Labor Law Guy

Millennials Sound a Bit Like All of Us

Posted in Random Musings by laborlawguy on February 17, 2009

A lot is being written, human resources- and management-wise, about so-called millennials in the workplace, millennials being those born between 1980 and 2000.

One respected HR authority whom I routinely read, Susan Heathfield, even offers “Eleven Tips for Managing Millennials.”

First, however, she describes the traits of working millennials:  “Millennials have a ‘can-do’ attitude about tasks at work and look for feedback about how they are doing frequently – even daily. Millennials want a variety of tasks and expect that they will accomplish every one of them. Positive and confident, millennials are ready to take on the world. They seek leadership, and even structure, from their older and managerial coworkers, but expect that you will draw out and respect their ideas. Millennials seek a challenge and do not want to experience boredom.”

This description sounds as if it could easily apply to any young person entering the labor market for the first time, whether in 1969 or 2009, so I wonder if we aren’t overblowing so-called generational differences.

I guess the main thing is that millennials are perceived to be radically different from Gen-Xers, those born to America’s tenth generation. Presumably, they’re either too laid back or too cynical for some reason.

I’m not an expert on these matters, but from what I read of Smithfield’s description of millennials and the workplace, I defintely had the same feelings and approach when I entered the professional world a few decades back–and I definitely ain’t no Gen-Xer, but a Baby Boomer.

Smithfield is so savvy, however, that I don’t see how her “Eleven Tips” couldn’t apply to and work with any employee, for instance, “provide structure, leadership and  guidance” (I combined the first two). What enterprise could succeed without those being provided?

So, regardless of your generational identity (if you cling to one), I recommend reading Smithfield’s tips.

Generations at Work, the online home of Claire Raines Associates, says that the following are millennials’ six most frequent requests of management:

1. You be the leader. This generation has grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models. Millennials are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity.

2. Challenge me. Millennials want learning opportunities. They want to be assigned to projects they can learn from.

3. Respect me. “Treat our ideas respectfully,” they ask, “even though we haven’t been around a long time.”

4. Be flexible. The busiest generation ever isn’t going to give up its activities just because of jobs.

5. Let me work with friends. Millennials say they want to work with people they click with.

6. Let’s have fun. A little humor, a bit of silliness, even a little irreverence will make your work environment more attractive.

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