Who is Integrated Strategies?

November 20, 2007

Youth and Progress

This is a topic near and dear to me because it is something that I have to deal with on a regular basis. I'm young (only 24) and I've been out of school for two years next month. My youth is often seen as a detriment to many people when I first deal with them on a new project. The same is true for when I walk into a store to buy furniture, jewelry or any other expensive item. People see the youth and think that this kid can't possible help them improve themselves.

At the age of 24 I have more experience than many engineers 5 years older than me. I've been personally responsible for construction on a ground-up 822,000 SF distribution center. There were two project managers assigned to the project and I was in the second chair. I was responsible for budget, contractor selection, architectural design, installation inspection, final punch and most of the holes that go in between. Why was I put in that position a year after school? Because I had a manager that was willing to put me in a position to add to the project team. I was able to quickly prove that I belonged.

Am I saying that all 24 year olds should be running major projects on their own? Of course not. But at the same time, some people with 24 years of experience shouldn't be running major projects. My argument is that each and every person in an organization has a value to add that is not currently being utilized. Young people in an organization have the most value to add. It's the fear of allowing them to screw up the well oiled machine that often keeps that value from getting tapped.

Most people are surprised by the fact that your average Gen Y'er will only stay with a company a year or two before moving on to the next. Why is this a surprise? We have been brought up to know our worth and been given some of the most powerful tools available to help us perform. Why stick with a company that is holding us back simply because we're young? That doesn't make good business sense. If you are part of a business relationship where you are recommending clients to another business but they never return the favor are you going to keep recommending? Odds are you are going to start talking to their competitors about a better deal for your business. It's simple good business practice.

How will you know that the person you just hired has any worth or not if you don't let them sink or swim at some point? Sure, people need to start at the bottom to some extent. Everyone needs to know the basics behind the job. I had to learn to stamp and fill out invoices before I was allowed to control a budget. I had to develop warehouse designs in collaboration with other managers before I was allowed to do it on my own. It's a matter of timing that changes the game. Why should an intelligent member of Generation Y sit stamping invoices for a year while people that they may be better than get the actual projects? Would any team in the NBA have left Michael Jordan or Lebron James on the bench for a year simply because he was a rookie? No, it wouldn't have helped the team.

When working out an employment strategy think about this. Over-training someone simply because they are young will never help your business. Teach them what they need in a reasonable amount of time and then see if they are worth what you pay them to do. Entry level jobs shouldn't exist just to put the rookie into. In the end, you will develop better, more loyal employees by adding responsibility regularly to any Generation Y'er. In a couple of years your company will thank you.

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