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Actually I’m fascinated by the topic just not too crazy about how it’s reported and presented. Let’s see you have the lost generation (WWI), the greatest generation (WWII), the silent generation, baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Generation Z (95 – 2009) just starting to enter workforce, and next up is generation alpha (2010 to present).
My beef with generational analysis is that it tends to broadly characterize an entire generation as possessing relatively the same characteristics. That of course leads to stereotypes which can be useful and harmful. For example, many outlets tend to characterize the entire millennial / Z generation as having a misplaced sense of entitlement, lack of loyalty, and inadequate communication skills. They all want to work when, where, and how they want to. They all want to wear jeans to work. None of them know how to talk on the phone. And they all change jobs every 60 days. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit.
Nothing New Here. Is this the first time in our history where we’ve had to deal with the “younger” generation challenging the status quo? Isn’t that what all young people do to a certain extent? Today we have Miley, my parents had Elvis, just as controversial during that era (according to parents then). And what about the 60’s? Talk about challenging the status quo. Kids in the 70’s and 80’s (my generation) were stereotyped as materialistic, slackers, and disenfranchised. Sound familiar? Yes kids today are born with an iPad in their hands and that does create a new dynamic, but again if you look back at our history each subsequent generation shared improvements their parents didn't enjoy that created conflict between them. I believe that's called innovation and ingenuity and last I checked that's still a good thing...
According to some people employers are starting to push back. I recently read an article in Inc. Magazine by J.T. O’Donnell entitled “3 Reasons Millennials Are Getting Fired.” Her three main reasons are 1)Employers don’t want to be parents; 2)The [millennial’s] anti-work ethic isn’t appreciated (or tolerated); and 3)Millennials’ happiness isn’t the employer’s responsibility. I do hear this sentiment from many employers.
So what should employers do with millennials- Love 'em or Leave 'em?
I talk to many of you each day that are ready to leave 'em, as the article referenced above suggests. I would offer that your problem doesn't rest with the entire millennial generation, it more than likely rests with the millennials your recruiting process delivered. Garbage in garbage out right?
In fact there are as many differences in attitudes, values, behaviors and lifestyles within a generation as there are between generations. If you're a manager, be very careful to not write off an entire generation due to the adjectives you hear about them. Sure, some millennials act entitled, and selfish, but many are not. I’ve worked with plenty of X’rs and boomers that act that way too. I also currently work with millennials who arrive to work early and leave late, who talk on the phone, are quick to volunteer extra effort, and are very responsible. Model employees in other words. The key to managing millennials is the same as the key to managing anyone else, effective managers have to get to know their employees. Employees, regardless of generation, should be managed in a respectful and supportive manner to maximize the possibility of achieving excellence. A good manager is akin to a good teacher or coach; that is, they recognize that there are differences in how employees learn and are motivated. Finding that key to each employee, including the consideration of any generational overlay, will enhance the probability of management success.
Second, if you're a company leader, employees of all generations look to you to set the values and beliefs that drive the company. Those values should be developed independent of any particular generation. I was talking recently to a senior company leader who after hearing a typical “generations” presentation felt he needed to flip his company upside down to better fit the newer generation, else his future was doomed. A better approach would be to define what’s important to you, ie values, and then go find people of all generations, cultures, ethnicity, etc. that line up with those values. People are attracted to a clear vision and to clear values regardless of their age and they will work harder for it. And in this day and time we could all use more clarity…like we had back in my day!
Think about it.
As usual, call our Advice and Resolution team if we can help you think through any generational issues you are facing whether it be culturally related or if you’re struggling to fill a skills gap created with boomer retirements. For a good read on the retirement issue, check out “When the Boomer Levee Breaks” in HR Executive Magazine.
[And BTW, for those of you who think I'm just a disenfranchised millennial trying to represent my peeps --- while I realize I look like I’m in my early 20’s, alas I have kids that age …]