Sherri Elliott-Yeary

Millennials (a person born in the 1980s or 1990s) are a different animal to reach market-wise. They represent the largest demographic in the United States, according to USA Today, so knowing how to communicate with them is of prime importance.

I want to break down how you can shift some of your more traditional methods of marketing to appeal to the millennial generation.

Direct mail

When it comes to your direct mail strategy and millennials, it’s not working. 

To help illustrate the decline in engagement with physical media, one only needs to look at music sales. In 2013, CD sales dropped 13 percent, while digital formats increased 9.1 percent. Millennials don’t necessarily value the touch and feel of a product, but rather the ease of acquisition and use of a product.

The same goes for mail. Most pay their bills electronically, rendering the mailbox a place often reserved for an ever-growing pile of recycling. 

How to adjust: If you’re used to direct mail, I think you’ll find the easiest transition into more millennial-friendly turf is email marketing. It’ll help promote new products or services in a similar way to direct mail. And, most importantly, it’s measurable. Direct mail is often feast or famine.

Print and TV advertising

Millennials all but created second screen viewership, using online streaming in order to access their favorite shows anywhere. The same applies to reading their favorite magazines. It’s more convenient to stream your favorite show or read a magazine on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

While live TV still dominates, millennials are watching five hours and 39 minutes of video online every week, a number that continues to rise. 

How to adjust: While TV advertising can still be effective as a whole — although more so if you have a big budget — relying on mass media as a sole method of promotion moving forward will prove to be ineffective. Millennials prefer to view video on-demand. Whatever the device, they’ve found ways around advertisements.

As millennials redirect their attention to a second screen, so should you. Tons of video exists online that your audience is viewing. Look into methods of advertisement that are more direct and impactful by creating your own online videos and increasing your presence on YouTube. 

Cold calling

Cold calling is exactly the kind of solicited marketing initiative that simply won’t resonate with the millennial market. Millennials expect a more personalized, engaging experience in order to solve their problems.

How to adjust: Stop prospecting over the phone. Younger buyers don’t respond to this. Instead, let your content do the prospecting and educating for you. That’s ultimately what they’re looking for — a resource to assist in their decision-making process.

Using Facebook’s model as an example, you could target your ads to a specific demographic based on age, gender or location and establish a complementary organic presence with potential to be even more effective.

Tone it down

There’s an obvious underlying theme here of a generation extremely adept at blocking out unwanted marketing messages, and more importantly, seeking out brands that provide the substance and engagement they’re looking for.

Millennials come equipped with fairly accurate “BS radar,” if you will, meaning it’s critical that you adjust your tone in order to engage them more effectively — no matter what marketing channel you’re using.

Consider adding someone to your team with strong written, oral and communication skills that can more accurately convey the message to your audience in a manner that speaks to and with millennials, rather than for and at them. Work hard to include them in the conversation. If not, the conversation will be happening somewhere else — without you.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is known as the “Generational Guru” and is CEO of human resource consulting company Optimance Workforce Strategies as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage” and “You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once!” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted trainer, speaker and coach to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at

With the growing senior citizen population crowding the marketplace, today’s working environment is hosting a “clash of the titans.” Four generations are attempting to co-exist and cooperate in the workplace. 

Personally, I would have thought that people would be counting the days until retirement, but then again, I am in the beginning of my career, so I cannot fathom what it would be like to work for more than 30 to 40 years.

While America’s population is getting older at a faster pace than ever, economic stress has unfortunately caused a delay in retirement. A Charles Schwab Older Workers and Money Survey suggests some possible reasons why:

1. They’re not ready to retire — More than 30 percent of people in their 60s say they don’t plan on retiring, versus 25 percent of people in their 50s. Flexibility may be the reason. The study shows that people in their 60s are more likely to be working part-time and enjoying the flexibility of a lighter schedule.

2. They’re still interested — More than two thirds of workers aged 50-69 consider themselves ahead of the game when it comes to job skills, and claim to be “intellectually stimulated” and still learning.

3. They love what they do — plain and simple.

4. They like their co-workers — more than 50 percent of survey participants reported that they like their colleagues.

5. Financial reasons — 10 percent claimed to be financially comfortable, 50 percent to be “OK” financially, but 31 percent feel they’re “just getting by,” and 8 percent were “falling behind.”

