How to Manage Millennials with Dr. Candace Steele Flippin

Have you ever heard someone say, “The young workers today just don’t want to work.”? Or heard a comment about the younger generations not knowing how to work?

Today’s guest, Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a workplace generations expert! She talks all about how to thrive in a multi-generational workplace with Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z all working together now.

You can visit her website by CLICKING HERE to learn more about Dr. Candace, her research, and her books.

Recognized as one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America, Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a global communications expert, multigenerational workplace scholar, TEDx speaker, and best-selling author. 

She is the publisher of WorkStats™, author of Generation Z in the Workplace and Millennials in the Workplace, and host of the Beyond the Gap Podcast.

Since 2016, Dr. Candace Steele Flippin has been an executive research fellow at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Her research focuses on accelerating the leadership development of women, Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials in the workplace.

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin, affectionally known as “Dr. Candace” is a frequent speaker and thought leader who uses her unique background as a researcher and executive to provide practical career insights on the future of the multigenerational workplace. 

Her advice and research findings have been featured in Forbes, CNBC, CBS, The Network Journal, and Today.com.

If you are ready to talk about franchising your business you can schedule your free, no-obligation, franchise consultation online at: https://bigskyfranchiseteam.com/ or by calling Big Sky Franchise Team at: 855-824-4759.  

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:02):

You’ve worked hard to build your business and now it’s time to grow. Welcome to the Multiply Your Success Podcast. I’m your host Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise team and a serial entrepreneur. And the question we’re going to get started with today is all about generations. Have you ever said this or thought it or heard someone else say, “Oh, I just don’t know what to do with those millennials. They just don’t want to work,” or, “Goodness, these young people, this new one, this gen Z that’s coming in, I don’t know what we’re going to do with these people.”

                Did you ever think that? Wonder that? See some generational conflicts in the workforce between some gen Zs, gen Y, gen X, baby boomers and so on? Well, today’s guest Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is an expert on helping to bridge the generational gaps in the workplace. And Dr. Candace is recognized as one of the most influential black executives in Corporate America. She’s a global communications expert, multi-generational workplace scholar, TEDx speaker, and she’s a best-selling author. And you’ve got to check out her books.

                They’re amazing. She is the publisher of WorkStats, author of Generation Z in the Workplace and Millennials in the Workplace, and she’s also the host of Beyond the Gap Podcast. In addition to doing all of these awesome things in our career, since 2016, Dr. Candace has been an executive research fellow at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Her research focuses on accelerating the leadership development of women, gen X, gen Z, and millennials in the workplace.

                Let’s just say, folks, she is an authority, she is an expert on this subject matter, and her interview is amazing. You’re going to love her perspective, how she comes across, how she gives some wonderful tidbits on how to improve generational communication in the workplace. So let’s go ahead and jump into my interview with Dr. Candace.

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (02:22):

Tom, thank you so much for having me today. I’m Dr. Candace Steele Flippin. I’m a communications executive, and I help companies transform their business. And then for the past six or seven years, I’ve been a workplace scholar. And specifically what I focus on is helping to bridge the gap in different generation groups and accelerate leadership development for women and members of gen X, millennials, and gen Z. I’m born in the South, and I’ve been very curious by nature. I’m also a huge Star Trek fan, and I love the arts.

                I’m so excited to you about multiplying your business. Because I believe that if you put some energy and some effort and intentionality into it, anyone can be successful.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:08):

Well, thank you for sharing that, and I think you’re right. That’s why we do the podcast. Your research is really intriguing and interesting and relevant to anyone in business, anyone anywhere, because you’re talking about this whole idea of transitioning from generations, one generation to the next, and conflicts and challenges associated with those gaps. I know we all belong to one of those generations. Technically, I’m considered the oldest of the millennials, just to kind of put things in perspective.

                I’d love to hear from your perspective maybe talking through the different generations and some of the conflicts you hear or see and have your perspective on that.

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (03:59):

Great. Well, the first thing I will say is that each generation advances society, and that is a great thing. Thank you for the advancements that you’re making over gen X, my awesome generation, and to the gen Z-ers, who are bringing us along who just entered. My work really focuses on generational values rather than stereotypes. Generational theory says that when you were born and what was happening when you were growing up shapes what’s important to you. In your case, you grew up at a time when the internet was prolific.

