Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known. - Ronald Reagan.
By Emily Lynch
For years, the workplace has adapted to evolving generations. From the Traditionalists who lived through World War II to Generation X that experienced the height of a separated household, the personal experiences of each generation directly contributed to the growth of our country. And, now, we are living a milestone—the first time that four generations are working side by side: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials. By 2020, Millennials (Gen Y) will make up 50 percent of our country’s workforce. Time states that at 80 million strong, the Millennial generation, born between 1980-1995, is the largest age grouping in American history.[i] If this generation is going to be in a position to lead, the tri-sector communities (businesses, government and social responsibility) had best begin adapting now to the Millennial work style.
In order to understand the Gen Y, we have to identify the differences between all generations. Traditionalists grew up during the Depression where hard work and sacrifice were essential. The Traditionalists saw war first hand; they put duty before personal happiness and were champions of their country. The next generation, the Baby Boomers, are still very present in the workforce today. They are work-oriented and independent participants in a healthy economic era. Generation X is similar in that they are self-reliant. Growing up in an age of divorce, they learned practicality and efficiency.
The Millennials seem to be a completely different generation than those that came before them. Considered the “Me” Generation, they have been labeled as a technology addicted, lazy, narcissistic, entitled group. Joel Stein of Time expresses, “it’s easy to categorize this generation a number of negative ways but let’s remember not to blame them for growing up in a world they had no control over”.[ii] Many aspects of their childhood have contributed to positive outcomes. “Globalization, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change” has made this group more universally connected than ever.[iii] Their youth spent attached to technology has made them crave answers, knowledge and taught them to think for themselves. The confidence, which some label as narcissism, has empowered Millennials to question big business and government. The feeling of entitlement translates into a generation that is motivated to forge their own careers while having high expectations and optimism for the future.
The constant connecting and socializing experienced through technology and education has led Millennials to be a collaborative generation. Born into a world of abundance set up by their Baby Boomer parents, Millennials had a safety net to explore innovation, creativity and new ideas. According to Harvard Business Review, “84 percent of Millennials view making a positive difference in the world as more important than professional recognition”.[iv]
Corporate cultures must be adaptable and organizations should prepare for an environment led by Gen Y. Hollister Staffing suggests using the C-L-E-A-R strategy: Communicate, Listen, Engage, Accept and Respect, to attract and retain the Millennial generation.
Communication: Millennials respond well to guidelines that are set for them. Clear expectations should be made from the moment they step into an interview. In the absence of clarity, be prepared for questioning. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on educating each Millennial. Because of this, they are motivated and dedicated to planning their future.
Listen: Millennials have always been heard. Baby boomers made their kids the center of the family universe. Not only do Millennials want to make a difference, they need opportunities to advance, learn and grow. Companies should seek to understand and invest in Millennial talents and passions.
Engage: Millennials expect that work life and personal time will be blended. They are a generation of “you can have it all” integrating career, social, and community service.
Accept: Millennials have a different work style. They are the “instant generation” and are master multi-taskers. They simultaneously watch TV as they update Facebook and can read a book while listening to music. And, the fact that their life is all about being up-to-date, they just may have a better idea of how to get something done.
Respect: Millennials can learn and teach. Pair a Baby Boomer with a Millennial and watch the magic. Providing a corporate culture open to all generations enhances productivity and thought leadership. Take the mentoring of Millennials seriously.
At Hollister Staffing, 44 percent of our staff is Millennials. This fact has helped shape our culture. For us, it’s a fact: culture directly impacts our organizational success. Culture should be alive within your organization and not just a vision of the CEO. "We all come into our companies with our own baggage," says Kip Hollister, "At Hollister, we believe in a culture of saying the unsaid and bringing your whole self to work." This resonates with ALL generations. Innovation is created through dispelling “old ways” of doing things. When establishing a culture it is most important to “worry less about focusing solely on the Millennial and more about creating and sustaining a corporate culture that makes everyone feel valued,” according to Forbes. Forbes, again, says it best, “it is all about creating a cohesive corporate culture that works across the generational divide”.[v]
Kip developed the Hollister Institute in 2008 to provide leadership and communication development programs for Hollister employees and the communities it serves. Hollister Institute provides character-based, rather than skill-based, development programs. Instead of the more traditional approach of “learning by example”, the Hollister Institute programs tap into one’s existing life experiences and knowledge. The Institute values self-discovery, creating self-trust that supports a personal “brand” and teaches how to inspire trust in others. This investment Kip has made exemplifies corporate unification across all generations in the workforce.
Each generation is different from the previous. All sectors that influence our economy have experienced the integration of new generations—each with their unique contributions and style of working, learning and leading. When employees are aligned, they are living in excellence across all generations. The way to incorporate the Millennial generation is transparent—do not resist or blame them, become them.
[i Stein, Joel. "Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation." Time. 20 May 2013, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2143001,00.html.
[iv]Schawbel, Dan. "You’re Probably Wrong About Millennials." Harvard Business Review, 3 September 2013, http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/youre-probably-wrong-about-mil/
[v] Nazar, Jason. "20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don't Get." Forbes, 23 July 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/07/23/20-things-20-year-olds-dont-get/