Fighting the Millennial Tsunami

Lately I’m hearing a lot of complaints from my CEO friends and clients about Millennials, especially about them being “lazy” and “lacking loyalty.” This is worrisome since the Millennial generation (born 1980-1995) is the largest single generation represented in today’s work force. As of 2015, the Millennials are a legitimate workforce tsunami.

The estimates I’ve seen range from 75,000,000 upwards. That’s a lot of potentially “lazy” and “disloyal” people driving our economy and destined to be our future leaders. It makes me worry.

Then I remember I’m the parent of three Millennials that don’t seem to suffer from these maladies (as best I can tell). I also remember the Fundamental Attribution Bias, in which people tend to over-attribute behavior to individual factors and under-attribute behavior to environmental factors.

Since I’m a bona fide Boomer, let’s review my generation’s track record of creating the environment the Millennials came up in. We have:

  1. Changed the longstanding employer-employee contract by taking away any sense of permanence or security in a job offer, including any pension.
  2. Cut labor costs by making as many employees independent subcontractors (1099’s) as possible.
  3. Instructed all employees in this “gig economy” that they are to be self-directed and entrepreneurial; i.e., maximize their ROI on time invested based on “what’s in it for me.” .
  4. Begun to complain about how these employees are “lazy” and have no “loyalty” anymore.
  5. Found quite a nice scapegoat for our leadership choices and their fairly easy-to-predict consequences that we see materializing downstream; i.e., people doing what’s in their individual best interests, being “lazy,” and lacking “loyalty.”

Millennials are at the very least tech savvy and entrepreneurial. In addition, they tend to value life balance, social justice, and environmental sustainability. This doesn’t sound like such a bad crowd to me (I actually really like the three I know best).

I wonder, what they could accomplish with some savvy leadership and mentoring from the prior generations? I also wonder, how much good would it do to pretend a tsunami doesn’t exist?

High-Performance Habits

  1. Hire for values, priorities, and personality as well as skills–make sure folks aren’t just intrinsically “lazy.”
  2. Avoid the temptation to make negative generalizations about the Millennials who are our future leaders. I know some great ones.
  3. Decide what kind of culture you want in your business. Do you want to minimize labor costs or maximize motivation and loyalty?
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