6. Anxious about the future — two thirds of older workers anticipate that they will have to take care of a spouse or family member in the near future. Thirty-seven percent believe they will face care-giving obligations in the next 10 years.

What is your organization like? Is there a steady generation mix among employees? How do you think leaders should manage a multi-generational workforce?

C-suite executives today are not necessarily the most seasoned company leaders, and becoming a respected CEO is no longer a job for the older, more experienced person. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Pete Cashmore of Mashable all founded their companies and became billionaires before their 30th birthdays.

Are your managers constantly trying to find ways to overcome communication differences, work style obstacles and technology gaps?

Here are 10 best practices for bridging generational gaps:

1. Initiate conversations concerning the generation gap at all levels of the organization.

2. Educate managers and employees on the different generations in the workplace.

3. Match different generations represented in your company with customer base.

4. Reward employees based on productivity and performance, not seniority.

5. Educate and train employees to know how to best approach and communicate with employees from different generations.

6. Offer appealing benefits that apply to employees of all ages.

7. Train managers and leaders how to lead teams and departments with men and women from different generations.

8. Present various forms of training and tuition reimbursement for employees of all ages.

9. Establish a mentorship program where older employees teach younger employees.

10. Encourage and establish multigenerational teams.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is known as the Generational Guru and CEO of human resource consulting company Optimance Workforce Strategies as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage and “You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once!” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted trainer, speaker and coach to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at



While traveling around the U.S. and Canada training managers on the importance of embracing the generational workforce, I have noticed a consistent theme: Managers want to know how they can do a better job engaging their employees.

Every company can’t be like Facebook or SAS, where amenities such as free on-site medical care for employees and their families, low-cost/high-quality child care, a fitness center, a library, and a summer camp for employees’ children are the norm. Or like Google, which provides free food, fitness facilities, massage rooms, hair dressers, laundry rooms and on-site doctors. So what are you to do?

First, you have to understand what employee engagement is and the impact that the lack of employee engagement can have on your company or business.

Wikipedia defines employee engagement as the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission and vision of the organization. Employee engagement has become an area of focus within organizations because it boosts employee retention, thereby helping companies avoid expensive employee replacement costs resulting from staff members who voluntarily quit their jobs.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, the cost of replacing one $8-per-hour employee can exceed $3,500. Information like this obviously gives companies a strong financial incentive to maintain their existing staff members through strong employee engagement practices.

Organizations that recognize that higher employee retention, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism all have financial impact will see that their employee engagement efforts make sound business sense. Engaged workers tend to complete tasks faster, get higher customer service ratings and demonstrate greater loyalty.

Use these five quick tips to improve employee engagement starting today.

? Build trust: Employees need to be able to trust their managers and their company’s leaders. Clear communication is a key element of trust. To build trust, monitor how and what you communicate to people around you. In organizations under stress, sometimes it’s difficult for leadership to be completely forthcoming. Few people expect everything to be perfect all the time.

? Create connections: People want to have meaning in all aspects of their lives. If they do not feel the importance of what they do, they disconnect. Therefore, it is important to highlight the connections between things and people. Help employees see the big picture of how their role and objectives fit into the organization’s objectives.

? Appreciate people: Recognition is an important part of motivation and engagement, and it can be as simple as genuine appreciation. Praise people when it’s warranted and give credit where credit is due. The best recognition is immediate, specific and personal.

? Motivate others: Motivation is our desire or willingness to do something. An organization where people are willing and able to work toward a common goal is stronger than one where people are badgered, threatened or generally reluctant.

? Support growth: There is nothing more demotivating than feeling you’re in a dead-end job. Talk to employees about the directions they’d like to see their career paths take and help them identify opportunities for personal and professional development that will help them achieve those goals.

You don’t have to be a manager or leader of an organization to build trust, create connections, appreciate people, motivate others and support growth. Anyone at any level can make a difference in the work lives of those around them. The payoff shows up in increased innovation and productivity, lower turnover, lower sickness rates, and higher employee satisfaction. In a world warring for increasingly sparse talent, the importance of a strong employee engagement program should not to be underestimated.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small startups to large international corporations. Contact her at

The average American worker today stays at his or her job for less than four years, while millennials, also known as Generation Y’ers (those born between 1977 and 1997), are leaving in a fraction of that time. Ninety-one percent of millennials expect to stay in a job fewer than three years, and the average is eight to 12 months.

