Ok - enough with the Millennial bashing already. As is well known, every generation complains about the younger generation. Some even have the moxie to call themselves “The Greatest Generation.” For fun, here are a few quotes from past older generations:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Did that quote come from your grandfather? No - it’s Socrates.
“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self control.”
- From an ancient Egyptian tomb.
As a member of Generation X, a generation surely destined to end life as we know it on Earth, I know what it’s like to be maligned.
But something is very different this time around. The difference is that the knowledge gap about what the world holds for a worker has closed. Anyone with access to Facebook or Google can find out what their friends’ work experiences are, what it’s like inside a given company, how much people make, what to expect in terms of benefits, what a good manager is like, what a bad manager is like. It’s like having access to CarFax when you shop for a car.
In the old days, car salesmen had value in their ability to tell you about a car’s features, gas mileage, availability, etc. When negotiating, the salesman basically held all the cards. He could “go talk to his manager” to see if an offer you made was acceptable, and you hoped you weren’t getting ripped off. And then once you agreed on the price, they’d sell you undercoating. Today’s car buyers sometimes show up in the dealership knowing more about the product than the salespeople do because of access to information online. Can you imagine going to a dealership in the 90s knowing the dealer’s invoice price?
Expecting to be able to hide your company’s blemishes, or not keep pace with what it’s like to work at the competition is a thing of the past. The world was flat in the 2000s, now it’s transparent.
Now let’s look at what Millennials are bringing to the marketplace that my fellow Gen Xers could not. This is the first generation that grew up digital. The world is conducting more and more business digitally and lives are lived more online. Businesses can benefit from talking to their digital-native employees about what works online. In IT, it’s possible (but maybe not likely) that recent college grads have more experience in the technologies your company wants to invest in than your CIO does. Bottom line, this generation has a better idea of their actual value than any generation before.
What do Millennials lack? The same things all younger generations do. They haven’t lived through economic cycles that went up, down, up again, and down again. They may not have the communication skills or leadership skills that can only come with experience.
Millennials can help remind your company about the value of transparency, about the value of a social connectedness. They can help you be authentic online. Being native online means they think to use the tools they grew up with. Example? In my playbook for potential new hires is to pay and wait for a background check. But when that person shows up for the interview, the Millennials have already “Facebook stalked” them, found what they are doing on twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Yes, I know those tools exists, and I know they aren’t the same as a background check, but it’s helped us screen faster and better and pay for fewer actual background checks. The trouble is, I’m wired up to have to think about using them. For Millennials, it’s just what you do.
Businesses that embrace what this generation brings to the table will thrive. Let’s stop talking about an entitled generation and just face the Carfax that they simply know their options.