Egret Consulting – “My Way or the Highway: AKA Baby Boomers Meet the Millennials” – The Buzz Volume 14 Issue 7

From our IRSA partner Mr. Ted Konnerth of Egret Consulting, who specializes solely in the LED lighting sector, presents their monthly newsletter “The Buzz”.  To view this edition of “The Buzz” in its original format, please click on this link.


My Way or the Highway: AKA Baby Boomers Meet the Millennials


The world is changing at a pace faster than any time in history with the possible exception of the Industrial Revolution. In the 14 years we’ve been helping our clients find talent we’ve seen significant changes in technology. Our communication medium has changed from office phone to cell phone to texting. Our qualification process has been affected by the general decline of talking on the phone, although responsiveness to a text is far higher than a voicemail or email in the past. Our use of social media has expanded and while we can identify ‘names’ more efficiently than in the past, the process required to qualify those names remains largely unchanged. Social media for us has become a two-headed monster: a source for brand development of our firm and an intrusion into our lives that wastes significant time to sort through meaningless messages.


The impact of technology on our clients has changed dramatically as well. The communication medium impacts our clients from an IT-infrastructure perspective; trying to integrate multiple devices and platforms into a seamless and secure network is a challenge. Cloud-based services have benefits of expense reduction and improved access; with concomitant risks of security and duplication expenses for related services that have not yet arrived in the cloud.


And then there are technology impacts of products and services. 15 years ago, the electrical industry was largely… electrical. Low voltage was largely considered to be 100V up to 240V and in some cases 1,000V. The industry was influenced by a standardized reliance on relatively fixed voltage ranges depending upon residential, commercial, industrial or utility applications. And then, electronics entered the industry primarily as low voltage (12V-24V) control points for the end product; be that a switch, relay, motor, etc. The products were easily assimilated into the market and the traditional players easily accommodated their entrance (contractors, engineers, distributors, etc.). And then the technology itself became far more intrusive; factory automation became electronically controlled with sophisticated software systems; building wire for datacom became sophisticated cabling systems tied to routers and servers that relied on low voltage power systems to power and control video, security, audio, IT infrastructure and phone systems. The advent of low voltage specialists grew exponentially; as evidenced by numerous datacom service providers.


Our clients, as a general statement, are all executive level people who have ‘paid their dues’ in the industry and risen to senior levels of responsibility. The average age of our client is probably in their mid-50’s; which means they’re Baby Boomers. Boomers were born to parents who survived the Great Depression and World War 2. They were raised with expectations to work hard and at best receive only moderate appreciation for that hard work. Working hard was expected; a hard worker is ‘average’.


And now, we have technologists that are important contributors to the electrical industry. Many of these people are experienced exclusively in products or solutions that require minimal amounts of power; generally delivered at low DC voltage ranges; oftentimes, expressed in milliamps of current. The new entrants have software backgrounds and are frequent users of social media with computer skills that tend to be continuously ‘on’ multiple tasks; many of those being social or personal in nature. The new entrants are largely GenY Millennials, who have been raised in a nurturing environment with constant praise and oversight by their parents. The running joke for school administrators for Millennials is that they offered a program entitled: “Parental needs of an Average Student.” And no one showed up.


So now we have an industry that requires extensive electronic technologies; from PC board design to software to sophisticated control systems to electronic lighting and social media consultants for web design or marketing. And the leadership of these companies are mostly Baby Boomers who believe you rise to leadership roles in a company by ‘paying your dues’ and working hard, with little praise or recognition. And the Boomers are directly involved in hiring practices and interviewing processes to meet new talent that frankly aren’t interested in paying dues, working 60 hours a week, relocating to another city or being ignored by their supervisors. Boomers don’t believe that there is a shortage of talent but they do believe quality talent should beg to join their company; where they can work hard and pay their dues and ultimately move into the Boomers’ squeaky chairs.


The industry is changing faster than ever. Hiring talent who can expand our reach into electronics and software and new communication media is essential to the future of almost every electrical industry entity: manufacturers, distributors, consultants, design firms, consulting firms, contractors, etc. The channels to market have similarly changed: ESCO’s, VAR’s, Certified Installers, Commissioning firms, Franchised Resellers, Energy consultants, Solar installers, HVAC distributors, etc. are all legitimate new channel partners in an era of technological renaissance. But Boomer manufacturers have been selling to their Boomer channel partners for decades. If you ever want to witness the dance of the Boomers: go to a National NAED conference. You can see the same leaders going to the same restaurants, playing the same golf courses and sitting through insightful presentations on how to improve gross margins or inventory turns or compensate salespeople. Pick any year to attend… it won’t change.


We see hiring practices changing, but very slowly. The talent needs of the future have options: the tech industry uses innovative sourcing techniques and social media to engage new talent. They nurture talent in competitive companies to build a pool of potential new employees well before they need to fill an opening. The current trends in hiring appear to be adding more barriers to entry: multiple test regimens, multiple interviews, slow decision making, little engagement of the candidates and reliance on resumes or LinkedIn profiles to eliminate candidates using standards of qualification that are no longer relevant, such as: too many jobs, too old, too young, unattractive, didn’t complete their degree, etc. We’ve had clients discard candidates for their style of dress, cologne, weight, race, age, smoking, etc.


While I appreciate that a cultural fit is an important attribute, I also believe that this talent market is different than ever before. We need a diverse workforce that can help develop the strategies and products for a diverse marketplace. If that means adding a few more tattoos, piercings and hair colors; I’m ok with that.


Written by Mr. Ted Konnerth

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