New data reveals that a lack of longevity with one company has no effect on length of stay at the next, so the old stereotype of “Once a job-hopper, always a job-hopper” is becoming less relevant to employers, possibly debunking workers’ fears of not being offered new work just because their lengthy resumes are littered with short-stint positions.

As an employer, you obviously want to keep turnover among workers low. Losing workers after a mere year means wasted time and resources invested on recruiting, training and development. Millennials with high expected potential to perform are especially precious to keep around, even more so than workers with proven achievements in key positions such as engineering.

So how do you prevent millennials and other workers from leaving your company quickly? Try the following:

  • Hire well initially. The economy has made every open position look tempting to a wide array of job seekers. Even if your company’s applicant tracking system successfully weeds out over- or underqualified candidates efficiently, some workers who aren’t the right fit inevitably make it through.

To keep high-potential millennials and other workers at your company, ensure you’re hiring the right people first. Use video interviews to broaden your search efforts geographically and to better establish an accurate feel for potential workers, all while saving time and money.

  • Embody values. A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 58 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to take a 15 percent pay cut in order to work for a company that has values similar to their own.

To keep high-potential millennials at your company, do more than just hand employees a list of the company’s values on day one; actually embody the values day in and day out and reward employees who do the same.

  • Encourage communication. If today’s social marketing campaigns illustrate one thing, it’s that consumers enjoy engaging in open conversation.

Likewise, employees, especially millennials, appreciate the opportunity to share ideas and opinions openly in the workplace. To keep high-potential millennials at your company, encourage open two-way communication among all employees through various channels.

  • Integrate technology. Millennials are stereotypically the most tech- and digital-savvy generation in history. In fact, Gen Y’ers are prioritizing acquiring the latest smartphone or tablet above purchasing a car.

To keep Gen Y’ers at your company, demonstrate your company’s desire to be a technology leader by implementing the latest technology, beginning with video interviews in the hiring process.

  • Offer flexibility. More young workers in industries that don’t demand in-office face time prefer to do their work outside the office, according to a recent Detroit News article. And for Gen Y’ers in industries where face time is required, flexible hours can be more important than high salaries.

To keep your high-potential Gen Y’ers around, try to offer more workplace flexibility. If more schedule and telecommuting flexibility isn’t possible at your company, see the next tip.

  • Ask for input. Assuming that Gen Y’ers at your company want holiday gift baskets or other outdated employee perks that won’t inspire gratitude will have them running out the door before their first year is up. To keep Gen Y’ers at your company, ask what benefits they want to receive or take inspiration for employee benefits from other companies with cool perks.

  • Offer training. Information today is doubling every 18 months. By some estimations, that means workers need to recover a quarter of their college education every five years just to keep up with industry standards.

To retain Gen Y’ers value and keep them at your company, offer training opportunities for workers to learn new and refreshed information and knowledge. Your company can even offer education benefits for Gen Y’ers itching to return to the classroom.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at

Everybody knows that men and women think differently. But do those differences matter when it comes to working remotely and managing remote teams? In my opinion, they matter a lot. Managers who don’t understand and embrace these differences do themselves, their companies and their employees a disservice.

In my new book, “You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once,” I cite scientific studies that show how women’s and men’s brains function differently from one another. These differences are important because managers who are unaware of these conflicting world views might assign values to behaviors that don’t get the desired results.

Break it down

A major difference in how the sexes’ brains function is that women tend to be skilled multitaskers, while men are able to concentrate on one task for longer periods. Neuroscientific research confirms this, and women often take pride in their ability to handle several things at once.

This is a plus and a minus, both for women and for those who manage them. I believe it’s a core reason that women tend to overcommit. Those who manage women remotely can benefit from understanding this, especially since excessive multitasking can inhibit creative thought and lead to burnout.

