“The best crisis to manage is the one you prevent,” Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong speaking to the National Association of Environmental Professionals
You are hiring, like it or not, many members of the Millennial generation (The M-Generation). Most likely you are either a “Baby Boomer” or a “GenXer” doing the hiring. You are thinking that these people must not have grown up in the same world that you did. You think to yourself, we may have a crisis developing, and you have no idea why. You would be right in both assumptions.
Although some of what you read here will seem negative, try to maintain an open-mind. This description of the M-Generation is intended to be helpful and will show you how research and understanding is evolving to help us all better understand this generation.
Dealing with the M-Generation will be challenging, yet successful employers recognize the importance of learning as much about this generation as possible. Like it or not, they will be reshaping our world because by 2020 they will be 60% of our work force.
The basis of this series of six articles comes from the research, including “The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010) and from the Internet site PWC’s report Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World. We also have integrated the work from other consultants who specialize in the M-Generation and work with them daily.
Perhaps, just perhaps, if you get better informed about the M-Generation, you can prevent a major crisis from developing, or at the least, better understand how to deal with the crisis when it does. The idea is to understand and utilize the particular talents of the M-Generation because you will be hiring and/or working with people who have unique characteristics and challenging behaviors for years to come.
As a behavioral psychologist, I am fascinated by people’s behaviors and their responses to behaviors. The behaviors I see being exhibited by the M-Generation and the responses from the Baby Boomers and Gen X folks provide an extra dose of fascination.
Millennials are anyone of the 76 million young people who were born between 1982 and 2000. They are entering the work force at a rapid pace, and they are being hired by managers between the ages of 40 and 65 (the “Baby- Boomers” and “GenXers”). The hiring managers are somewhat bewildered by the people they are hiring, as well as learning that transitioning this generation into the work environment is rarely without issue and can be crisis inducing.
Why are there such generational differences between these three groups? Let’s look at the differences in the M-Generation’s cultural and historical memories. Just as World War II was only a textbook to those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, the Vietnam War was is only a textbook memory to the M-Generation.
In our generation, we were just beginning to enjoy the benefits of such advanced technology as pocket transistor radios; the M-Generation is technologically savvy beyond any of our wildest expectations. Just stop and ask yourself, whom did you call to program your VCR just a few years ago?
I would suggest that there are three significant questions we must answer and understand to work with the M-generation:
- How do they see their world and how do they process the information they see?
- How do they expect and choose to operate in the world of work and why?
- What do they expect to receive from their work and what do they perceive as rewards?
Research, surveys and analyses by many people more experienced than I am suggest that the good news is there are answers to some of these questions. The bad news is that many of our generation can’t relate to those answers and the M-Generation perspectives.
Some key findings to be sensitive to when dealing with the M-Generation:
- They will share information of all types and of depth across many different platforms and with many different people – discretion is not part of their typical vocabulary;
- They require – read – must have – personalized attention;
- They must be always winning and be recognized for even coming to work on time;
- They use a variety of social media and social networking, unlike any generation previously, and their knowledge and use of this technology can be impactful to an organization, as well as society at large;
- They are talented in certain areas of endeavors and less so in others;
- They are critical and don’t hesitate to voice their views and opinions.
Seniority and your feelings are irrelevant to many of the M-Generation. For example, they may understand how to use Microsoft Power Point, yet invariably would explain to you how to use Apple iPhoto to get better results on the presentation that you spent hours on developing.
They have trouble dealing with lines of authority, and command positions are simply irrelevant to many of them. In fact, they would without hesitation go straight to a CEO and argue their case against a change in the organization’s protocols without your knowledge.
And their parents, well, they also can be an issue. Fathers and mothers (think “Helicopter” parents) of the M-Generation have been known to reprimand employers at social engagements over incidents their children just mentioned in passing to them.
Now, having laid this foundation, allow me to caveat it by saying not all M-Generation people are of this ilk. However, research and experience show these generalizations are not that far from the reality of their behaviors in the work place. So then, how do we deal with the M-Generation at work?
As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore!
Next: Part 2 – How do we deal with the M-Generation in our work place?
Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)
PWC.Com – Millenials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf