Wendy Hanson: It's so nice to have you all with us today. We are going to be talking about millennials and we're going to figure out why are we still talking about millennials in the workplace. We have such an intergenerational workforce and we all need to be looking at what our gifts are and how we work together and how all the generations make it in a workplace. But we need to look at millennials today and see what we can learn, and we are going to learn a lot from a millennial.
Retention is a big issue and it's an expensive one for companies. So we are going to talk about retention because that is something that every individual needs to look at in terms of their career path, and we don't look at it as career ladders any more, but more of like a climbing wall. How do we learn? How do we grow? How do we have mentors? And we want to have job satisfaction and happiness at work. So we're going to go through these today and I am very excited. And I am going to introduce you to Robert Gillette.
Wendy Hanson: Robert has experience as an IT employee, a middle manager, and a business owner in more industries than he would like to admit. He is currently an executive at Endsight which has been serving local businesses of all sizes since 2004, and is one of the highest quality outsourced IT providers in California. Robert is happily married with two children. He is a San Francisco Bay native - which of you are listening for anywhere else in the world, that's unusual. And he is also a millennial. So, welcome Robert.
Robert Gillette: Welcome, thanks for having me.
Wendy Hanson: Well, I was at a Provisor meeting, which a business group, and people were pointed to you when they started talking about millennials, like you were the millennial expert. So I said, wow! This is information that because we work with HR and L&D and managers out there..... This is information that we should really discuss to at least get people thinking. So why is this conversation about millennials important to you?
Robert Gillette: Ah, that's a great question. I mean for instance.... I guess I have to start by saying I am a millennial. To define it - I think it's a Bureau of Labor Statistics - as anyone born after 1981 up until the 2000s is a millennial. So I make it by the skin of my teeth. But one of the things that's just so interesting to me is, you know, I've sat through probably 15 meetings now of different networking groups where the question comes up - how do you deal with millennials, and then it starts off with one person complaining about a millennial, another person backing them up. Someone getting really angry and saying if the question was how do we deal with 50 year olds, you'd all be angry. Then someone fights with that person, and usually I am the only millennial in the room and I just kind of sit back and you know trying to keep my head down, but it just seems to be one of those things that everyone's really passionate about. Passionate about not because they want to be or they like it, but usually because there's some deep-seated misconceptions about who millennials are and what they want and how to get value out of them - which is what I am discovering. So that's a guess why I am, I am passionate about it, because Endsight had to dive deep into this about three years ago. We were struggling to grow as a company and our number one problem was half of my staff is millennials. And they are quite frankly a lot of boots on the ground that do some of the hardest work. And so we had to figure out for ourselves how we deal with millennials, being that they are core part of our business. And once we figured it out, it actually allowed us to double in size over two years. And we made it back on the Inc. 5000 list in 2019 for that growth. So, yeah, big deal for us.
Wendy Hanson: Okay, yeah. Well, we need to hear more about that. And when I was looking up millenials everybody has different takes of what they call a “millennial”. But it really seems that we have old stories. You know that “they are so entitled. You know, that's the problem with millennials.” And really that span now, there are people that are still figuring out what they want to do and what they want to be. And then there were those that like you - or on example - have families, that's a big span of differences of people that are.... what am I still working towards and what do I want to be, and how am I going to get there. And then those that settle down a little bit more. So I think it's a big picture. And so....
Robert Gillette: Yeah, I agree.
Wendy Hanson: .... so Endsight is an IT support company, and you have a lot of millennials there. What has made you successful? What got the company humming again. What were some of the things that you did?
Robert Gillette: Yeah, so that's a big question and if I could put it on a postcard, I'd probably hand that out and everyone's problems would be solved. But one of the things that was really important to us as a company was we had to figure out why anyone would come work for us, especially a millennial. Why would anyone care about coming to work for Endsight? And how do we attract the people we want, and give people that maybe aren't a good fit for us the opportunity to self-select out, without feeling like they are giving up something. I think a lot of the problem like people won't turn down a job or an opportunity is because they feel like they can make it work and we as companies don't often do a good job of helping them self-select out because we want them to like us. We want them to come work for us. But often the candidate can tell long before we do that they are not going to make it for like a three-year stretch. And at Endsight, one of the big things we had to do was figure out really clearly who we were, why people would want to work for us, why they wouldn't want to work for us, and then finding a way to really push that forward early in the process, so that candidates could self-select out.