                Social media was prolific. You were you, and those in your generation were used to engaging sharing your opinion either as yourself or anonymously. Millennials tend to value transparency, being able to engage and share their opinion. They also value empathy, and they want to be able to know that someone can be empathetic with their situation. And you all are very empathetic mainly with others, right?

                But let’s just say maybe your great-grandparents, someone who may have grown up during the Great Depression when there was a lot of scarcity of resources, of jobs, money. Those who were part of that generation value not wasting things, value the little things and connectivity. When they come into the workplace, they’re going to value loyalty because employers would have put a lot of systems in place to help them along the way.

                And then they would have taught those values to baby boomers who walked into workplaces that had very much command and control type of autocratic management styles. Can you imagine then when these two generations come into the workplace? Someone who’s used to questioning, sharing their opinions, and then someone who used to say, “Tom, I want you to do X, Y, and Z.” Millennial Tom might say, “Well, why am I need to do that? Well, actually I thought about X, Y, and Z, and you’re doing it and it’s taking seven steps.

                But I have this great new app that will help you do it quicker.” What people have interpreted these behaviors as negative. And what I’m trying to unpack the values underneath that are driving the behaviors. And if we could just open our mind to understand why, we could have a better work relationship.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (06:36):

Well, that’s really interesting. I would imagine just based on age and the generations, we have the baby boomers that are entering into retirement or near retirement. They’re kind of on the tail end of their careers in probably most cases. And then when we have gen X that’s really in the primary leadership positions, I would imagine, at most companies right now, with the millennials behind as a large workforce, a young, large workforce, and then generation Z on the tail end.

                Our audience, primarily business owners, entrepreneurs, growth minded people that are tuning in, what are some things that you’re seeing or maybe some suggestions you might even have for a small business that has these multi-generation folks all working together, and there might only be one per generation, all kind of figuring this all out.

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (07:43):

The first thing I would say, congratulations. You have entered into a learning culture. And a lot of research says that learning cultures are thriving culture. Look at it as an opportunity. That’s one. The second is the magical year that a lot of people are putting out there is the year 2030, and that’s when many baby boomers by age would have turned 65 and have exited the workplace in their primary roles. However, more and more baby boomers are also reentering the workforce either full-time or part-time doing something else.

                We will continue to see baby boomers in organizations maybe in different roles that traditionally they may not have been in. And some of them could be entry-level roles. Keep that in mind. My research around communication… so I’m a communications expert. I compliment my generational studies with how people communicate. And what I’ve found is that baby boomers tend to appreciate active listening. That means that the person who’s receiving it, if they’re a baby boomer, they want to know that you are engaged in their conversation.

                You can repeat back what they’ve said, and you have acknowledged it. You’re not looking at your watch or some device. You’re really focused. If you have a workforce that has a lot of baby boomers in it, some of the communications dynamics really need to focus on making sure that you have an active listening type engagement, which doesn’t always happen in a digital forum. Now, COVID may change a lot of that for a lot of us, but really they do well with one-on-one type conversations, particularly when the stakes are high.

                For gen Xe, my research shows that we like to collaborate. We like to get everyone together. We want to lead little teams. We want to get feedback. If you have a lot of gen X-ers in your workforce, you want to have lots of opportunities for conversation, for teamwork, for collaboration. That’s good. Millennials and gen Z really like empathy, and they also like to leverage technology. If you are a business owner and you have millennials and gen Z, you want to be open to change.

                And if your budget for investment in change isn’t very robust, having honest conversations about what that means so that people understand that you’re not ignoring their recommendations or you don’t don’t want them, but actually you’re opening to them, but hear are the confines under which they can exist. Here’s some of my tips. Let everyone know the rules of the road, right? And let everyone know that their opinions are valued and welcome. Create opportunities for folks to work together and give people the parameters of how change will happen.

                I think all of them will appreciate that. And some practical things is when you’re hiring them, set the expectations. Particularly if you have millennials and gen Z, they’re coming from a frame where the whole person matters. They call it authenticity, right? They’re going to bring their whole selves to the work experience, where maybe a baby boomer or a gen X-er might not.

                They may be more reserved to share and be open, and they may have a lower expectation of how they’re navigating their personal life with their work life, where the younger generation is just one big life and it’s fluid. I’ve heard a lot of my friends who are business owners lament about some of the explanations, they call them excuses, but I’m going to say explanations they hear from their younger workers in terms of why they will do something, why they won’t do something.

