A little while back they were called Generation Y and then they turned into Millennials. For the last decade, I have constantly been hearing about how we need to be prepared for the scary onslaught of this new generation into our workforce. The hysteria around employing this cohort has been, well, interesting to me. Just enough sparks of controversy to keep some speakers going on the conference circuit.
A Millennial is generally considered to be someone born between 1982 and 2004, and are now aged between 13 and 35. Supposedly these tech savvy dudes all want the lifestyle without the work, can’t communicate without a device, and will change their job every 2 years amongst other weird traits. Scary!
I remember the good old days when I was part of the scary new group coming through as a young jaded, Nirvana listening adolescent. Generation X I was and I remember thinking “why do these old people think of me this way?” After all I was just a hard-working, ambitious young fella building my family and kicking my goals. Sure, I didn’t mind a bit of Nirvana or Pearl Jam (and still do), but I had internal drive and didn’t particularly consider myself as some jaded, chip-on-my shoulder youth blaming the Baby Boomers for all my problems. I was an individual and so were most of the people that I was hanging around with.
So here is what I reckon. Everyone is an individual with their own individual traits and personalities, and they all need to be treated as individuals – no matter what their generation. From my perspective, the absolutely worst thing you can do is brush someone off as “just a Millennial” if you are having difficulties communicating with them. How can you possibly blame their response on your own weaknesses in communicating? I’m not a rocket scientist but I think that if we take some time to understand a Millennial as an individual we might just have a good chance of success. All people from all generations have the same basic psychological needs and, as a leader in my business, it is up to me to learn how each person ticks no matter what decade they were born in. Going in with some preconceived idea based on some demographer’s stereotypical view of an entire generation will not serve me well at all.
It is important to note also that the Millennials aren’t just coming – they are already here! A big number have been here for a really long time already – a good 15 years. If you are not used to communicating and dealing with this generation by now, then it really is your problem. One third of our team of 55 or so, are aged 23 or under. If I extend that to 35 and under it is close to three quarters. They are already here, and in some businesses like ours, they are the majority of the workforce. For me this is fantastic!
A secret I share with prospective team members
A final point for me on this topic. When I am talking to new prospective cadets I let them in on a little secret. No employer is impressed by someone who moves around every 2 years. Don’t believe the hype. When I see a resume of anyone that has moved around like that, as a business owner, I immediately question why and whether I should consider investing in the person. There is a lot to be said for loyalty and I am far more willing to back someone that goes the distance. Sure, you can change your role and even your career within the same organisation – as I have in my 19 years at a constantly growing and changing SRJ Walker Wayland (I think about 8 career or role changes for me) – but think very carefully about hopping around. No prospective employer is impressed by that.
So, soon we need to prepare for Generation Z – the onslaught of the zombies! Scary.
– by Jason Croston