Wendy Hanson: Yeah. What is it that makes them want to self-select into your company?
Robert Gillette: Yeah, that's another great postcard question.
Wendy Hanson: What are the three things, so we can get it on a postcard. What are the three things that you know over and over after your interviews and people select-in, you want them, but they decide they want you? What are those things?
Robert Gillette: Yeah. I'll put it down to maybe four.... or I should say three. And it's our core values. Really, as our company has centered around these core values. They are not just something you put on the wall or say in your handbook. It's something that.... it's become central to how we do our business and that has been one of the key thing that allows people to feel like they are going to be a part of what we're doing or what we're not. And they are to bring your whole you, which is your entire self. You know, we don't want just to hire your hands, your brain, or your voice. We want to hire the entire person and bring the entire value of that person to there. We really want people to embrace pride without arrogance. Which is the idea you can be proud of your work, you can be proud of the people you work with, you can be proud of your company without being arrogant. And finding that balance of pride versus arrogance. And then taking the long view, this idea that the decisions you make today are going to resonate into the future. And everything that we do we want to look at it through the lens of value today, but also value tomorrow and for years. And if a candidate really resonates with those things, they are going to find a lot of what we do as a company resonates with them.
Wendy Hanson: Hmm. Because I'll generalize about millennials, but they want to work for a company they could be passionate about and they believe it. And when you even start your first interview, you can often feel that kind of culture that's in this company. I remember having an interview. This was many, many years ago. But there was one opportunity for me to go and interview, and it was a pretty big job somewhere. And I could not make that because I was out working with a board of directors, and I just couldn't change that. And so that was my one and only chance, and then I was off the role. And I thought, wow, that's great because I would never want to work for a company like that. So we learn things very early on about companies, about how they treat people, and how they're going to treat me going forward. I went on the website for Endsight, and I loved the values and the aspirational values. They were really impressive. And I don't mean this in a bad way, for an IT organization. It was so humanistic and caring about people, and I can see why you attract people. And you hold each other accountable, be cool to each other, bring positive energy, be courageous. So it really is the thing. If you are practicing what you preach, you must be doing pretty well at attracting folks!
Robert Gillette: Yeah, it's.... you know, we're certainly... I would like to say that we are lucky, but I don't think that's true. I think we simply were intentional, and we invested a lot of time and money into making it our reality. And it was painful and it was not always fun. But, you know, we're getting the results of that now and we're really excited about it.
Wendy Hanson: Yeah. What was painful? You said it was painful and fun. What made it painful when you decided we're really going to focus on the humans here and how to bring in the right people and keep them?
Robert Gillette: Well, the first step is always why would anyone.... and this is the hard question.... is, why would anyone come to work for me? You know, in this particular industry, IT - again a group that is known for its people skills in general - we were told that across the country there is one qualified candidate for every eight job openings. And that's a national number. So here it's got a.... I mean, I know that when I'm trying to hire someone, I will get on average 1200 applications, and we move something like 700 or 800 of those people to the next step of the process. So there's just a lot of... you know, a lot of sifting that has to be done to get through all this. And if the same person I am looking for... also Google, LinkedIn, every startup in the country, they are all looking for that same person. And so I have.... the first thing you have to ask yourself is why would they come to work for me instead of Google. And that is not a fun question to answer.
Wendy Hanson: Right. That is when you put yourself up against Google and Facebook and.... that is the hard thing. Well, should I go to Google, Facebook, or Endsight? Because they all offered me a job. So how did they answer that in a way that works? Like, what's your answer to that? Like, why would they come to you rather than go to Google if they got an offer?
Robert Gillette: Yeah, it's hard to know for each individual person. There is no one answer. The only thing I can do is make sure that my.... you know, when a candidate comes to visit me, I place them first. Their needs above my needs. I am vulnerable with them about the shortcomings of my company, and really what working here will be like. And then I'm also making sure that they fully grasp the opportunity they have in front of them. And I want to make sure they resonate with that opportunity, and not something they think is the opportunity.