                And they view it as more personal when actually these younger workers are just being their authentic selves.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (11:59):

That’s really interesting, Dr. Candace. I’m curious. I like you sharing… Do you have an example, a couple of examples of maybe some of these situations? I’m sure you’re asked frequently for your advice in these dynamic situations from companies. Without revealing maybe which companies you were talking to or the people involved, are there any stories that you wouldn’t mind sharing that we could maybe glean some wisdom or practical advice from?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (12:32):

Yes. Here’s a classic one, promotion. In a baby boomer or gen X context, you want to be promoted, but you expect maybe because of the way you were brought into the workplace that it can take some time, meaning years to get a promotion. If you were given a task to do something, you would have to do it multiple times in different situations. And then maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll get a promotion. And then baby boomers, you certainly don’t ask to be promoted. You kind of have like there’s this supervisor hovering, making a decision.

                Then one day you’ll get tapped and then you will advance. And then sometimes those advancements maybe things you wanted or not, but you would accept them, right? Well, millennials and gen Z don’t quite roll like that. They may feel that if they’ve done something extra in their mind or they’ve completed q task once, they are ready to go onto the next thing. You come in as an associate. You look around. You see what the managers are doing. You do one thing your manager has done and you’ve been there six months, okay, now I’m ready to be assistant manager.

                I think about it and frame it in what I call a temporal time situation. Think of it like this. Younger generations, they grew up with gaming as a part of their context, right? And in gaming, if it takes you one time or 50 times to master something, you move to the next level. Mastery doesn’t mean I’ve got to play this level for four years and then I advance. If you get it on the first try or you do it the 10th try, you’re ready to advance. You spent your formative years knowing that if you’ve checked the box, you move on.

                Now you go to work and you’ve checked the box. And you’ve been checking that box for like six months or a year. Why aren’t you progressing? The biggest one I see is around when people move on or when they get their raise or how much that raise should be on a historical context. Another one that I see quite a bit is what is a work day and what’s not a work day. Remember when I said from a value perspective, millennials and gen Z, they kind of want to make their whole life work? The whole 24 hours is what they have to get things done.

                They don’t really always view it constrained, constrained in terms of when they need to show up to work or when they need to leave work. If they have to pop out and get a yoga class or do something else family-related or personal, they want to be able to be fluid. The whole concept of being in the office eight to five kind of butts in seats doesn’t really resonate with them. I’ve seen that clash when people are saying, “Well, I like my work day to start at 11:00 and then I’d like to leave at 4:00.

                And then when I’m at home, I’ll log back on after dinner and get those other things done.” And that’s a context that a lot of gen X and baby boomers don’t quite understand, because they want to be able to, after COVID, maybe walk to your office and say, “Tom, how are you doing?” They want that confined structure. That’s another clash that I see a lot. And then the final one is in salary.

                There are so much information on the internet now around salary disclosures, and a lot of times younger workers don’t make a distinction with the corporate budget in terms of how much they should get paid. They see a salary if they’ve met some of the requirements or not, and now they want that salary. A lot of older managers get sticker shock. I once remember speaking to a millennial and he says, “Well, when I graduated from college as an undergraduate, I saw that some of the leading people in my field,” he’s 21, “were making six figures.

                When I went for my first job, they asked me, “Well, what are my salary expectations?” And so he says, “Well, since I was just starting out, I said $95,000.” Well, that role I think was paying somewhere around 45 or 50, and the recruiter laughed at him, and he didn’t see what was funny at all. The thing about it is this is not any discouragement of anyone wanting to get their full value, right? It’s just a matter of I’ve seen this clash and expectations in terms of what worth is, and that’s because there’s so much information out there.

                People say, “Why not?” My advice is let people know exactly what it takes to get promoted so that it’s very clear, so you can kind of ward off some of those discussions. Have some transparency about what raises could look like. You don’t want to put yourself in a box obviously, but just manage those expectations. And then the final was in terms of work day. What’s really important to you? I mean, I think COVID has opened up so many possibilities for so many businesses in terms of what the work day looks like, but being open to doing that.

                And I found that for gen X, it’s been difficult. I’ve watched many of my colleagues who own businesses really struggle with the fact that we paid our dues. We don’t understand why these millennial workers need to do that. And what I say is, when I speak to millennials in my research, they say that they are hazed by gen X-ers, and they feel as though because the baby boomers put all these things on us and we didn’t push back, we’ve been laying in wait of our turn to say, “No, you have to do that,” when in actuality values have changed.

