Join Sarah Sladek as we tackle a subject we’ve yet to work on here at The Sustainable Business Podcast. It’s the subject of Millenials and what you need to do to help them be productive in your company.
It seems that every time a new generation arrives on the scene, the older generations do nothing but throw scorn at them. I remember this happened with my generation, the Baby Boomers and it happened with Generation X.
My own observation is that Millenials are no better or worse than prior generations, just different. Sarah is going to help us understand what you might want to be thinking about as you hire Millenials and work to get them integrated in your company in an effective and efficient manner.
Some of the things we’ll cover today are:
- Why we tend to criticize new generations as they arrive in the workplace.
- Why the changes in society are important to think about for Millenials.
- Understanding that linear thinking is not something that you can expect from Millenials.
- Know that to keep your younger workers engaged you have to continually challenge them.
- Realize that training is a critical component and need for Millenials. If your company doesn’t do it, your turnover might be higher than you want.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.
Today, our guest is Sarah Sladek. I think we’re in for a treat. We’ve not covered this subject yet and it’s about time we did. We’re going to talk about millennials and generation Z’s arrival into the workforce. You know, millennials have been with us for a long time now and I personally think they get a bed rep.
Sarah’s organization is XYZ University. What she does is she helps reduce employee turnover by helping employ-ers understand these two generations. And they’re a bit different than the baby boomers and gen X and we’ll find out why. So let’s bring Sarah in.
Hey, Sarah, how are you today?
Sarah: I’m great. Thank you for inviting me to be on the show.
Josh: Oh, I’m thrilled to have you on here. I think this is a really big deal. And as I just said, it seems to me that millennials are kind of getting a bad rep in the workforce, is that your experience also?
Sarah: Absolutely. And, you know, it’s really not any different however. Every time a younger generation comes into the fold, we have this tendency to really criticize and rather than embrace. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe, it’s fear of change, fear of death. I don’t know. But we really criticize the youngest.
Josh: Well, the folks who do tons of research into this area, they say, “Look, there’s different cohorts and the different cohorts sort of have a different belief system than the generation before, the generation after.” And in my experience, that seems to be what causes a lot of the issues. Is that your experience also?
Sarah: Yes. When we look at generations, you know, we’re brushing with kind of a broad stroke but we’re looking at the social change that takes place during your most influential years which is childhood and adolescence because we know that whatever’s happening during that period of time, in the world, it really influences your behaviors, and your values, and your needs, and your interests and your expectations. And that, of course, plays out in the workplace. And that’s why we see generation gaps.
Josh: So, what is a generation gap that you see with millennials? I mean, I hear a lot of whining but sometimes I’m not sure what the specifics of the whining are about.
Sarah: Well, I’ll tell you, we don’t really characterize it this way but this is what it comes down to. The millennials are the first generation of the postindustrial era – meaning that they have been raised during an era that is driven by technology, innovation and knowledge. And we have been in an industrial era for several decades. And in the industrial era, you know, that’s really the thought process that it’s very linear thinking. So you do A, then B, then C happens. It’s very hierarchical. It’s very linear. And it’s very processed and schedule-oriented.
Then along comes technology and the generation raised using technology. And we move into a very different era – a post-industrial era. And now, we have a generation that’s saying, “Gosh, linear thinking really doesn’t make sense to me. I’m on-demand. I’m instant gratification. I can take a class at Harvard this weekend.” So, some of the processes and hierarchies that are in place just simply don’t make any sense to them.
Josh: So, again, I hear people saying that millennials are lazy. What would your response be to that?
Sarah: I don’t think millennials are lazy at all. Again, I think it’s just simply a different approach to work. I think that they have been categorized as lazy because there is high turnover among millennials. So, they get into jobs and they are willing to job hop and to leave within about 18 months.
But what we find is that millennials are leaving because (1) they don’t feel like they really belong and they crave that connectivity and belonging. And again, like I just said, some of the processes of the current workforce don’t make a lot of sense to them. They see ways to improve it and make it better. They want things to be more collaborative. So, they get frustrated emotionally.
But also, this is a generation that’s been driven to learn and they tend to multitask and learn tasks very quickly so they are easily bored. So the other reason that we seen leave is not because they’re lazy but because they’re not challenged enough. So that is creating this new environment – this new hurdle in the workplace. How do we create work environments that draw them in, where they feel engaged? But also, how do we create work environments that really challenge them?
And, you know, the hierarchical method towards work is very – “Here’s your job, you stick in it and you just move up the ladder slowly but surely.” And millennials aren’t content doing that. So, as a result, they’ve been called lazy.
The other reason they’ve been called lazy is because many of them have moved back home and they’re seen as kind of delayed adulthood as a result of the recession. They are the most debt-ridden generation in history. We actually have that student loan debt exceeding credit card debt in our country. So, we have an entire generation that’s come engaged at a real financial disadvantage. So, of course, they’re moving back home and they’re trying to do what they can to make ends meet. Some of them are working multiple jobs, freelancing, consulting, doing whatever they can.
But it’s a different approach, right? It’s a different reality for them. And so, older generations look at them and go, “Man, you are restless. You are lazy. You are unpredictable. And you are difficult to work with.”