Wendy Hanson: Yeah. Tell me the difference between that..... the opportunity and what they think is the opportunity?
Robert Gillette: Yeah. So, a great example of this is we tell people early on in the process, if you want to make the highest wage possible for you... like your job description, your experience level, I recommend going back to Google. Because that's not why people come to work for us. One of the reasons why people come to work for us is because we're an accelerator. We say that IT years at Endsight are like dog years. You're going to learn about seven times more than you will at any other company and we aggressively push that. We have 90-day goals for every single employee that pushes them to the absolute edge of their ability to learn.... because that's both how I get the greatest value from them, but it's also because we allow people to self-select in that are excited about that level of development.
Wendy Hanson: I love that. You know, that's really what a differentiator is, and that's why people would join your team because stereotypically if I talk about millennials that's what we always say, is that millennials really want to grow and they really want to progress and they want that support. And if you can provide that... we will talk a little bit more about retention in a bit... but you'll have a bigger case to hold them there. You know, at Better Manager, we have executive coaches all over the world and a lot of the companies we work with, they are trying to keep their millennials. And they are trying to attract millennials. And when you can tell somebody that you have the opportunity to have a coach or you have training or whatever professional development it is, it's really a stick-out. So I love that you are focusing on that. What else?
Robert Gillette: Ahm, something else that is really important to us as a company and what's really important to our employees is this idea of pride without arrogance. So the way that traditionally an IT person over the last 20 or 30 years developed in their career was simply by accumulating this knowledge. And there were no standards. There still isn't really any standards. So it's not a.... this is a completely unregulated industry. There's not a single way that it's how IT should be done or the outcomes a company should get when they hire another company or employee. So really what happens is an IT guy gets to be at a high level by learning as much as they can, which you know takes an incredible amount of time and energy. So when someone else comes up to them and says, "Well, how do you do this," it's hard... you know they don't want to give that up. This is information they have developed. This is their key to success. So one one of the things at Endsight we have had, you know, make a part of our course is this idea that that's not what makes you successful, that's not what is your acumen or makes you a high level person at Endsight. So far as we have actually gone down to... when someone starts at Endsight they are going to go and work developing their skills between nine and twelve months before they really go and do their job. They go... they get to this academy and we're going to put them through the steps of developing not just their understanding of IT, but Endsight's version of IT. And then what we are going to do is we are going to give them these 90-day opportunities, what we call little SOL cycles, S-O-L cycles, so that they can decide if what they are doing is what they want, and then if it's not they have opportunities to pivot. Very much like you said earlier, it's not a ladder, it's a climbing wall. There's infinite opportunities, infinite ways you can go. And people really like not only we are going to develop them into having those career paths, but we are going to give them these little metrics they can check in there. So, I was talking with a lawyer that was on a partnership path at their law firm. And they were told that it could take five to ten years before they are even offered a junior partner status. And the challenge with millennials is that they don't believe you. They just.... they are not going to come to work for ten years on the off-hand.... like the off-handed chance that you're going to give them a partnership status, that by the way you are going to make them.... no, they're not going to do that. They are not interested in that level of being walked in. They want to know.... I want to know that I have the opportunity to pivot, as kind of I learned more about myself and I learned more about the world I live in. I don't want to ever find myself stuck in one ton all that I can't move around in. And so giving people that opportunity, not just to grow, but to have choice and control over their career path is incredibly desirable for a millennial.
Wendy Hanson: Yeah. And I love the training that might take nine months, even feels like a long time for a millennial. I talked to a woman yesterday. She was even younger than a millennial. She had just completed a Masters, and was in a temporary job at a company. She had only been there three months and she is like, "All right, this work is kind of boring." I said, well, they hired you for just a project, to do a project for six months. You have got to show that you are amazing and then you get your next opportunity. And it was like, "Oh? Okay." You know, like patience is a virtue sometimes. You really need to look at things and not be so short-sighted that you don't look at the long view. Another thing that you and I had chatted about on paper at least was the fact that you're investing a lot of time in people and a lot of resources in people, and if you have somebody that leaves you after two years, wow, that's a big investment. How do you deal with that, because we know especially in the Bay Area, but I'm sure it's happening more all over the place, is that the shelf life of somebody at any job is two to three years. And now it's almost expected that that's what you are going to do. You're going to turn over in a few years. So how do you deal with that in your company?