                Most gen X-ers raise millennials. We have to just be open to that. And I find that if you are open, you’ll get way more productivity when people feel free to manage their own time.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:15):

Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that. It’s really just interesting to hear your perspective as an expert and a researcher in the field. These are just great pieces of information you’re sharing. It’s interesting. I’m 38 and I kind of fall in the bucket of… I’m right on the cusp of a generation, like kind of right there. As you’re describing, it’s like, well, some of the things that you’re describing for gen X, I’m like I kind of relate to those, and some of the things for the millennial side, I kind of relate to those.

                What about these folks that are kind of like a few years on the cusp? What do you know about those folks?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (20:00):

Here’s what I will say. Generation research is wonderful, but we should always remember there are going to be outliers. And actually, when you think about those age bands or those years when historical things were happening together, it’s on a bell curve, right? You’re going to have people in the middle who are more closely aligned. But on the end, you’re always going to have individuals who may aspire or lean towards one group or another, particularly because it’s value based in my estimation.

                A lot of your values you’re going to get from your parents, you’re going to get from your teachers, and then you’re going to think about how they fit in terms of how you want to conduct your own life. That’s why you probably want to gravitate to some or others. And then finally, I feel like there’s some people who just reject the notion altogether, and that’s okay. And that’s why I just look at values. What are the values that each generation group tends to hold over others? And that’s why you’ll probably relate to some than others.

                What I will say is regardless of what generation you are, just be open. Be open to understand that there may be other age groups that have different values that are driving their behaviors. And instead of rejecting them outright or trying to be confused or thinking, “Well, maybe I should do this, or maybe I shouldn’t do that,” just understand that there were things that were happening when you were going up that are shaping how you’re showing up, and that’s okay.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:40):

That’s wonderful. That’s great advice. Thank you. Dr. Candace, to flip to the other side of our interview here, we make sure we ask every guest the same four questions before they go. You’re in the hot seat now, and we’re still looking to learn from you and your experience and your research and so on. But we ask about misses, makes, and multipliers. We start with a miss. Was there a miss or two in your career that came along that you learned something from that you could share with the audience?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (22:23):

Sure. I believe careers are journeys, right? And I have no regrets. My career’s awesome. But early in my career, I had the opportunity to be the executive director of Rock the Vote, which was an amazing organization. It is amazing organization, and it would have been a total departure from what I was doing at the time. And I had to decline the offer because I had just bought my first home. I was house poor, and I couldn’t financially do it because the offer came back like $5,000 less than what I was making.

                And what that taught me was if you want to be best prepared for the journey, having a stronger financial foundation that you can do to take risk is important. It’s a great organization. My career trajectory has been great, but one of the things I’ll often wonder is what would have happened had I had really focused a lot of my time on the national discussion of really getting people out to vote for whatever candidate they wanted?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:36):

Wow. What an opportunity. That’s impressive just to have it. That’s incredible. Dr. Candace, in terms of… Dr. Candace, can you hear me okay?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (23:52):

I can hear you just great.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:53):

Okay, great. So Dr. Candace, to turn things on the other side, just even from what you’ve described and discussed here, you’ve had a lot of makes in your career. Is there one or two that stands out that you wouldn’t mind sharing about a make that you’ve had?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (24:15):

I feel like my most important make was just opening the discussion on the multi-generational workplace. When I entered this discussion, it was very negative. Everyone was saying negative things about millennials, and I didn’t find it productive. What I’ve been able to do is engage in that conversation. And as a result, I believe that I’ve been able to provide more opportunity to millennials and to gen X and baby boomers, and then set the stage for gen Z to get the most out of their careers.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:53):

Yeah. In your research and everything that I’ve read, it validates everything you’re saying there. And we’ll make sure that we get connections back to you for our audience, by the way, as we go through this. The last question we mentioned here with the misses, makes, and multipliers is the multiplier question. Is there any multiplier that you used professionally or personally that helped you catapult your research or your career or anything that you’ve done here?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (25:29):

I guess my biggest multiplier started with something very basic. I had a business plan, so I was really clear about what my goals were, where I was trying to map it, and that allowed me to put a great team in place to support it. A lot of times I’ve seen people have great ideas, but they don’t always have a clear plan and they don’t share the plan. When I started on this journey, one of the first things I learned is that I had to go back and get a doctorate.

