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perennials: don't generalize by generation

I hear it all the time. People complaining about other generations.

“Millennials are                I don’t understand them at all.”

Or: “Why are Baby Boomers so               ?”

Or: “Everyone in Gen X is clearly                  .”

It’s time we stop limiting each other. These on-the-surface labels are doing much more harm than good. They allow us to write off entire generations (many millions of people!) with sweeping generalizations. And the truth is, many people don’t fit the stereotypes.

Take “entitlement,” for example. Many people think of Millennials (the group born between 1980 and 2000) as an entitled bunch that thinks they deserve things without actually working for them. Not only is this stereotype getting tiresome, it is frankly untrue.

Although many of them started working at an economically tumultuous time (the Great Recession), Millennials have proven themselves to be innovative and resilient. They’ve invented jobs when none were available; they’ve taken over top leadership positions; they’ve learned how to live with less by taking advantage of the new “sharing economy.”

Are some Millennials entitled and lazy? Of course. But so are many Gen-Xers and Boomers.

And just because Millennials have new ways of working, doesn’t mean they’re lazy. They might simply have a better grasp on technology and be able to complete tasks more efficiently.

On the same token, not all Baby Boomers are out-of-touch and irrelevant! Many are excited and interested in new technologies, new ways of thinking, and creative endeavors.

Although generational constructs are helpful for marketing purposes, they can be utterly lethal in the workplace. Pigeonholing people before they’ve had a chance to show their true colors only harms productivity and interpersonal dynamics. Besides, you might be working alongside Perennials, a group that defies generational boundaries.

What are Perennials?

Gina Pell, who coined the term, says that Perennials are “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages…[they] comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered many so-called Perennials in your life. These are the young people with “old souls.” These are the older people who love to crack jokes and try new things. These are the people who don’t limit their interactions to their own peer group and instead find friendship with people of all ages. These are the people who refuse to be defined by age.

As Pell says: “It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification.”

I couldn’t agree more.


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millennial cafe photo

Today’s new batch of workers are not necessarily motivated by old incentives: a decent salary, a benefits package, a few vacation days. In fact, 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than profit. Instead of luring your new hires in and trying to keep them with traditional methods, take the time to understand how Millennials think.

To be brief, Millennials are generally altruistic, enjoy flexibility, crave diverse and challenging tasks, appreciate a healthy work-life balance, and seek fun and camaraderie in the workplace. They also carry quite a bit of college debt and are generally well-educated.

So, how do all those features translate into keeping Millennials motivated and retaining them? What can your workplace do to be better compatible with the way Millennials think and behave? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Consider flexible work hours

According to Cisco Systems, Inc., a whopping 69% of Millennials believe office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis. Many Millennials are task or goal-oriented and are perplexed by mandatory 9 to 5 office hours. By allowing Millennial workers to have flexible office hours or a couple work-from-home days each week, your company is more likely to mesh with their work styles. Frankly, some Millennials work better at nine o’clock in the evening and, with a flexible work schedule, that’s okay. Just make sure they have clear goals and are accomplishing everything they need to accomplish (which brings us to suggestion #2…).

  1. Give regular feedback

Millennials like specific goals and tasks and they also like to know how they are performing. Keep in mind, Millennials grew up with lots of measuring sticks—video game scores, report cards, standardized tests, social media performance data such as Facebook “Likes” and “retweets.” They need to know if they’re on the right track or performing to standards. On the same token, Millennials like incentives. Consider running inter-office competitions or giving out bonuses (or something as simple as a gift card to Starbucks) so that your Millennial workers have something fun to work toward.

  1. Have a heart

The Millennial generation is known for logging tons of volunteer hours and getting involved in both local and global causes. They care, and your company should too. For example, Dan Epstein, CEO of business consultancy ReSource Pro, allows his staff (which is comprised of 90% Millennials) to form committees and use company resources or time to organize their causes. “Whether it’s weekends with Habitat for Humanity,” Epstein says, “or time off to run in charity marathons, the company’s encouragement helps them feel good about the company.”

  1. Encourage creativity says, “Millennials are the poster children of innovation, and encouraging employees to find and utilize new solutions and outside-the-box thinking can have huge benefits.” The employee gets to learn a new skill or think about a problem in a unique way and the company benefits by tapping into the creative thought that Millennials are known for. One way to keep Millennials interested and encourage innovative thinking is to allow them to present self-defined project ideas to your company’s management. Progressive companies like 3M and Google often give employees time to work on projects of their choosing, which helps the employees feel more independent, engaged, and part of the fabric of the organization.

  1. Offer alternative compensation

Millennials are interested in incentives beyond money. Offerings such as public transit passes (or bicycle commuting credits), shares in the company, or bonus vacation days are all enticing to Millennials (who generally support public transit, like being a part of the larger company picture, and tend to travel far more often than their older counterparts). Another great way to entice Millennials is to offer loan repayment plans (give them a monthly stipend designated toward paying off student debt), or offer them continuing education opportunities (such as encouraging them to pursue an advanced degree or offering office-wide training programs, such as Insights Discovery or DiSC workshops).

Have questions about motivating your new hires? Contact me today and we’ll discuss some personalized strategies that you can start implementing in YOUR company this year.

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