Robert Gillette: Absolutely. So, we flip it on it’s head. So I agree with you. The average life of an IT guy is like 18 months at a company. At 18 months, they need a major promotion, they need a job change, they need more money or something is wrong with them. Now, if someone comes to me, they have been 5 years in the same job, the same title, it gets hard to hire them because you wonder what's wrong with them. Why are recruiters beating down your door two years? So one of the ways that we address that is by providing those opportunities in-house. So if you have..... No one leaves a company because they want to unless they don't like the company. If you like your company, you want to stay. But the challenge is, is I know I can go get $10,000 more a year and title bump if someone else takes a chance on me. So what we have done at our company is we break down these SOL cycles - which by the way I should say select, orient, and longevity, which I can dive into it anyone cares. But the point is that when we give them those opportunities, they come with commitments on our end.
We say if you learn this, if you take this test, if you gain this certification, if you master this experience, we will give you a promotion. And you've seen of course we're still figuring this out every day, we do it, and we will never be finished with this process. But the point is this that if you achieve this, I will give you that. And if I know as an employee who is maybe in his first or second year.... if I have.... let's say I just had my two-year anniversary and a recruiter reaches out to me, says, "I can get you $10,000 more and a better job title over at this company, if I can look back at the last eight 90-day cycles and I have a history of promises kept, suddenly the desire to leave is a lot smaller because I have kind of the devil I know versus the devil I don't. And so that's a key point to increasing retention. But let's say I have someone who works for me for 5 years. Now, I have invested a ton of my end to these people, a ton of training. I have allowed them to gain all these experience and all these job levels, these dog years in IT, where they are seven times more valuable than they should be based on just the years alone, and they decide to go leave. I can look at those two ways. I can be very angry or I could embrace the idea that this person is not my tool. If I have done a good job of developing him as a person, I care about them as a person, and I want what's best for them. And if they have a job opportunity that is an incredible opportunity for them, I am happy to see them go to that because I care about them as a person, not as an employee. And I also have a ton of people I have been bringing up right behind of them with these 90 days SOL cycles that I have aggressively been pushing them to be successful. So I have someone who has been doing just shy of his job anyways who I can move into that role much quicker than I could recruit someone.
Wendy Hanson: I love your perspective on this. Wow.
Robert Gillette: It gets even better. Now this employee who is going and he works at Google now, or she works at Kaiser or maybe even a startup, what do they say about Endsight when people ask, "Hey, I saw a job ad for Endsight. I'm curious what you think of it." They say, "Endsight made me what I am today. They built me into this job and then they sent me off with flowers and a cake. I couldn't recommend them high enough." And it just becomes part of our recruiting method which is, he comes to Endsight, "And yeah, you may leave for Google after we have trained you up to be that kind of a person." So it becomes part of the value proposition.
Wendy Hanson: "But you are going to leave talking about Endsight" and wow.... I just love that. I just love that because what I found that, we can add longevity to somebody's life at a company when they know you care about them. And I love that you care about them, you know. We just wrote something recently on LinkedIn about love at the works site. You have to love the people that you work with and you have to treat them with respect and make them happy. And if they know it's a safe place where people have their back, people want to see them grow, and then you have such a great attitude about, then they will go off and they would be good brand ambassadors for Endsight. How wonderful, how wonderful.
Robert Gillette: If you make someone's day.... that's an interesting thing that we had to come to grips with ourselves, you know, when we were three to five years ago dealing with this. The best ones would leave and the bad ones would stay, and we.... not all of them obviously, after you work here for like a decade and half that are amazing. But we would lose some of our best people and we were really frustrated. And it turned out there was nothing we could have done to keep them because it was just... their time had run its course, you know, and what we really need to say with millennials is for the short time you're here with us, how do I get you towards your legacy.