Josh: Well, those can be true but what specifically would I need to do if I want to help the millennials, working in my company, belong?
Sarah: So we find that there are four defining characteristics of the millennials that are really important for businesses to take into consideration. (1) As I was just mentioning, they are the first generation in over 70 years to be raised during a recession and when you’re raised during a recession that it changes your values. You’re not so interested in pensions, and 401K’s and long-term investments. You are less interested in ownership. You’re kind of more interested in survival. You are more interested in value. How do I immediately get value?
So, we find millennials coming in the workplace and they right away want to know “How is this going to benefit my career? Are you going to invest in my career as an employer, because I just absolutely have to advance my career? I have to. I’m hungry – literally. The millennials are very hungry for career advancement. So, employers have to take that into consideration, thinking about “How can we train? How can we get them more leadership opportunities?” Because the fact is they need this young talent. And so, “How do we invest in them? To keep them challenged, to keep them motivated and engaged?” So, that’s #1. They’re really looking for a return on investment.
Josh: Why, as an owner, would I ever want to invest in someone who’s going to leave 18 months from now?
Sarah: That’s a good question.
Well, again, what we find is that they leave when they aren’t challenged. And, you know, as the saying goes, you know, what if we train people and they leave? Well, what if we don’t train people and they stay? I think it’s more advantageous to invest in the young talent. You may consider it a risk because we are dealing with a generation that’s constantly seeking that challenge. However, we do find that they are more willing to stay at the companies that spend more time investing in their training and keeping them engaged.
Josh: There’s a difference between training and engagement.
Josh: Do you have a different way of training for millennials that makes them engaged?
Sarah: We talk about training engagement synonymously partly because we know that they crave the opportunity to learn. So, we’re not only talking about skills training but we’re also talking about how to advance those skills, how to expand those skills, again, to keep them challenged. They crave that opportunity to learn. And so, again, just kind of sticking them in a job and then walking away for a year or two, that’s not going to work with the millennials.
They are also known as “generation why”, meaning they’re always asking why. Why do we do it this way? Why can’t I learn something new? So training, I’m talking about basically meeting their need or desire to learn.
The other way to engage is to make sure they’re part of a community and that they feel that there are opportunities for their opinions to be heard. You know, millennials really like that – that relationship with whoever is managing them. That also is very important as well as having a close relationship with their co‑workers. So, that connectivity is part of engagement. Being heard is part of that engagement piece. And learning is part of that engagement piece.
Josh: So what you’ve described sounds to me like the needs of an extrovert. And we know not everybody is an extrovert and there are plenty of introverts who are millennials. In fact, my daughter is one of them. So, how do you make a work environment for a millennials introvert that doesn’t want to have nine zillion people around them in an open office?
Sarah: You know, I think, as managers, with older generations, we now have to be more empathetic leaders. We have to have that emotional intelligence where you’re understanding your workforce – not looking at your workforce as a whole but looking at them as a group of individuals. So we see different generations want to be managed in different ways. But yes, absolutely, personality differences come in there, too. So, it takes time. It takes time to get to know who you’re managing, who you’re working with and understanding what motivates them and what gets them to show up for work every day, and gets them to be productive.
But yes, you’re right, as a whole, when we’re painting with a broad generational brush, millennials are very extroverted. They’ve kind of been raised in that environment of group sports, and organized activities, and child care, and they went to prom together, and Starbucks together, and they have this great relationship with their parents. They’re very confident, independent thinkers. And yeah, they do, as a whole, tend to be more extroverted than perhaps generation X. And probably generation Z will follow that.
Josh: But there are plenty of millennials who are introverts.
Josh: And, you know, I’m not sure I buy the argument that all millennials are – they may have been raised as extroverts but I’m not sure that we do the introverts a big favor by doing that.
Josh: And as an employer, how do we handle both?
Sarah: Well, again, I think it’s taking the time to figure out who you’re managing and what motivates them. We tend to think that millennials, for example, research shows they value vacation time more than salary bumps but you can’t just assume that. I think you still have to have those conversations with whoever you’re managing and saying, “What motivates you the most? How can we cater to you?” We’re moving towards a more customized work environment as a result of all these generational differences and changes – social changes.
And we’re beginning to recognize that it’s important to really have those conversations with individuals about those meaningful things. What gets you to show up at work? What motivates you? What drives you? How can we best create an environment that appeals to you?
Josh: So, would it make sense to have choice be part of the environment at work, to make people be happy?
Sarah: Absolutely, yes. I think choice is extremely important. And we have found that, especially in just the last five to ten years, you know, just look at Starbucks and listen to the coffee orders, we’ve moved to become a society that’s all about customization, all about choice. And that certainly plays out in the workplace too.
Josh: We’ve recovered number one, what was number two, now that I interrupted you?
Sarah: Right. Millennials are recessionistas. They’ve been raised and come of age during a recession. They are also digital natives meaning they’re the first generation of the postindustrial era. They’ve been raised using technology.
