It’s Monday morning. Settling in for my morning routine with that first sip of java still resonating in my mouth, I turn on my faithful Dell companion. With Outlook still booting, I stand ready to read any new messages that may have arrived in my Inbox overnight. Suddenly, I hear a firm knock at my door and a face appears. It’s a somewhat familiar face. My brain’s database begins its search, and it completes and finds the word: Harmony. She’s the newbie that started last week. Now I wouldn’t call myself a “morning” glory – more like a prickly cactus before its first drink of water. Or in my case, a hefty dose of caffeine. My head turns towards the voice; I have managed to open one eye to greet my visitor.
Audible sounds emit from her mouth, “Do you have a minute?” But before I am able to respond, she begins her quest.
“I was reviewing our Standard Operating Procedures and noticed that we don’t have a formal wellness program here. Well, I have a friend who does yoga who, I know, would be willing to come in for free and show us a few yoga postures to anyone who is interested. I could call her tonight and ask her if she’d instruct us during lunch period or afternoon break three to five times a week. Don’t you think it’s a great idea? And guess what? She lives right around the corner! Like I said, I can call her tonight, leave her a message and have her stop by tomorrow morning to talk to the rest of the employees in the company. I know there’ll be a lot of interest. Why don’t you send an email out to everyone by noon today?”
She stops only long enough to inhale, but doesn’t wait for my reply. I look like a deer in headlights waiting for the car to stop, but it doesn’t.
“And what about extending our summer hours to all year long? I’ve been talking to a few people and they love the idea, especially those of us who don’t have kids. That way, we can stay out late on Thursday night and not have to worry about getting to work on time Friday morning. And for those who do have kids, being able to be with your kid every Friday morning would be cool, don’t you think? Or in your case, grandkids! Oh, and one more thing. Do you think we could have a day where my friends could see where I work, like an open house?”
There is silence. Her eyes look around my office, on my desk, out the window and then at me, we exchange a look. She questions me. “Why are you looking at me like that, are you okay?” I am thinking, it must be 5:00 p.m. – I am exhausted.
The millennials have arrived. They are children of the baby boomers, born between 1982 and 2000, who seek a workplace full of open communication, a fair exchange of ideas and full-blown collaboration. And they want to be heard in the workplace. Now, believe me, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I understand the whys:
1. They are confident because they were raised by parents who believed in the importance of self-esteem. They stand ready to overcome obstacles and climb the seven summits. As children, the dinner table was the place where ideas were shared and fostered; they were praised for each insightful thought.
2. They are goal oriented. They are not as concerned with moving vertically as much as they are horizontally. They want to expand their skills, not necessarily their titles. Why? Because they watched their parents lose their jobs without a Plan B. They will make every effort to make sure that doesn’t happen to them. And that company loyalty stuff, it’s an oxymoron.
3. They are hopeful. They believe in the future and want to play an important role in shaping a company’s vision. They’ve heard of companies that have pinball machines, volleyball and badminton courts and those that pay your way through college.
4. They like being with their friends, people they click with. That’s why they become friends with their coworkers; they are one in the same.
With parents who have been nicknamed the “helicopter generation,” they hover over their millennial children guiding them as if they were toddlers taking their first few steps. And if allowed, these same parents would volunteer to be their child’s advocate to answer those tough questions during a job interview! From one who is part of the recruiting process, I received a phone call from a mother who demanded to know why her son was not hired for a job. The mother was devastated, the candidate was not.
It’s obvious that both the millennials and their parents are all about staying connected. With appendages as cell phones, millennials text message family and friends. I have heard that more millennials can live without the television, but not their computer. Their new verb is tweeting – it’s how they keep in touch with their tweeples. And don’t forget Google. It’s where they find answers to their questions. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter (just to name a few) expand their network around the world. It has simply united the generation, not just in the U.S. but globally.
As of May 2008, there were 850 networking sites that call themselves social networks. Predictions are that within a year, there will be as many as 250,000. This creates an overwhelming opportunity for marketers. They must discover creative ways in which to communicate with the members of these sites which not only include millennials, they include traditionalists, baby boomers and Generation Xs. And it will impact not only marketers, but the workplace. Companies will need to understand the members as well. We have to learn how to network and communicate effectively, finding out what makes each generation tick.
According to an article printed in Twin Cities Business in June 2006, the millennials are 76 million strong. They are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce with an increase from 14% to 21% over the past four years. That’s nearly 32 million workers in the United States, and all of the indicators predict that there are more to come.
I attended a lecture last month that focused on generational issues in the workplace with motivational speaker David Stillman. His hilarious presentation focused on how to bring different generations together to create a successful and unified business. Our company sponsored a table at the event and invited a few high school business students to join us. It was obvious that the students found it entertaining ,but at the same time, insightful. They had a personal connection – they are the millennials!
But for me, it was one of those “aha” moments which helped me not only understand the differences between each generation, but the whys. It all made perfect sense. Leaving this lecture, I was a different person than when I had arrived. But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. It will help you understand your co-workers, your family and yourself. And it’s only a click away.