On the flip side, a man’s ability to focus on one thing for a long time can be seen as beneficial, but it can also lead to tunnel vision and insensitivity to people and any behavior not seen as mission-critical. There’s also a tendency to believe that the amount of time spent on something equals better results, which is not always true. Often, short bursts of concentration bear better fruit than agonizing over tasks for extended periods.

A major difference between the sexes that impacts managers is that women are generally more likely to speak up if they’re unhappy about their circumstances, while men tend to suffer in silence. Normally, men will tolerate a negative situation longer than women will. This doesn’t mean that a woman’s complaints are without merit, or that men don’t experience the same misery.

But if a woman mentions that something is wrong, she might be seen as a complainer by a male manager. Conversely, a female manager might take a man’s stoicism as being uncommunicative or not proactively trying to improve a situation. Such value judgments can harm a working relationship.

Without the daily contact and familiarity of working in the same location, it can be difficult for managers to understand what’s going on with their team. One person’s laserlike focus is another’s antisocial moping. A willingness to abide short-term discomfort for long-term goals needs to be balanced with a willingness to change and improve the current situation.

Seek solutions

Understanding how gender impacts behavior is a key reason why good leaders take the time to get to know their people and look at results, not at specific behavior that can be misinterpreted.

Gender Difference No. 1: Typically, men communicate in bullet-point style and strive to get to the point quickly, while women are more prone to tell a story or paint a picture. Women share experiences to show commonality and build on other people’s discussion points, whereas men focus on statistics and rankings and relate by sharing stories to “one-up” each other.

Solution Strategy: Women need to get to the bottom line quickly and succinctly. Men need to understand that when a woman tells a story, she is building common ground.

Gender Difference No. 2: Women like to talk about a problem, to emphasize their feelings, and to process thoughts aloud as a way to include others. Men like to move to problem-solving right away, alone. They place high value on achieving results and prefer activity over discussion.

Solution Strategy: Women should not try to get men to talk if they’re not ready; they should observe and listen rather than processing out loud. Men need to understand that processing is a way for women to include others and build relationships.

It is my belief that men and women can become one through understanding, value and honor. We all need each other, and even when we don’t agree on everything, we can learn to disagree while still showing respect for each other’s differences.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small startups to large international corporations. Contact her at

After a major computer company sold a division to an international rival, the buyout left Susan wondering about her future. Susan found herself on the outside of the corporate world looking in. No longer the young college graduate on the fast track with the company she had worked for since graduating with honors in engineering, Susan watched as the restructuring left her without her high-paying job. Now at age 49, Susan was concerned, and she questioned whether her age had anything to do with her being let go. “They hired my body double from the same university and another kid,” she says. “Two new hires who would work for basically the same pay had replaced me for less per year. Yes, I have the experience, but I understand business decisions.”

Outlook changing

The Center for Retirement Research recently studied older workers and employer attitudes toward them. The study illuminates many key points, including the fact that attitudes are changing toward older workers. In the past, some evidence and many personal experiences and stories suggested that employers tend to shy away from older workers. Evidence in the courts indicates that discrimination does still exist, an unfortunate reality of a competitive marketplace. Privately, human resources professionals and other hiring decision makers point to not wanting to hire individuals with ingrained bad habits, the potential for higher health care costs and the “I’ll do it my way” attitudes that some older workers have demonstrated at their companies.

Statistics from a number of companies demonstrate that workers over 50 sometimes have a harder time finding work. The reality is that today’s 50-year-old is not the same as the 50-year-old of yesteryear. The argument can and should be made that older workers today are much different than older workers of the past. For example, Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research suggests that today’s workers are better educated than even those of 10 years ago. They are more physically fit. Physical demands of jobs are lessening as most manufacturing goes overseas. Labor-intensive positions have been and will continue to be lessened by machines and technology advances.

Assessing productivity

In a recent survey, 400 private-sector employers were asked to evaluate the relative productivity and cost of white-collar and rank-and-file workers age 55 and older, and whether, on balance, older employees were more or less attractive.

Employers worry that their older employees will have a hard time learning new tasks quickly,  that their physical health and stamina will be a problem, and there is a significant concern about  how much longer the older worker will stay on the job.

It is the cost of the older worker that is most concerning to many employers, not that the older worker is of lesser value. Over 40 percent of employers view older workers as more costly. The bottom line remains: Most employers see older workers as both more productive and more costly.

