I just finished reading “Millennials Incorporated” by Lisa Orrell, a book dedicated to the newest and most misunderstood generation: the Millennials (also known as Gen Y). As someone responsible for the recruiting, hiring, developing and managing of the most sought after generation of workers, this book was helpful to me in understanding that I am not alone – the issues I face daily are not unique to our business, industry, or positions. The Millennial Professionals are the generation of people born after 1982, graduated after 2000, and are most recently invading your organizations as we speak. We, as employers, trainers and managers, can foster and develop this invading force of workers, or we can choose to ignore the problems we are facing and allow them to infect our livelihoods. “Millennials Incorporated” puts a ton of emphasis on companies investing time to understand this generation and how best to motivate and develop them as the future leaders of our organizations. The one problem I have with this book is that a number of its suggestions border on coddling and pandering the generation who is already commonly perceived as spoiled, entitled and whiny. Yes, it is the role of a successful leader to inspire the best out of people, but it’s important for you (Millennials) to understand – it’s still the BOOMERS and GEN X’s running the companies and making the decisions that will affect your future. You must also understand the climate and take ownership of your future.
Let’s first understand the background. This generation was raised to feel special. They were the first generation required to wear bike helmets! They were the first generation to have parental controls on their TV’s. The punishments they are dealt in school are so PC that I am not certain if a “stern talking to” is allowed anymore without parental consent and a guidance counselor present. They were raised with more rules and laws than any generation before. They were raised to feel special, protected, and valued. They grow up with social media and know that their voices ring around the world without constraint and they have unfettered access to all of the information that they want. They were raised to have a voice in their family dynamic and led to believe that they really can accomplish anything.
Millennials – you are perceived by the world as spoiled, entitled, lazy, cocky, disloyal, arrogant and deserving. It seems this generation grew up watching too many movies where all the 20-something employees sit in internet think tanks and sip espresso while sitting on bean bags and whining about their personal lives. It is up to you to confound these perceptions. You ask “WHY” a lot. “Why?” is a valuable question but can often be perceived as WHINING. Toe that line carefully. The flip side of this coin that Millennials are confident, achieving, they mature faster and have been raised with a strong sense of community. Which of these two do you think will be your company’s future leaders?
Some paradoxical truths of Millennials:
- They expect to be treated with respect, yet they feel they are endowed and do not have to earn it.
- They need to be active. If their task is to press a button all day, they’ll grow bored and seek other means of entertainment.
- They’re fast thinkers! They grew up with the internet and the world at their finger tips. Everything is faster to this generation. The problem being that they expect their career path to evolve as fast as high speed data.
- They’re “pack animals.” They are team-orientated and seek to include others. The downside is that they also seek to be included and feel entitled to be so without earning it. Millennials want a seat at the table and feel disenfranchised when they don’t have it.
- They like “balance.” This really translates that they don’t want to work long hours. The best way to compromise here is for the Millennials to give 130% while at work and for the employer to help create an environment where they can leave work at the door.
- They are expressive but are new to “consequences” for failing to filter their thoughts when necessary.
- They want autonomy without having earned it, and are quick to blame lack of supervision for their failures. If you want it, OWN IT!
- They are goal driven and need to be challenged quickly.
- They are motivated by advancement and growth. But remember, everything is faster! They expect the promotions in 2 years that took other generations 20. Adapt with new milestones for growth.
- Praise and praise often. Praise like you’re training a new puppy. But, Millennials, is this really what you want to be equated with? Don’t seek praise without earning it!
- Millennials do not handle conflict and criticism well. They respond well to positive reinforcement (again with the puppy reference).
- Abandon old methods of leading with harsh and abrupt communication, negativity, threats and fear. The only numbers this will increase is your turnover!
The most positive thing for all three generations to understand about the Millennials: we ALL want them to be our next leaders. Coach them as such. Reward them with responsibility. Set clear objectives and get to know them personally. Millennials, understand that you must also rise to the occasion. No company wants turnover but there comes a point when you’re resume has more jobs than years on it – you’re stock goes way down! Align our goals and objectives. The #1 thing Millennials look for is a leader that they can learn from!
“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” – Pearl S. Black
– Nick Klingensmith, Director of Sales and Personnel Development