Last week I was at a conference where a panel of senior leaders from large companies were speaking on the topic of talent acquisition. I couldn’t help but be surprised that after each description of a new approach for acquiring talent and as if to justify the approach, they’d say something like “because Millennials want…” For example, “We put in ping pong tables and made a ‘day in the life’ video…because Millennials want to have fun at work” or “We are now completing interviews via text (no joke)… because Millennials don’t want to come into the office for a face to face.
We Have a Hostage Situation
I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old so I’m familiar with someone attempting to hold my sanity hostage in return for a ransom. It usually happens around 7:30, our bedtime. I think all is well as I attempt to leave the room of my two daughters. The door is inches from being closed when I hear my five-year-old say, “Dad… may I have some water, please?”. If I turn around I know I’ll see my three-year-old pop up in her bed like something from an old horror flick as if to say “think very carefully how you respond, the next two hours depend on it”. If I give in, one thing leads to another and before I know it, it’s hours later, they’re both full of water, buried in stuffed animals, have had 100 hugs (I don’t hate that) and are no closer to sleep. It’s cute… now, but the reality is, they don’t really know what’s good for them, they need sleep and no amount of water, stuffed animals or hugs is going to change that. Likewise, no amount of sleep pods, ping pong tables or… coddled hugs is going to change what many in this generation truly need and what many truly want. Now before the Millennials throw their iPhones across their cubicle or their parent’s basement, hear me out.
Companies need to be careful about giving in to too many of these demands. Partly because the group of Millennials making them are mostly the ones promoting a stereotype that many of us (surprise, I’m a millennial!) are trying to shake free of. My toddler may want the first cup of water very badly and may believe she needs it to induce sleep. But giving it to her only distracts me from giving her what she really needs and distracts her from understanding what’s truly important. Likewise, companies pandering to Millennial thugs who appear to be holding culture, productivity, and engagement hostage for a ransom, may become similarly disoriented.
I’m in no way saying that companies shouldn’t be making adjustments, in fact, it’s imperative that they do. But if they aren’t making them in the right areas then the yield will be meager and the damage and expense will leave many HR and executive personnel in the hot seat trying to explain what went wrong.
They Can’t All Be Wrong
The harshest criticism has labeled this generation as lazy, entitled, demanding, self-centered etc. And truly if any of these labels have graced your lips, then why on earth would you ever utter the words… “because Millennials want…”? Isn’t that giving them a sense of entitlement Simon Sinek
claims they’ve received from parents through “failed parenting strategies” their entire lives?
There are three areas that Millennials identify as “extremely important” when looking for a job. According to Gallup
- Opportunity to Learn and Grow
- Quality of Manager
- Quality of Management
But guess what, these top three are almost identical across Millennials, Gen x, and Baby boomers. That’s right, in spite of their inability to articulate it or being drowned out by those who scream the loudest, Millennials have similar wants to just about everyone.
So how does this look?
Most commonly Millennial demands are bucketed into three main areas:
But here’s what Millennials (not the basement dwelling, video game addicted ones) really mean.
A Millennial Interpretation
Millennials want to grow. Maybe deep down some of us know we’ve been fed with a silver spoon and are good with it. Others of us are incredibly ambitious and our world-view is filled with opportunities we’re not quite sure how to grasp and sometimes don’t feel equipped to navigate. We just want a boss who can clearly outline what it takes to make it to the same rung on the ladder, or to the same mountaintop they have. We’re like a caterpillar trying to turn to a butterfly… we know our best is yet to come, but we just have to be totally different than we are now.
Many Millennial parents may have been paradoxically more present but less involved. Maybe some of us wanted more attention from our parents and now we expect it from our bosses. But others of us are keenly aware that those who have gone before us have a well of knowledge and wisdom that we won’t be able to access for long because of the rapid saturation of the workforce by Millennials. At a minimum, we want someone who can do what we’re being asked to do
, doesn’t wait for an annual or bi-annual review to tell us where we’re coming up short and offers support and guidance along the way.
Yeah, some of us wear hoodies and holey jeans that look like they’re 20 years old even though we bought them last week for $200 dollars. But for a few of us, a relaxed dress code isn’t the flexibility we mean. We’re looking for a clarity of responsibilities, metrics that are easily understood and indicate we’re on the right track. This helps us to know when our work is done; sometimes so we can make it to yoga or sushi with our friends but other times so we can chase our kids around the yard before we’re too old to do so, or so we can read them a story (and battle about water) before they drift off to sleep. We want to be paid for our performance and outcomes vs the time we spend in a cubicle on any given day. Truly we want our contribution to be understood and clarified. Flexibility is a natural result of knowing what needs to be done and most importantly, having the right amount of runway to do it.
We Appreciate The Effort
I’m not saying the adjustments organizations are making aren’t well-intentioned. I’m also not saying that Millennials are the best or the worst. I’m simply saying that we all have similar needs and all of us have a role to play in the realization of them. Requests for changes in the workplace must be explained by those currently engaged in the workforce, not those of us doing our best to avoid it.
You wouldn’t judge football players on the antics of Odell Beckham Jr.
and you wouldn’t deem all gym goers to be like the obnoxious grunting musclehead that doesn’t rack his weights. Nor do we view all reality stars with the persistent contempt that the Kardashians deservingly receive.
So as you revamp the places we work, please don’t confuse us for the Millennial thug, they might be loud but they don’t speak for all of us.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance.
Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.