In most cases the cost and benefits seem to balance out. However, white-collar workers have much better prospects for working later in life than rank-and-file workers.

Flexible work schedules

Older workers might, for instance, have to accept lower pay or part-time work to stay employed. Many employers are hiring older workers on a part-time, temporary or project-assignment basis and not necessarily full-time. This means that not only do they get employees who need less training and are generally more reliable than their younger counterparts, but employers rarely have to pay benefits, unless they are hired 30 hours a week or there is a union issue, and they often pay an hourly rate or a project-basis rate that is far less than what these workers were earning when they worked full-time.

Another new survey suggests that employees are hoping for more interesting work in retirement. A few employers are beginning to get the picture.

There seem to be no easy answers, but it is important that as we develop the future leaders of our work force, we embrace this incredible knowledge transfer opportunity.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at

There is “a tale of two mindsets” when it comes to understanding which employee groups are leaving and why they seek to leave. Furthermore, our research indicates that corporate leaders often fail to understand the nonfinancial priorities of their employees, such as the need for strong leadership, effective communication and career advancement opportunities, while the degree of importance that younger employees place on these nonfinancial priorities varies across geographies.

Boost performance

Companies seeking to enhance their global success need to figure out how to maximize business performance in the geographies they choose to operate in. As they expand globally, they will encounter several salient challenges:

  • Attracting talent (especially leadership) to successfully navigate the market.
  • Maximizing the performance of local talent.
  • Retaining employees in markets with high turnover rates.

This becomes especially important in the context of the existing gulf between employers and employees on talent priorities.

Mind the gap

Generational differences fuel much of current social and political tension in Western Europe and the United States over globalization, nationalism and immigration, according to an in-depth analysis of results from the Pew Global Attitudes surveys.

Older Americans and Western Europeans are more likely than their grandchildren to have reservations about growing global interconnectedness, to worry that their way of life is threatened, to feel that their culture is superior to the cultures of others, and to support restrictions on immigration.

This generation gap is less pronounced in Eastern Europe and is virtually nonexistent in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Nevertheless, Americans and Western Europeans of all ages are less likely than people in other parts of the world to tout their own cultural superiority and are less wary of foreign influence.

These findings are based on Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted among more than 66,000 people in 49 nations.

As a consequence, although there is a growing recognition that in order for companies to build effective retention strategies they will need to tailor their tactics to account for generational differences, there remains the problem that many corporate leaders may be misreading the priorities among different generations, leading employers to offer the wrong incentives to the wrong employees.

Differentiate strategies

Effectively addressing these challenges begins with a more complete understanding of the local work force, its various segments, and what makes each group tick.

Rather than standardizing talent management, companies should devise country-specific talent strategies with the involvement of local leaders who are as versed on the different aspirations of the generations that make up the work force as they are on other aspects of their business.

Such an understanding could help companies:

  • Better address key issues for global expansion and enhance return on investment on talent programs through the design of customized programs that speak directly to employees’ aspirations, ambitions and attitudes (based on the generational cohorts that comprise a given country).
  • Enhance leadership capabilities for managing and collaborating across borders and generations, thereby enhancing management effectiveness and business performance.
  • Create competitive advantages by helping them stay current on expected work force composition, employee benefit options and preferences and other competitive offerings to determine the best plans to attract, retain and motivate top talent.

For those companies that embrace the concept of “plan locally, connect globally,” understanding and connecting with the aspirations of the demographic groups they are targeting can help them in their efforts to reduce cost and optimize performance on a global basis.

The recognition that customers are a heterogeneous bunch emerged as one of the important ideas for marketers in the last century. With the increasing importance of talent as a competitive factor, the recognition that generations differ around the world may be one of the important strategic avenues for decades to come.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at

Managing a group through major change is like running the rapids, fighting white water. You confront a completely new set of problems as you go along. People act differently. The world around you speeds up. There’s less margin for error, but more likelihood of mistakes and a bigger price to pay if you do fool it up. Many techniques that worked while you paddled along on a peaceful river no longer apply. Consider these tips for leading change in your organization.

Be decisive

If you are tentative during times of change, you are asking for trouble. If you must err, do so in the autocratic direction. Let there be no doubt about who’s in control. Your people need to have a voice, but you need to call the shots. Otherwise, you can expect anarchy.

