There’s no shortage of advice on attracting and managing Millennials. In fact, an internet search for “manage Millennials” will yield you 13,400,000 results. Tips to help companies and managers interpret these young workers’ whims and aspirations has become a substantial industry that brings in $60 million to $70 million each year, according to Source Global Research. However, it seems that most of this very expensive advice only fattens the wallets of consultants.
Just mention the word “Millennial” in any workplace conversation and you'll feel the tension and ire rise. Members of older generations immediately and passionately share stories of the privileged, narcissistic, entitled, spoiled, and lazy behavior of young people.
Ironically, these same people were victims of similar stereotyping. In 1968, LIFE Magazine ran a cover story on the "Generation Gap," describing "privileged, narcissistic, entitled, spoiled, lazy" young people of the Baby Boom generation. Similarly, TIME ran a story on young Gen Xers in 1990, calling them "lazy, entitled, selfish, shallow, unambitious shoe-gazers ... [who] have trouble making decisions." The article went on to say, "[Gen Xers] would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder." Sound familiar?
However, the Millennials abhor the idea that their generation that is made up of 80 million people is homogenous. It is absurd to think that they all share the same political and world views, and that they all eat the same foods, enjoy the same music, and wear the same clothes. Not only do Millennials detest being singled out, most scoff at the “expert advice” to corporate America on taming their generation.
Here’s a perfect example of how misguided and absurd Millennial consulting has become. During a recent conversation with a colleague, she told me that her company was ending the traditional job interview because Millennials didn’t like them. Instead, an “expert” was working with them to replace the interview with something called “guided conversations.”
Please allow me to tether this guided conversation to reality! A hugely transparent, and likely expensive, terminology switch from "interview" to "guided conversation" isn’t going to attract quality Millennial talent. Furthermore, this practice will likely only perpetuate the disdainful lunch-room talk among older employees.
The name of the interview process is not the problem. There are issues that are inherent to the nature of finding a new job that make the process unpleasant for everyone involved no matter their age. The problem with the job interview isn’t a generational thing—it’s a process, performance, and experience problem.
To make matters worse, hiring managers are often terrible at interviewing. Besides it isn’t the Millennials asking for this change – it’s older generations trying to shortcut improvement and splash bright paint over a rusty, ineffective process.
So, if a misleading update in terminology isn’t effective, what can you do to secure a succession plan for your company?
1. Stop bashing Millennials. More than half of the Millennials are now over 30 years old. The youngest are 22. Many have matured into highly functional and valuable members of the workforce. If Millennials aren’t applying or staying, it's very likely that employees of all ages are unhappy at your company, and it's time to reevaluate your company culture.
2. Stop stereotyping generations. Each generation collectively shares moments of history that define its path. However, every member of a single generation doesn’t respond in exactly the same way. If that were the case, every member of each generation would vote for the same party during elections … and we definitely know that’s not the case.
3. Focus on multi-generation needs. On the other hand, it is important to understand the legitimate differences between each generation. Millennials (and Gen Z) aren’t so different from earlier generations in their wants and needs, but their life experiences and categories of expertise can often be beneficially different from their older counterparts.
4. Get your shift together. Even the Millennials, are struggling to keep up and adapt to the rapid pace of technology. The acceleration of technological innovation has enabled a massively disruptive shift in the way work gets done, the jobs we do, and how we live and play. No generation is immune to its effect which creates an opportunity for multi-generations to work together.
5. Don’t fall prey to the quick fix. The solution to employing quality Millennial talent and securing your succession plan isn’t a quick fix like pizza parties or "guided conversations". Managing Millennials effectively means fostering understanding, developing a positive company culture, and embracing transparency and authenticity. Building a better work environment for Millennials will even make older employees happy, as well.