Working in an industry that is brimming with talent, both young and old, you learn a lot about what makes and breaks a career in consulting. As we continue to grow as a company, we look for individuals that can grow with our organization, people that not only have the right skillset but also the right personality for a career in consulting. This lands us in the position of hiring emerging professionals that we can help mold as they begin their careers. Naturally, that means we are hiring talent from the millennial generation. I can honestly say that some of our best consultants have been from this emerging talent pool and have grown tremendously during their time with us.
During my tenure, I have learned some new skills and been fortunate enough to teach others what I have learned. While we have a robust training program to ensure our consultants are thoroughly prepared to handle any situation thrown at them, there is one skill gap that is particularly common among new talent. It is something that ten or twenty years ago was a given – interpersonal relations. This blog is the first in a series where I will share my perspective on this topic as an individual from the previous generation, a generation whose members did not grow up with the level of technological exposure as those today do. The second perspective will be from the viewpoint of an emerging professional at the tail end of the millennial generation.
When training new team members, particularly those that are new to consulting or the professional workforce in general, we work especially hard to develop their interpersonal communication skills. In procurement and strategic sourcing consulting, these are among the most essential skills a professional can possess. Every consultant needs to develop strong relationships with suppliers and develop partnerships with other organizations to build their firm’s portfolio and brand. This sometimes means interfacing directly with C-level executives. In order to succeed, our consultants not only have to communicate effectively, but they also need to be able to quickly adapt to any situation. Successful communication comes down to getting your message across effectively, clearly, and concisely while tailoring your message to the particular audience. Even the savviest consultant can find this challenging.
As I mentioned, I come from a generation that was slowly introduces to technology like the internet and home computers. I still very fondly remember having to use the phone line to dial into AOL. In those days, unless you had multiple lines, no one could use the phone during internet time. I remember sitting in front of the Gateway computer (a major purchase for our household) that the whole family had to share. I remember having to use actual books to do a research paper in high school. It was a total pain at the time, but I’m still sad my kids will likely never share the experience.
We didn’t have the world at our fingertips. We had to go out there and get results the “old-fashioned” way. We had to talk to people to get answers. Email was a thing, but picking up the phone was far more natural. It was something we just did automatically. In fact, I spent hours on the phone in my teen years. It was a milestone for our generation to tie up the phone line long enough that our parents purchased separate landlines.
These different historical experiences are what help to bridge the generational gap in today’s workforce. We often hear about how the baby boomers are on their way out and the millennials are taking over. While this might be the case, this transition will likely take some time. With that in mind, it is up to the two generations to learn from one another. Both the aging workforce and the incoming upstarts need to adapt to survive and embrace innovation in how they perform their roles. We can’t forget the art of interpersonal communication, but we need to refine our techniques and strategies to fit the needs of emerging professionals and the client base they’ll serve until the next generation arrives to shake things up all over again.