“Millennials” … I repeated it again, this time the metallic taste was gone. “Positive!” affirmed my brain and I was ready to proceed with the Q&A.
Here is the transcript of my interview:
Q: What should employers and managers know about Millennials? How are they different from other generations?
A: I believe the millennial generation is greatly influenced by these dominate factors:
Each of them has had access to a hand held super computer even before they could talk. The advent of reality entertainment has led them to believe everything happens in the public eye and at any moment ANYONE can be famous. They were raised by parents, (like me) who lived through some of the difficult economic times of the late 60’s, the 70’s, and even the early 80’s. Many of those parents (like me) felt the “school of hard knocks” was not the right way to raise our children. So in turn – we may have over supported them and sure… we may have provided trophies even to the losers or just for participating. It was an era of, sprinkles for all and not just for the winners…
For these reasons, I believe, this makes Millennials one of the most interesting and ergo capable generations of our time.
They believe that hand held technology isn’t a phone or communication device, it’s the technology that in real time, connects ALL OF US around the globe. By that connection at any moment, they can influence and ergo change the world, regardless of border, gender or socioeconomic stature.
I believe our parental (over) support coupled with reality entertainment has set them up with the feeling that they really can accomplish virtually anything. What’s wrong with that? Some people I talk with often tell me, this generation has a sense of entitlement. Sure they do, we gave it to them. Aren’t they entitled to do great things, aren’t they entitled to a better life than we made and aren’t they entitled to do better than we did caring for the earth or social norms. Of course they are. Our generation was and just like every generation before the one before… and so on.
I say we stop trying to teach them how we do things and let them strive to find a better way. Let’s help them do so without fear of failure and ridicule. This is what makes them poised to strive for things without fear or negative impression of “that’s impossible or you can never do that”. Great things happen when you expect them to and, know not, of the limitations that may stand in your way.
Q: Can you tell us about the unique competencies and strengths Millennials bring to the workforce?
A: Millennials don’t understand the notion of a 25-year career geared with upwardly mobile promotion to retirement. Many of their parents and grandparents won’t have pension plans or company retirement plans ergo the notion of staying in one job and being with one employer is nothing they think about. The average Millennial wants gigs not jobs. In fact, the stats say, they will have about 9 to 12 gigs in their lifetime and will along the way own several of their own businesses. These gigs are chosen because they either will teach them something they want to learn about, build their own professional portfolio of experience and expertise and, or really impact a cause they believe in. I know it sounds crazy when you say it out loud, but money and benefits are often the last thing on their minds. Perhaps this is why so many young people fail to launch from their parents’ homes. But I ask you, is that a bad thing? Why would any parent want to saddle their children with debt, and expenses before they are capable of paying for it? I do have to say though, as a parent of two twenty something boys, my mind isn’t quite made up on that one just yet.
Their unique competency or strength as you put it, is the entrepreneurial spirit that each of them has. I think it’s their best characteristic. They are not like our generation where we studied the (3) R’s and used encyclopedias as reference materials. For them, school coupled with the Internet prepared their minds to learn and absorb data and concepts. They will use that academic preparation to create and innovate in the real world. I think it’s funny when today’s business leaders often complain that school didn’t teach the skills they need. I often think that business leaders are very nearsighted when they think this way. The skill they think they need today is probably not the skill they will really need tomorrow. Isn’t it best to hire the type of brain and character that it’s willing to be innovative and think about better and more efficient ways to achieve and get a job done as technology and the playing field of business evolves? It’s the millennial influenced by three attributes above that is one of the best hires for the new world order of business. They can use technology to learn, they can find the answers among the global community and they aren’t afraid to try and strive to be better and learn from each other and take mentors that have proved themselves.
Q: What is your best advice for managing Millennials?
A: Treat them like an individual entrepreneur building their own brand of success through the tasks AKA consulting you ask them to do. Coach them and guide them with only the constraints of the framework they need to work within. Give them the space to use THEIR tools and stand back to let the magic happen. I laughed recently when I heard of a policy that said no handheld technology in the meetings. Trust me, it’s more than likely that it will be the 50-year old on Facebook and Twitter than it will be the Millennial. The younger generation uses their tech to open spreadsheets, take notes, connect that portable system to their desktop and to be efficient with the time they spend in meeting by leveraging their peers and team with real time information. “Leave your handheld device at the door?” I mean, come on… Will you give me a chisel and a rock so I can take notes? It’s really funny how we constrain creativity if you think about it. But it’s sad too.
It’s often exciting to pair Millennials with seasoned but open-minded senior team members as mentors. Wrap them in environments that foster real and open communication, where they can share ideology, opinions and experiences. Lay ground rules that there is no dumb question and that “WHY” is a great thing to think about. Both individuals learn from each other, thus making the sum of the parts better than the one.
Q: What tips can you offer for effectively recruiting Millennials?
A: Of course I am biased. This is my business. But, use analytics beyond the resume and subjective interview. In fact, for Millennials the resume is dead. You need to fit candidates scientifically to job and company culture. Hire for fit and train for talent.
Know that if you are recruiting a Millennial, you are adding to your team a talented resource, who does plan to have an exit strategy, so staff and plan accordingly. Ensure that they receive the best experience while in your employ so that after they have learned ever more things, they someday come back to help you once more.
A great resource for even more understanding of why I feel the way I do is a new book “2 Billion Under 20” by Stacey Ferreira and Jared Kleinert. Really inspiring read for entrepreneurs at any phase in their life.