible through and with the millennial generation? 

In less than ten years, 75% of the global workforce will be the millennial generation.  There should be a sense of urgency for all of the tenured executives and professors to stop complaining about millennials and start empowering them.  They should stop pointing the finger at what they're doing wrong and start partnering with them.  They need to engage them earlier about strategy, product development, global solutions, and how we can partner with our local communities to make a difference.  There is so much opportunity for millennials to get in the pilot seat with employers, brands, and within communities because they have creative solutions.  Again, being digital natives they’re going to be a lot more tech-friendly and be able to accelerate change and innovation faster because it's their norm.

I want millennials to know that relationships are extremely important to accomplishing your goals: 60-80% of jobs are a direct result of networking.

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What have been your biggest lessons learned working with millennials as a coach and mentor?

I’m inspired day-in and day-out because of the millennials I have the privilege of coaching, mentoring, leading and employing.  One of the things that surprise me is their collaborative spirit.  Despite a highly competitive workplace and world for students with sports and all of the pressure of society, they're cheering each other on and create communities of support and have each other’s backs – that inspires me day in and day out. 

What surprised me and what impresses me every day is that if you give millennials an assignment and they have no idea how to do it, let’s say, for example, I want my 22 year-old employee to develop videos or create an info-graphic or cartoon animation, she'll say, 'Okay. I’ll figure it out!'  And a week later, she's taught herself through Youtube – and boom – produced it.  That’s an incredible perspective and unlike other generations previously brought to the workplace.

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At the end of the day, they want to have a boss that is invested in their success and recognizes that they have some value to bring to the organization.

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Millennial Management

In what ways are millennials misunderstood in the corporate context?

Managers lack patience for millennials and it’s frustrating for those of us who are advocates because everyone knows there isn’t a playbook when you get your first job – there isn’t this perfect guide for how to be successful.  Yet we’ve got this new generation that was used to growing up with a lot of direction.  They were told exactly what to do to get an A in class, get into college and impress everyone.  So, of course they’re going to be a little disheartened when they get to the workplace and aren’t told exactly what it’s going to take for them to get the highest performance review or the biggest bonus – and they’re going to ask you for a lot of feedback.  

Managers need to have more patience, but also see the big picture.  To be motivated as a manager, to want to invest time in a young person, you have to think about what this does for your own brand – how this helps you further your goals.  If you’re transparent and patient and share those things up front with young people working for you today, you'll have an invested and engaged employee for life.

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Companies put their dollars into new managers or executive leaders and they’re missing the boat on empowering and developing future leaders

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What is the main generational conflict between millennials and corporations?

The biggest disconnect in corporate America or organizations as it relates to being compatible to millennials is the lack of training, development, and investment in young talent.  A lot of companies put their dollars into new managers or executive leaders and they’re missing the boat on empowering and developing future leaders

The second is a lack of resources.  You’ve got a young person starting with your company who is used to building websites and doing all of these creative things online, but during their nine to five (or expected hours in the workplace) they’re stifled by both technology or even the access to learning more about the company - the products, vendors, and services. 

Finally, I think it’s a conflict of innovation.  It’s inspiring and motivating to a young person to feel like they’re changing the world.  It's essential to involve them in your company's process of innovation and make them feel a part of your mission.

It's essential to involve millennials in your company's process of innovation and make them feel a part of your mission.

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What is the secret to being an effective manager for millennials?

This summer I partnered with Barnes & Noble College to do a study on the career impressions, motivators, and influencers on students all across the country.  We had over 17,000 open ended responses which means students really wanted to tell us things like what their ideal boss would be one day. 

What we learned is millennials want a boss that is patient and willing to roll up their sleeves and also do the work, not somebody who is going to be authoritative and dictator-style and tells them 'do this' and walks away.  They really want someone they can learn from.  Sometimes they have the expectation that their manager is going to be a role-model.  At the end of the day, they want to have a boss that is invested in their success and recognizes that they have some value to bring to the organization or task at hand from day one.

How can corporations and brands inspire millennials as employees and consumers?

When it comes to inspiring millennials (whether you’re a brand or an organization) you need to understand who they are and that they’re a lot smarter than the average advertisement encouraging them to make a difference and speaking to them through the obvious social media platforms.  You have to involve them in product development, you have to ask them what their opinion is and do something about it. 

My new book which is coming out in January, is a spin-off of Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter Drucker.  As the father of modern management, Drucker suggests that the most simple questions can bring about the most profound responses as an organization.

The very first question in the book is, 'What is your mission?'  Organizations need to be transparent and authentic about what their mission is and make sure everything they do to connect with millennials (as a consumer or employee) all goes back to the question, 'What are we trying to change in the world?'

How can millennials be smart when dealing with generational conflicts as intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs? 

Hang in there.  We’ve all been there.  As frustrating as it can be to try to break through with your manager or your peers, one of the most important things you need to do is to start building a supportive network of mentors, sponsors, advisors – even people outside of the industry you’re interested in.  A great place to start is with the alumni at your alma mater.  Another way to connect is with those who are involved in community initiatives you care about.  All of my life, volunteering helped me stay motivated and confident about the value I bring not only to the workplace but to the world.  I highly recommend all millennials take a leadership role in their community or with a global initiative such as a non-profit, particularly in the social sector. 

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If you’re transparent and patient and share your mission up front with young people working for you, you'll have an invested and engaged employee for life.

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Spotlight on Joan Kuhl

Neighborhood: Yorkville on the Upper East Side

Occupation: International Speaker, Author and Founder of Why Millennials Matter

Women I Admire: Sylvia Hewlett, Carolyn Buck-Luce, Kerry Washington, Eva Tansky Blum, Joanna Coles

Dream Mentor: All of the above! Luckily I'm grateful to have had time with all but #oliviapope ;-) someday!

Look of the Season: Rebecca Taylor Lamb Shearling / Leather-Trimmed Felt Vest

Ultimate Accessory: A fully loaded diaper bag is make or break in my life with an 18 month old!

Favorite Store: Holstee....doubles as a store & workplace. I'm a HUGE Holstee fan - as a stationary junkie and someone who believes in their mission and leadership...it's my favorite place to be!

Must-have Shoes: Suede Manolo BBs and Leather Jimmy Choo Booties (Always sold out!!)

Favorite Nail Polish: OPI - It’s a Girl (My friends gave it out as a favor at my baby shower)

Can't Live Without Product: Kiehl's Midnight serum

Salon Recommendation: Diego and Lucca at Oscar Blandi

Signature Scent: Burberry Body

Cocktail of Choice: Jalapeno Margarita

Best Date: My engagement started at the Plaza for massages and ended with my husband on one knee at Piadina restaurant in the West Village

Travel Destination: Tokyo, Japan then Phuket, Thailand

Current Craving: Black Forest Gummy Bears - yikes...I wish I could say kale

Best Advice: Always make time for the activities that truly make you happy

Favorite Quote: 'You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.' Dale Carnegie & 'To serve is to live' Frances Hesselbein

De-Stress Technique: Holding my daughter

Latest Gadget: Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0

On My Playlist: A lot of Beyonce, Taylor Swift...oh and even more FROZEN! Disney (and some Elmo too)

Favorite App: TRUSPER

University: University of Pittsburgh BSBA + Rutgers University MBA + Columbia certificate in Principles and Practices of Organizational Development

School Organization: 2000 Student Government President, University of Pittsburgh

Graduation Year: 2001; 2009; 2011 

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