Management by committee won’t work in groups that have been destabilized and changed. For one thing, it’s too slow of a process, and you don’t have any time to spare. Also, consensus management depends heavily on group agreement — something you will find difficult to achieve, simply because people are protecting conflicting interests.

Be credible

Your effectiveness depends heavily on your credibility among the employees, and you undermine that credibility when you wallow or waffle. People won’t rally behind a leader they can’t respect.

Don’t confuse respect with popularity. Everyone in your company doesn’t have to like you. Forget about being popular for now, and focus on getting results. Do what needs to be done. You can be authoritative without being overbearing. You can remain in control without over-controlling. Taking charge does not mean you have all of the answers, so be a good listener and hear the clues.

Be clear

Clear priorities are one of the first causalities of change. New problems compete for attention and people pursue conflicting agendas. Some previously hot projects die a sudden death, and other high priorities get put back on hold during this period of change. Common agreement on what most needs to be done gets lost in all of the commotion and confusion. Due to the confusion, your employees can head in different directions, their efforts too random to produce much good. Some people simply disengage and drift, waiting for definite marching orders rather than running the risk of doing something wrong. Others may work hard individually but accomplish little collectively, proving that good intentions can result in wasted motion unless they’re tightly coordinated.

Alignment and clarity of effort depends heavily on your ability to orient the staff and orchestrate a coordinated approach. It stands to reason that your employees can’t be effective without a clear sense of direction. As Gen. Patton said, “A good battle plan that you act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow.” Your plan of action should outline crystal-clear tactical objectives, giving your employees laser-like focus.

Map out priorities. Keep them pure and simple. Tie them to a timetable with short- and long-term goals that your team can achieve quickly. You defuse a lot of potential resistance when your instructions are clearly communicated and powerfully aligned to your strength as a leader. Even the people on your team who don’t like the plan are inclined to follow it when you make it simple, make sure every employee knows about it, and make your commitment clear.

You are the chief architect as the change agent but you need the key subordinates to play a meaningful role in sharing the priorities and objectives. Otherwise your team will wallow and lose precious time trying to find itself instead of turning the ship around.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. Contact her at

Immigration is currently a hot-button issue, so it’s not surprising to hear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently hired 500 new auditors in its quest to crack down on undocumented and unqualified workers.

Businesses who rely on undocumented workers take note: If ICE audits your business and finds you have knowingly or mistakenly hired illegal aliens, it will assess up to a $250,000 fine per undocumented worker and $1,000 per mistake on each completed I-9 form.

In my experience, I often find that employers are unaware of the stiff penalties associated with hiring undocumented workers. They believe their audit risk is low, and in many cases, it’s easier for them to staff undesirable jobs with undocumented workers than with documented ones. But the penalties and PR repercussions associated with immigration busts quickly destroy any benefits you may have received from hiring illegal aliens in the first place. Your reputation is hard to replace and so is loss of client confidence.

When ICE does come knocking, companies who rely heavily on undocumented workers find themselves facing a twofold problem. First, the potential fines can easily run into the millions of dollars. Second, the moment your undocumented workers get wind that ICE is at the door, they will leave. Suddenly, your business is missing 30, 50, or in one case, even 80 percent of its workers. You have to figure out how to backfill those positions quickly to avoid business interruption and significant revenue loss. Once you’re in that hole, it’s incredibly difficult to get out.

There are a number of steps organizations can take to minimize the risk of an ICE audit. First, do not attach photocopies of a worker’s documents to his or her I-9 form. When immigration comes in, the agent asks for the I-9s, and he or she will see the photocopies. If the photocopied documents don’t look authentic, you’re in trouble. All of a sudden those photocopies become evidence against you, and it’s now easier for the government to prove you’ve engaged in negligent hiring practices. When you are filling out an I-9, all you’re required to do is visually inspect the documents presented to you and attest that they appear to be authentic. Sign on the appropriate line and skip the photocopies.

Second, make sure you train your employees on how to spot forged documents. For example, authentic green cards and resident alien cards have holograms on them. Fake ones do not. Many fake social security cards don’t have the right number of pillars on either side, or they’re the wrong color blue. Knowing how to spot a fake can go a long way toward protecting your business.

Third, ensure that the employee who is charged with filling out the I-9s for your business is adequately trained on the proper way to complete the form. When I conduct HR assessments for my clients, I frequently see multiple errors on various I-9 forms. If ICE audits these forms, it will fine you $1,000 for every mistake  — not every form with mistakes on it.

Common mistakes include using abbreviations, writing in the wrong color ink, omitting signatures, and not adhering to the rules regarding dates. Proper training and preventative measures in this area can save tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Fourth, it’s important to obtain social security validation and verification through a reputable provider. E-Verify is the government’s verification service, but many businesses find it to be overly burdensome and time consuming. At the very minimum, find a reputable provider who will match the name, date of birth, and address to the given social security number.

Taking the time to do these four things will minimize your risk of an ICE audit. If all else fails and ICE does come knocking, call an immigration attorney or qualified and knowledgeable HR professional who can help you correct errors in your hiring process and put a plan into place for backfilling positions that may now be vacant.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is the CEO of human resources consulting companies Optimance Workforce Strategies and Gen InsYght, as well as the author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” She has more than 15 years of experience as a trusted adviser and human resources consultant to companies ranging from small start-ups to large international corporations. She is a Senior Professional in Human Resources and holds an Associate designation in Risk Management. Contact her at

Thousands of would-be retirees, their retirement accounts depleted, remain in the ranks of the employed. At the same time, another graduating class enters the job market every year. These two factors are creating a clash of the generations, and managing a multigenerational work force continues to get more and more challenging for business leaders and managers.

Most companies and managers are doing their very best to remain strong and deliver on expectations through the recession. But this becomes extremely difficult when, for the first time in history, the work force comprises four distinct generations: traditionalists, boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials.

Each group has strong assets that managers can tap into in order to make their businesses more effective and successful. For example, traditionalists and boomers tend to bring drive, determination, and vast amounts of knowledge and experience to any company that they work for. Boomers, however, tend to be less team-oriented than millennials. Boomers are also used to acquiring information and more inclined to keeping it to themselves because they feel like knowledge is power. But the problem is if they can’t effectively communicate with and train younger generations, their employers will lose profitable knowledge. Millennials, after all, must be effectively trained. Because Xers tend to be fundamentally independent, they are often free thinkers and can be a valuable source of fresh ideas to revamp your organization. You should always ask for their input. And the millennials usually thrive in team environments and typically are not shy about putting in their two cents about anything you may ask them about or want an opinion on. They are also a fountain of fresh ideas. Additionally, they tend to be highly productive and excellent multitaskers.

Right now, millennials are a hot commodity on the job market, mainly because they are cheap hires. After all, older Xers and boomers are looking for higher wages and the corner office, and sometimes executives mistakenly think it makes sense to lay them off and replace them with cheaper labor.

Yet this strategy creates a problem. It might seem like replacing older employees with lower-paid millennials makes financial sense, but it really doesn’t if you stop and think about the true implications of doing something like this. If there are no boomers and Xers around to train the millennials, the company will suffer. Untrained millennials may take hours to complete tasks that a trained boomer could complete in five minutes, so this would actually increase a company’s cost of doing business.

It’s important to make sure you’re maintaining a good generational mix and facilitating communication and knowledge transfer across generations. It can only help your bottom line.

Consider these three tips for managing today’s multigenerational work force:

1. When you are trying to get a point across, always keep your audience in mind. If you can understand generational differences, then you can tailor your communication to speak powerfully to your targeted demographic.

2. Abandon “one-size-fits-all” thinking. Different generations are motivated by different things. Accordingly, you should use a range of recruiting and incentive strategies to make sure your company appeals to all four generations instead of just one or two.

3. To make sure incoming employees are properly trained, allow them to choose their own training methods, as they each have different preferences. Whereas a boomer may learn best by attending a live class, a millennial may prefer to take a webinar instead. Allow your employees to choose the training methods that work best for them, and in doing so, they’ll respond better to the training and be more effective in the organization.

Sherri Elliott-Yeary is CEO of Optîmance Workforce Strategies, founder of Gen InsYght and author of “Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage.” Contact her at

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