by Meagan Johnson, CSP and her dad, Larry Johnson, CSP
After the last issue of this e-zine, where we discussed the New Millennial Generation (those born after 1980) we received several requests to expand the discussion. So here are some thoughts:
According to a recent survey sponsored by Pepsico,1 New Millennials are the most upbeat among the four basic generations in the workplace about their overall well-being and futures.
The study identified three notable characteristics:
1. Rampant optimism
Seventy seven percent of New Millennials report having a strong sense of optimism about their careers, despite the scarcity of jobs associated with the current economic downturn.
Ninety percent of New Millennials come from Baby Boomer parents – parents who had their children late in life after they themselves had sown their wild oats, attended college, established careers, and acquired the maturity and financial resources to “do it right” as parents. Their children often became the centers of their parents’ lives and the focus of their parents’ desires for success. Consequently, New Millennials were constantly told they could do anything in life, become anybody they wanted, and achieve all sorts of great things.
For example, whether they support him politically or not, most people we know who are older than 40 are thrilled and amazed that a black man could become president of the United States. We’ve talked to many New Millennials, on the other hand, for whom Barack Obama’s election was no big deal. “Why shouldn’t a black man become president?” And of course they are right – but their lack of appreciation for the monumental achievement his election represented can be unsettling for some us older folks who were around when it was unimaginable.
So what does this mean for managing New Millennials in the work place?
Don’t be offended or consider them overly aggressive when, on the day after they are hired, they ask about their first promotion. Just understand that it’s part of the generational signposts they have experienced in their upbringing. (Generational signposts are the common experiences a generation has that affect how they interact with the world. Examples include the Great Depression for the Traditional Generation, Woodstock for Baby Boomers, and Black Monday for Gen Xers.)
2. Service to a greater good is important
Seventy-four percent of New Millennials find that supporting causes that contribute to a better world make them feel more optimistic. This supports the findings of a survey by the Adecco Group of North America that found 69% of New Millennials say that the company they work for should do more to be green.2
So, what does this mean when managing this eco-friendly cohort?
Keep in mind that being green to New Millennials is not optional. Just like Gen Xers do not know a time when you didn’t put your seatbelt on the minute you got in the car, New Millennials view being green essential if the planet is going to survive.
As the economy slows, it is tempting to put environmental efforts on the back burner, especially the costly ones. After all, in the short run, it may be less expensive to empty your waste in the dumpster than to carefully separate and dispose of it in an eco-friendly manner – but you do so at your peril. Your young people are watching how you do business and deciding if your company is the kind of place in which they want to work. So the bottom line is that if you want to retain your New Millennials and keep them motivated, make greenness a part of your company culture. Act as if it is as important as making budget or turning a profit – because from their perspective, it is.
And green isn’t the only cause that will light their fires. You might remember the article in this e-zine in February of 2008 about Pablo Lee. He’s the owner of Harley-Davidson Korea, one of the most successful dealerships in the entire Harley-Davidson family. One of the many things Pablo does to turn his younger employees on is to involve them in charitable activities, like working with kids in a local orphanage. According to Pablo, “These young people truly want to do something to improve the world. If they can do it as part of their jobs, and it improves our dealership’s PR standing in the community, it’s a win/win for everyone.” (If you’d like to read that article, it’s on Larry’s website at http://www.larry-johnson.com/happiness-is-more.shtml
3. Attraction to change
Nearly all New Millennials (95%) make positive associations when they think of the word “change,” associating it with “progress” (78%), “hope” (77%) and “excitement” (72%). Their support of Obama and his message of change was indicative of this attitude. The younger generation assumes change will occur. They want to know how their position within your organization is going to change for the better and how soon. They want more than yearly reviews of their performance, they want weekly discussions. Most important, they want to know what they are going to learn in the next 6 months. Change represents an opportunity to learn something new and to do something different, and it’s a big deal for them.
So give them feedback often, with an emphasis on developing their skills to move ahead in your organization or as well as in life. Doing so will keep them interested, and force you to invest thought in their development – something every manager should do anyway.
1 The Pepsi Optimism Project (POP)
2 Adecco, “Is the ‘green’ movement in the workplace fact or fiction?” http://www.adeccousa.com