You want to be something when you grow up. When you die, you want to leave the legacy behind. How do I partner with you and pair well to achieve that for the short time you're here with us. And if you read this as often as every 90 days, people don't have any desire to leave because they are getting what they want and with what you want. And if those lines ever can't be made pair well, then you send them off with your blessing and you say, "I'm glad you can go get your next piece of your legacy and then maybe you'll come back." And often they do. Some of our best employees are like two, three, four-time returners because the opportunity didn’t work out and they didn't hesitate to call back Endsight.
Wendy Hanson: Ah, that's another great thing. That doesn't always happen. Sometimes you leave a company and it's like, "Okay, I can't go back there." I was just working with a very senior, senior level engineer who had left thinking the grass was greener at this new company, it was going to be great, and he realized it wasn't a culture he could survive in. And thank goodness, it was another company who welcomed him back with open arms to say "Yeah," because that's going to happen. It's good to embrace that as we go forward. So millennials.... I love that millennials... and whenever I use the word I get nervous because I'm like stereotyping again. But they like to think about their legacy. You know, they often talk about baby boomers when I work on their legacy. But you gotta start working on your legacy early. So I love that that's part of the flow that happens. Now if other companies want to be doing this... and I also want to just bring out that we talked about this briefly before the podcast that most of your workers are in the office. You want them in the office. They have an ability to work at home a little bit. But this is not an IT remote workforce which usually happens in a lot of places. Why is that important to you that come into the office?
Robert Gillette: Well, it's important for me because of culture and collaboration. There might be other reasons why it is or it isn't important to a company, but this is my winning lottery ticket. So I am happy to talk about it. It's the idea that there's so much information that gets passed, information both about the job and our clients, but also about who people are and how they want to be interacted with, and what their hopes are and their dreams are. You can't set up a Zoom or a Teams call to facilitate that interpersonal relationship. I mean you can try. I have some people that I have coffee dates with - you know, friends from out of town. We get a coffee and we sit down, we Zoom call each other. But it's just not the same. And so there's two parts of that. There's one when you put people together, it supercharges culture. I do have some remote employees all around the country, you know. Some on my finance team. I open my Help Desk at 5 a.m. and so I don't want people having to drive me at 4. So I have someone on the East Coast that does that. But even then there's a little group of people, because when you group people together, they help each other, they build each other up, they encourage each other, they develop each other. And so none of us really want to be an island. We just want the option of being an island for a season. It's really interesting, but if you give, if..... I have seen data on this. I can't quote it, so it may not be true. But if you take an employee and you give them the opportunity to work 100 percent remote.... one of them.... most of them only do it one to one and a half days a week. People like other people. We're social creatures. And so that helps feed what I do because my clients kind of expect me to be a hive mind as they tell something to one person, they want the other people to know it. And so I have processes in place to develop that and make it happen. But it's encouraged by people being together. So I do have to.....
Wendy Hanson: I love this culture. I love this culture because it is not as you said earlier, this is not the normal behavior of engineers, to stereotype again. You know, engineers really... They are really focused on the task, you know the human piece... we do a lot of coaching with engineers on how to give feedback, how to be grateful..... how to do that collaboration. So it has to be something that you are doing really well all around the company to get this behavior, the hive behaviour as you talk about.
Robert Gillette: Yeah. So I was speaking with another person recently that... you know, she said, "I hired this millennial and she is just terrible. She is on her phone all the time. She needs constant emotional feedback, you know she doesn't want to take initiative on anything." And I asked her when you presented the job to this woman, did you make those things a key performance indicator of success. And she's like what do you mean. I said, well, what did the job description looked like. And she said, oh, well, you have to do this job, you have to do this job. You have to have this degree. You have to have this experience. I said, well, so did you give her the opportunity to present that she likes to talk to people a lot about her personal life and that she wants to be encouraged in her career growth. Did you tell her this is more important to you? She goes, no. Why would I do that? I'm like, well, because then you wouldn't have hired this person because you would have known yourself. You would have known yourself well enough to say this is my culture and whether or not you have the experience isn't that important. Like, of course it is on some level, but not if we can get the culture correct. And so I think that it's just a different way of looking at.... I'm not going to hire someone for a mid-level engineering position that can't do the job. There is a skills portion of the job interview. But realistically, if you have the skills that is not the indicator of whether or not you'll be with my company for four times the industry average. The leading indicator is whether or not we fit as people, and if we can figure that out we will work on the actual technical part.