                What you see a lot of times is there are individuals who are consultants who have great background and ideas, and maybe they’ll write a book about it and it’s great and they’re experts, and then there are people who have a doctorate and they have the theoretical framework, but they’ve never set at an executive level or management level in a company, so sometimes their solutions are real theoretical. I feel as though the fact that I am an executive and I’m also a scholar, I’m able to tip to bridge that gap.

                What I would say is finding your unique distinction to what you can bring is very important. Having that rooted in a plan that you share and engage and have the right team around you. And then I think the last thing I’ll say is not being afraid to change course. Don’t fall so in love with your idea that you’re not open to trying new things and getting engaged in other ways. That has really multiplied my ability to grow my followership and just opportunities, and it actually brings me here today to talk to you. I’m really excited about that. Thank you.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:05):

Well, thank you very much. Dr. Candace, the last final question we ask every guest is, what does success mean to you?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (27:17):

Yeah. It’s easy. For me, it’s just having the highest possible impact I can have with my family, so that my husband, our children say that she is the best wife and best mom. The best possible impact I can have in my industry, so I could actively engage in my industry and my sector, so that, one, it keeps me informed, and two, I can contribute back and help others. And then finally to my community, my best impact. I volunteer and serve on boards in my community to make sure that the community that I want to live in I’m participating in it to make it be that way.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (27:51):

Wow. Well, thank you. That’s amazing. I love that description. Dr. Candace, you have a lot of research. You have recordings, videos, publications. Will you please share how people can find out more information about you and how to track down the different things you’re studying, publishing, and writing about?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (28:16):

Right. The easiest way is on my website, candacesteeleflippin.com. I also have my first two books, which are Generation Z and Millennials in the Workplace, and those are available on Amazon. I recently did a TEDx Talk where I was talking about what women really want at work, and so that’s available. And you can access all of that on my website, candacesteeleflippin.com.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (28:41):

Excellent. And we’ll make sure we include links in the show notes to your books, to your website, to every possible way to try to gather more information about you. As we conclude here, is there anything you’d like to make sure you communicate that maybe you didn’t have a chance to say throughout the interview?

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin (29:03):

Well, what I will say is it’s easy particularly now during the pandemic where everyone’s stress levels are just naturally high because of so much uncertainty, if you’re coming across someone who’s in a different age group, take a minute. If something they do makes you feel a certain negative way and stop and think about, what are the things that were happening that’s shaping why they’re responding this way and what can I learn about it? And at the end of the day, we’re all people.

                We’re here to have the best experience along our journey and think about how you can help enrich someone else’s journey.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (29:41):

Dr. Candace, thank you so much again for being here. What an amazing, amazing interview. I’m so grateful for you to share that information. And again, for those of you that are trying to find out more about her, please check out her website, candacesteeleflippin.com. That’s the website, candacesteeleflippin.com. And you can just pull that up, or it’s also available in the show notes to get access to all of the literature and work that she’s been doing. Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways.

                The first key takeaway that I took out of the interview was to let people know exactly what they need to get promoted. As the leader in your organization, is it clear to your staff and team members of how they get promoted? Whatever it is, whatever your process is, is it clear? I would guess for many small businesses, it’s probably not very clear only because you probably have limited number of staff, so it’s a very flat organization. Regardless of that, you should be thinking about it and have something in place.

                Number two, I love when she said this, have a business plan or a clear plan for your life. Kind of a life plan. And I thought that was great when she was talking about things that helped her to be successful in her career. And number three, I really liked when she said, don’t be afraid to change course. It’s okay. Sometimes you need to change direction. And as an entrepreneur and a business owner, I’m sure you know that certainly you have to change course often and frequently, or at least be willing to consider it.

                And let’s go ahead and jump into today’s win-win. Today’s win-win is when Dr. Candace early in the interview said, “Learning cultures are thriving cultures.” Learning cultures are thriving cultures. And the fact that you’re listening to this podcast to me indicates that you are a learning culture, which means you’re open and willing to learn and to think and to try new things. That is today’s win-win. Be open to learning new things. That’s our episode today, folks. Thanks for tuning in. Please make sure you subscribe.

                Give us a review. Share this. And we look forward to having you back next week.

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