I was a Millennial in the 70’s and the 80’s

Millennials at work want much of what every other generation has wanted at work.
Millennials at work want much of what every other generation has wanted at work.

I have been doing some preparation work for a panel discussion that I will be moderating in May at Thrive2016. The panel will be discussing, the still very hot topic, of Millennials. In this case we will be talking about developing leadership skills in Millennial employees. As I went through my research I came to a startling discovery.

Late bloomer

I did not actually take my first “job” until I left graduate school where I had been studying Comparative Animal Psychology. I had decided after three years that the study of chimpanzees did not have a bright future. So I went looking for work. I arrived at the door step of an employment agency. They looked at my resume, told me I had no skills that were “sell-able” and was over educated. So they hired me to work for them. I was trolling the yellow pages, calling companies, and trying to get job orders. I hated it, but I learned a lot. I moved to a different section in about a year, but that did not hit my hot button, so I moved to yet another section in another year. That job taught me a lot about business, but I still hated it. I decided I wanted to move and work for a company on the other side of the phone. That is when I decided on HR. I then got a job as a personnel trainee parlaying my psychology degree and recruiting experience into that job. I stayed with that company just slightly less than 10 years and had three different jobs. I was wooed away by a software company, but only stayed a year and a half before they ran into financial difficulty. At that point I started my consulting company. That was 1991. I tell you this to lay the groundwork for this Millennial discussion.

What Millennials want

A 2016 Deloitte study, Winning over the next generation of Leaders, provided me some good points on Millennials for the panel. These included things that are important to Millennials in the workplace, such as:

  • Compensation is more important than anything else, but it is not the sole factor
  • Good work/life balance, in fact it is referred to as work/life integration
  • Opportunities to progress
  • Flexibility in how and where they work
  • A sense of meaning in their work
  • A company to share their personal values
  • A company that puts people before profits
  • The opportunity for training
  • A company that has a good product and a good reputation as being ethical

If the Millennial employee gets those things they are more likely to stay 5 years or more. If they do not they move on in two years or less.

How I was a Millennial

As I was reading that study I recognized myself in much of what was written. I wanted a good paying job, but the pay was not the sole factor. The company had to be a good one, with a good reputation for ethical leadership. It had to provide me with training and an opportunity to advance. I wanted challenges, but I was not willing to work so much that I ignored my wife and two children. Fortunately for me I found that in a company and stayed that 9 plus years.
I had Millennial inclinations back in my early working life. I suspect many of us were the same way as we started off on the paths for our careers. Research has shown that Millennials are not really that much different than the rest of us in that age bracket. In the 70’s and the 80’s we were concerned about fairness, justice, the environment and war. Many of those themes are seen even yet in the news.
Bruce Pfau, writing in the Harvard Business Review, said:

“A growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are pretty much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation per se.”

Today we criticize Millennials as being lazy, self-centered and not willing to pay their “dues.” I remember my father and his friends have a similar opinion about my generation as well.
Yes, times have changed and technology has improved. The nature of business has changed and the world of work is very different, but in the end we are all people that grow and change as well. When you look at your Millennial employee just remember you may be looking in a mirror. Treat them as you would like to have been treated when you were that age.

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