And many people make the mistake of just thinking, “Ah well, we’ll just throw tablets to them and put in more computers in their workplace.” And it’s more than the tools. I think it’s important for employers to realize, “Okay, if you really, truly, you’ve never lived life without technology – you know, you’ve always known the world to be driven by globalization. You’ve always known the world to be driven by customization, instant gratification and transparency, and to be engaged in this authentic, credible dialogue, you know, such as Facebook or Glass Door or any other type of web application – you are a part of the dialogue.
And so, looking at the workplace and asking yourselves, “Okay, are we really thinking like the post-industrial era? Are we thinking from a global perspective? A customized perspective? A transparent et cetera. Instant gratification. Are we managing in that way, because that’s very important to millennials?
Josh: So, I have a question around that. If, in fact, globalization is a fact, how do you account for the huge number or apparently large number of young people who are Bernie fans – who is totally against globalization and wants to put a big circle around our country to keep foreign trade out?
Sarah: Are we really going to talk politics, Josh?
Josh: No. But this is a principle, when we say that—
Josh: The millennials grew up in a world of globalization. They’re good with that.
Josh: Well, when you look at that’s going on in our country right now, there’s a significant group of millennials who are saying, “No, that’s bad for us.” Or they’re supporting the guy who is 74 years old who says, “No, that’s bad for us.” And there seems to be a dichotomy there.
Josh: So, as an employer, I’m now confused.
Sarah: Right, right. No, I agree with you. I agree with you.
I think, actually—and I’m going to tread lightly here because it is politics. But I think that millennials have been drawn to the candidates that aren’t part of the political tradition and have gravitated towards messaging and those who represent the outside and new ideas, much like they gravitated towards Obama when he came on the scene. They wanted people that represent change because they themselves represent change. So, I don’t know that it’s so much about the globalization method, in particular, as it is about the candidates as a whole in that they represent something new and different.
Josh: So, if I heard you correctly then, millennials probably handle change way better than the older generations do in the workplace, would that be a fair statement?
Sarah: That’s a fair statement. In fact, there’s some science to that. There’s been studies done that the older we get, literally the more stuck in our ways we get. Our brains actually start to resist change and move into what’s called social conservation. So, we try to conserve what we know and keep it exactly the way we know it. We don’t want change. So yeah, I mean, it’s true, younger generations and it’s scientific as well.
Josh: Cool. So we can expect that rapid change will be handled better by millennials. So, for an industry with rapid change, attracting millennials becomes more than important, it becomes life preserving for the company?
Sarah: Yes. It does. And we had these conversations with all types of industries, all types of companies every day but right – those that are in high growth mode – you know, technology, cyber security, some of those areas, they’re desperate for young talent. And they’re high, high competition trying to steal talent all the time.
But we also see it in these industries that are expecting huge retirement waves. You know, we look at insurance, and financial services, and construction, and manufacturing, and law and some of these areas where there are a huge percentage of boomers who are expected to retire in the next five years. And it’s panic mode. Healthcare is another one. This young talent is desperately needed, kind of across the board.
Josh: So, if I’m in one of these old line businesses, and lots of folks listening to this podcast are, how do I go about attracting millennials and have them be happy?
Sarah: Well, I’m going to say something very, very simplistic, but I think it starts with knowing and understanding your market – the market you’re trying to reach. So, a lot of times we tell people, just spend 30 days, talking to 30 people under 30. Ask them a few simple questions whether this is relatives, people you work with or total strangers in the grocery store. But ask them, “What do you consider an ideal work environment? Who do you consider an ideal leader? Or what are the qualities of that leader? What is your generation really challenged with right now?”
Just by asking those few questions and really putting yourself in their shoes because we have seen a tremendous amount of change in a matter of a few decades. But we’ve really seen a lot of change in the last ten years. And so, someone who’s 60, it’s very different being 25 today than it was for that 60 year old when he/she was 25 years old. So, it’s understanding that younger generation, identifying for yourself where there are gaps within your company and change is needed and how you manage and engage them. That’s going to give you an insight on how to engage this generation.
And then I think, also very simplistically, it really comes down to—we find that the best companies that engage the millennials do two things really well. They challenge them and they appreciate them. And it’s really all you need to do. You know, we can talk about millennials and all of their values and behaviors and needs and interests and they are different than other generations but really, from a management perspective, when it comes down to “Do we really challenge them? And do we appreciate them to the best of our potential?”
Josh: Cool. Well, that was a great nugget to get. And we’re out of time.
So, Sarah, I’m assuming somebody listening to this or some people listening to this would love to get in touch with you. If they wanted to do so, how would they?
Sarah: Sure. You can contact us at xyzuniversity.com. That’s the website. You can contact me directly at email@example.com
Sarah, thanks so much for your time today.
And for those of you who’ve listened to the end, I have a treat for you. You can now get some of our knowledge information free by just texting the word periodic, P-E-R-I-O-D-I-C, to 44222. That’s 44222. And if you do so, you’ll get our periodic table of business strategies which are tons of strategies that you can use in your business to make your business better.
And again, this is Josh Patrick. You’ve been listening to the Sustainable Business Show today. Thanks a lot for participating with us. We’ll see you later.
Sarah: Thank you.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.