The Top Five Ways Your Organization Will Fail by Thinking Millennials are Like Every Other Generation

If it’s true that ignorance is bliss and that sometimes less is more, be prepared to have your socks shocked off your feet. Or something equally alarming. Why? Because as Millennials enter the workforce in record number, ignorance about what makes them unique is not bliss, and less information about how your organization needs to adapt is not more. Here’s why: Millennials are different from every other generation you’ve ever worked with, and the way you “do work” had better change as a result. Here are the top five things your organization will face by failing to get to know the Millennials. Or worse, thinking they’re no different from the rest of your workers. Incentives that motivated other employees will no longer work. Do you remember the days when a $5 gift card to a popular coffee shop (rhyming with Tarbucks) or a floating personal holiday won over the hearts and minds of your employees? Not so anymore. Millennials are motivated differently (http://www.forbes.com/sites/deniserestauri/2014/01/17/5-surprisingly-easy-ways-to-motivate-millennials-at-work/). They value flexibility, not a free cup of coffee. They value autonomy, not necessarily more free time. They like to work and like to contribute, so putting them to work in a rewarding environment may be all the incentive they need. Let them be in charge of a new project! Free coffee optional. Money won’t make their world turn ‘round. Research has shown that Millennials value a balance between work and life much more than previous generations. If it’s a decision between longer hours in pursuit of a top-paying promotion, or skipping out a bit early for a 5:00pm Bikram yoga class, the yoga class will...

Patience May Be A Virtue But Can It Become A Skill?

One of the self-reported challenges Millennials face in the workplace is a lack of patience. They are keenly aware that having limited experience stymies the pace at which they desire to advance in their careers. One of my interviewees commented, “From a cognitive perspective I know that I am young and shouldn’t have such grandiose expectations of how fast I will move up but emotionally it makes me crazy that I have to wait for waiting sake.” Waiting is something this generation is not accustomed to. They have grown up in a world in which they can get virtually anything from anywhere within 24 hours. More importantly, they have learned that they can advance at the pace they want. They master video games from level to level on their own clock and take Advance Placement classes in high school to accelerate their education. They are­–to some degree–in control of the speed of their own progress. It is the loss of control that contributes to a lack of patience. Unfortunately, management sees a lack of patience as inattention to detail, poor focus, and entitlement. I have heard managers quip, “They [Millennials] come in here and expect to be CEO within a year.” In our next book Millennials@Work (forthcoming 2013), my colleagues and I suggest that practicing patience is an important skill for Millennials who desire to advance more quickly. Interestingly, patience is usually defined by impatience. That is to say that when we talk about being patient we are talking about not being something else. So what does it mean to practice patience? In their research, Blount and Janicik[1] suggest that patient people differ from impatient people...

Millennial Culture Shock

It became very clear to me early in the study that Millennials experience culture shock when they transition from college life to work. While in school they eagerly anticipate making the transition into a career but when they finally get there it is not entirely what they expected. Christine Hassler, author of the 20 Something Manefesto, refers to the experience as Expectation Hangover®––a group of undesirable feelings that arise when a desired result is not met. A desired result could be an early promotion, recognition, reward, or all of the above. Based on the challenges Millennials face, it is obvious that work isn’t all they thought it would be. I believe it is more than a desired result not being met. I think the greatest and yet most basic expectation Millennials have is for the authority figures in their lives to be supporting, affirming, and committed to their success. For many, work is the first environment they encounter in which they do not feel supported, affirmed, or that someone cares about their success. While other generations may have also experienced a form of culture shock upon entering the workforce, I would argue that it is more acute with Millennials because they have grown up in a world committed to their success. In a commencement speech that went viral, David McCullough skillfully and vividly describes such a world: “Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in...

The Return of the Millennials

About eight years ago, the HR world was buzzing about Millennials (Gen Y). Research on the subject was just appearing and there were articles in the business press, conference presentations and Gen Y consultants sprouting up. 60 Minutes even produced a segment called “The Millennials are Coming.” (It sounds like the title from a bad horror movie.) And while HR departments seemed interested, CEOs didn’t. You see, it wasn’t really a problem yet for organizations. Then, the recession hit and sidelined the topic for a while. The Baby Boomers postponed retirement and there just wasn’t as strong a need to focus on integrating younger twenty-something employees into the workforce when you could just keep your older, wiser employees around a little longer. But now that’s changing. A gradual recovery in the economy has allowed some Boomers to choose to retire, and age has forced others. Most corporations aren’t on wild hiring sprees, but when they do hire, it tends to be younger workers – Millennials. Many organizations have found that they aren’t ready for the shift. Because Boomers have dominated the workforce for the past 30 to 40 years, they generally set the culture for the organization. domain hosting . Gen X wasn’t large enough to throw their weight around and change things, but Millennials are. In fact, they will be the largest generation in history, and the business environment that was set up by the Boomers may not work for them. Failing to be Millennial-ready is already causing big problems for some companies. One organization we recently spoke with has about sixteen thousand employees, but handed out over forty...

What Do Millennials Think About What Older Generations Think About Them?

Commercials characterize them, cartoonists poke fun at them, researchers study them, marketers target them, and managers scrutinize them.  While the Baby Boomers and GenX’ers have a case of attention envy, Millennials don’t seem to be fazed. Not only are they not put-off, they are amused. When my colleagues and I wrote Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce our aim was to demystify the challenges managers face with younger workers.  It caught me by surprise when forward-thinking MaryAnn Baumgarten of Microsoft and Ron Weber of Schneider Electric called me to talk about making a presentation on how managers perceive working with younger workers––to an audience of their younger workers. I had spoken to thousands of managers who related to my message, but I was not sure how the Millennials would respond. relevant domains I was used to affable audiences filled with laughter and affirming nods. Would my new audience wince and roll their eyes or worse just play on their smart phones? Just think about it… “Hello, my name is Chip Espinoza and I am here to tell you that managers perceive your generation to be entitled, self-absorbed, defensive, abrasive, yada-yada-yada.” Yikes. Microsoft decided to add my topic into what they call their Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH) Capstone program. domain archive expidoms . domain archive I presented one session of a five-day event offering a variety of topics. I was blown away when MaryAnn sent me the participant evaluations. A question on it reads, “Please provide your level of agreement with the session CONTENT providing value to your personal and professional development.” My topic received...