Wendy Hanson: Wow. [laugh] That is music to my ears and I hope people are listening that this is a game-changer in the world. And it's going to get more and more, right? It's rising to the level of how do we create this space for people to be themselves, show up at work. Erica Keswin - "Bring Your Human to Work" - wrote a great book on this, because we do have to all bring our humans to work. So if you are giving companies a little bit of.... what's like the advice that you would give? Anybody listening. Give them three pieces that you want them to take away from today's chat.
Robert Gillette: So the three pieces that I want you to take away is, I'll say the first one is "Know yourself well enough." It's a joke that we had in... you know, when I was younger, a mentor told me once.... he said like, "Be the kind of person you want to marry. And then a person you want to marry will find you." And this is the idea that as a company you have to know... you have to understand why anyone would come work for you and why they would be happy to come work for you. And if it's just money, they'll always find someone who will give them more money. It has to be something real. Something important, other than just cash or benefits or a Co-Office or a free sushi or whatever. So that's the first thing. "Know Yourself." The second thing is, "Know what is important in a candidate." "Know what culture values what parts of... Yes, obviously the skill set, they have to be able to configure a router. I get that. But like wow, everything before, during, and after that isn't configuring a router that you think is important, you need to communicate that to them early on. You need to be vulnerable. In the third interview, a candidate asked us we actually have flashcards that we made? Where on the flashcards is every horrible thing we don't want them to know about us. That bad job review, this one manager we are still working on, this piece of technology we are not super strong at. And we actually have candidates pull out those flashcards and ask those questions. so we can give them a clear picture of who we are and whether or not they want to be a part of that. So it's kind of "Know us," "Know the Candidate." And then the last one is it's just something I really been resonating on, which is no one wants to be a bridge that you cross to profitability. No one you hire cares if you make money. That's just not.... they don't care. They are not going to bend over backwards for you to make money. But if you care about your employees enough, if you can find a way to fall in love with them so to speak, and be invested in their success, it is impossible for them not to make you money.
Wendy Hanson: Amen, yes. [laugh] Yes. I love those three. I love those three takeaways. That is great. And you have done such a good job, an intentional job of what I'm hearing is like the pre-boarding, the onboarding, and the offboarding. You have made that a religion at your company.
Robert Gillette: Well, thank you. And I also should... this is probably a good time to say, I didn't do this by myself. This is a 90-person company. And I am not even the guy that did most of the work. There's a guy named John Grover who is.... right now he is our chief of culture. He is basically a chief people officer, but we hate that name because he is not really chief people or anything. What his main priority is making sure that we hire the right people, we keep the right people, and everyone is happy they stayed. The employee is happy, the company is happy, our client is happy. That's his primary responsibility and a lot of what he has done over the last three years has led to these conclusions. He did the hard nitty-gritty work. But I get to sit on top of them, pull out the bullet points and doing a presentation. But John Grover is the one that really led this whole thing. So I'm excited for him to hear that and give him the shout-out..
Wendy Hanson: Yes. And another example of your ability to work together and collaborate, and be humble. So, thank you.
If people have questions for you, they want to learn from you, and I'm blown away that it's a 90-person company and that you have really started. Some companies don't realize this is a problem until they get much bigger, and then they can't go back. So good to you.
Can they reach out to you, what should they do if they have questions that want to get in touch with you, what's the best way, Robert?
Robert Gillette: You know there's lots of ways. The easiest ones are to look me up on LinkedIn, Robert Gillette, IT. It's not a long list of people. And then the other way is, if you go to endsight.net and you fill out the contact form. Just drop Robert in there somewhere and it will get to me.
Wendy Hanson: Okay. Great. Because I hope people will listen and say I want to have a conversation with this guy because there's things I can learn, because it's even beyond millennials. It's how we treat people. But most of your workforce is millennials. So it certainly makes sense to go back to why are we talking about millennials. You have given us some great insights today and some great ways to treat people at work. And it will produce more productivity and it will produce happiness at work and collaboration. And if they go, they will boomerang back if they have had a good experience. So good for you. So such a pleasure to talk with you today. Thank you, Robert.
Robert Gillette: My pleasure. Thank you.