Respect for Millennials
Born between the late 1970’s and the early 2000’s, Millennials (aka Gen Y, Gen Next, Echo Boomers) are a consistent topic of conversation in the workplace.
Not surprisingly; the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 35% of our current workforce is comprised of Millennials, while some studies (Pew Foundation, Lynch) project this number to grow to 46% by 2020. Many companies assume that Millennials will comprise 50% or more of their leadership ranks in the next ten years.
These are striking statistics. But what’s even more striking are some of the attitudes that boomers and other generations have about Millennials. In general, Millennials are being stereotyped and cubby-holed in ways no other generations have before.
For example: one of the big complaints about Millennials – they’re lazy and unmotivated.
Not really. As the father and step-father of millennials, I can tell you that when given meaningful work, our kids can be incredibly motivated. The key phrase here is “meaningful work.” Millennials are wise to the current ways of the corporate world. They know that companies no longer promise cradle-to-grave employment; that workers have been commoditized, here today, gone tomorrow. So, Millennials aren’t interested in “paying their dues” by doing meaningless scutwork. Their attitude is “Put me to work doing something reasonably important while I’m here. I’ll contribute to the company’s success, learn something in the process, and then we can both move on.” I think that’s a healthy attitude.
Another Boomer complaint about Millennials: they’re easily distracted.
Well, no. What some people call “easily distracted” is what Millennials call “being good at multi-tasking.” Let’s remember, today’s Millennial workers literally grew up with smart phones in their hands and laptops in their school backpacks. They are extremely comfortable with technology, and can switch between work tasks just as easily as they switch between screens. We baby boomers (and older) who can’t do this need to just trust: the kids are alright; they’ll get the jobs done, all of them.
Seems to me it’s really all a matter of perspective. What was true about the world of work for Baby Boomers and Gen-Xer’s just isn’t reality for Millennials. We need to treat them with respect, just as we want them to respect us for our wisdom and experience. Because who knows, that Millennial walking through the glass door could be the next boss!