I just finished reading, “Millennials in the Workplace” the new book from Neil Howe. Mr. Howe started writing about Millennials in Generations published in 1991 and this is his sixth book on the topic. When I was asked to review the book, I was excited about the opportunity given my particular interest in the subject. I wasn’t disappointed. While Mr. Howe does a great job providing a detailed, heavily researched and multi-surveyed explanation of who the Millennials are and why, he also provides suggestions and ideas for educators, private employers and public sector employers on how to best engage these young people. An excellent guidebook.
Millennials, as defined by Howe, were born between 1982-2004. As of 2010, America has 96 million young people that would be considered a member of this generation. Comparatively, Generation X (1961-1981) represents approximately 46 million Americans while the Boomers (1943-1960) number 76 million. Critical to understanding the implications of Millennials in the world of work, Howe writes at length comparing and contrasting these generations throughout the book. He makes a compelling case that the Millennials are like no other generation before them.
Given my confusion over all the negative press regarding the Millennials’ work performance, this rational and researched argument for the benefits of this generation is needed. I continuously caught myself nodding in agreement at Howe’s explanation of their characteristics and his anecdotes highlighting his points. Howe defines seven core Millennial traits: special, sheltered, confident, team oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving. He dedicates a chapter explaining each of these traits and provides “how to” guidance to employers, educators and policy makers on how to best nurture these characteristics. They are our present and our future. It is critical to your business to figure them out!
Personally, my experiences with members of this generation have been very positive. Like Howe, I also found them to be smart and confident. As a consequence, they will be opinionated and comfortable dealing with adults (Howe ties this trait to the close relationship Millennials have with their parents). A recent story I was told by a colleague highlights these traits in action. A Fortune 50 company had hired 40 interns for the summer. Four of the interns separately emailed the CEO requesting an audience. The CEO was surprised by the boldness but, in a smart move, set up a lunch with all 40. Unfortunately, some of us older folks may find these actions as bordering on inappropriate and possibly even disrespectful. Don’t. Like this CEO, engage them. Let them be heard. And read this book. It could be good for your business.
Last Friday, I attended a dinner for one of my wife’s colleagues who was celebrating his 35th year with the company. It was a festive occasion with great food, drink, and stories (and the Blackhawks’ game was on the big screen). The longevity of the celebrant’s career is something to behold. Why does someone stay with a company for 35 years? Why do we (my longest tenure with a company was 10 years) leave? Some reasons (in random order):
I stay with a company for 35 years because:
- They treat me right
- The pay is great
- The office is 10 minutes from my house
- They challenge me
- They are growing and there is great potential
- All my friends work there
- I’m comfortable (I’m afraid of change)
- I get a company car
- The bigger we get the easier it is to hide
- It is fun
- I learn new things
- I believe in the company’s mission
- I don’t know how to find something else
- I own it
I left before ever thinking about 35 years because:
- I got fired
- I had a great new opportunity (it was)
- I had a great new opportunity (it wasn’t)
- My boss was a bastard
- I got passed over for a promotion (and should have been)
- I got passed over for a promotion (and shouldn’t have been)
- I died
- The new company had a better commission plan
- I have ADD
- I started my own business
- The company was in trouble
- Someone else reminded me how valuable I was
- I needed better work/life balance
- I didn’t believe in what the company was trying to do anymore
- I went back to school
- I just needed a change
Under the right circumstances, 35 years of employment with one company can be a beautiful thing for both the individual and the business. While I believe this kind of longevity (some might say loyalty or attachment) is near extinction with Gen Y (maybe even Gen X), it was nice to celebrate the accomplishment with my wife’s colleague. What are you thoughts? Any reasons to add to the list?
I’m a big advocate of the value of internships and Gen Y…A couple of good pieces on the the subject…
How Small Businesses Can Make the Most of Interns ow.ly/1MtNP
How to Create Your Own Summer Internship ow.ly/1Mu3z
Over the last several weeks, I have been doing phone interviews for a couple sales and marketing positions here at HRI. Our focus has been on soon to be college graduates and, for our internship, current college students. It’s been awhile since I have interviewed college age applicants and I wanted to share some of my observations for others who may consider hiring members of Generation Y (I think I have that label right):
➢ These young people are impressive. Prepared, curious, enthusiastic, performing well in the classroom and engaged in multiple activities outside class. Many are engaged in charitable efforts.
➢ Many of the candidates have sought experiences to deepen their knowledge in their particular field of interest. Whether summer jobs or current work activities that coincide with their studies, these young people will bring relevant experiences and insights that we expect will be valuable. Additionally, many soon to be graduates are hungry for meaty opportunities that will challenge them rather than jobs for the sake of a job. Not one has uttered any concern with employment in “this economy”.
➢ While I have an overall positive impression from all the candidates, the young women I have spoken with have distinguished themselves. More confident, more insightful, more clear about their objectives and expectations.
➢ Many have studied or are studying abroad. The prevalence of this activity was surprising to me but my expectations are that such an experience would reflect an individual that is curious and willing to take some risks.
So what are my takeaways for you? There have been many stories about this generation and their attitudes about work. Many of the stories have actually been rather negative. Clearly, I won’t know how it all plays out until I have these folks engaged within the business but my recent experience working with the younger generation has been very positive. My plan is to challenge them, give them responsibility with the appropriate level of guidance and be there for support. I have very high expectations that these young people can have a positive impact on my company. Engaged appropriately, I believe they can have a positive impact on your business as well.