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02/12/2013

Understanding The Business Of The Younger Generation

By Molly Meyer

Are you a Generation X�er or a Boomer who just doesn�t like working with the Millennial Generation? Understanding the younger generation is a must-do for organizations these days. In just a few short years, they will be the workforce majority. Therefore organizational leaders wanting to learn how to sustain their business must learn how to capitalize on millennial employees. And to do that, you must first understand the younger generation.

By understanding my generation (also known as Generation Y, born from early 1980s to early 2000s) and why we are the way we are, you might not dislike working with us so much. So here it is � straight from a millennial.

Millennial Stereotypes:

1. We are lazy � false. While it�s true that maybe we�re uninterested in dressing business professional and sitting in an office from 9 to 5, that doesn�t mean we won�t put in the work. Ask us what we�re doing at 11pm, and you might be surprised at the amount of typing, reading, coding and brainstorming we do while you�re probably sleeping.

2. We feel entitled � true and false. We typically don�t feel entitled to a certain label or responsibility, if we aren�t capable or interested in it. However, we feel that we should be given a fair shot regardless of age. A good idea is a good idea, no matter how young or old the person is sharing it.

3. We think we are superior � depends on what. At searching the web? True. At writing code and understanding social networks? Sometimes. At leading a Fortune 500 company? False. There are things at which our generation is notably more competent, which can be partially attributed to growing up alongside the dramatic rise in technological innovations. And there are things we know we aren�t yet competent at.

4. We want immediate gratification � true. Those of us growing up with the Internet at our fingertips have become conditioned to expect the same. It�s not as horrendous as it sounds, though, as we expect to get more work done in less time because of it. (That�s productivity, after all).

We have grown up with the constant reinforcement of �The sky�s the limit,� and �Be all that you can be.� Well, we want to be happy, and happy for us (at least for now) means a few common things. Here are some character traits that tend to define us a bit better than those some of the present stereotypes.

I want to make money, but I want to be valued.

We are definitely motivated by dollar signs and bonus checks � at least to a degree. If we have the opportunity to work for an organization that�s flashing us a big pay day, there�s a good chance we will take it. However if that same job treats us like we�re interns, undervalues us as human beings, doesn�t think we can contribute, refuses to give us responsibilities, or overlooks us because of our age, gender, etc., then we�re probably not going to stick around very long.

Sure, we might cash in on that big paycheck for a little while, but we will do so with the utmost intention of (a) finding and securing another job, or (b) becoming an entrepreneur and starting our own company. One that will probably appeal to other millennials, too. Either way, your company will hurt in the long run because we�ll become the competition. And if you�re not retaining the millennials, you will be left without the best and brightest of the next generation to take over when you�re gone.

I want flexibility.

We�ve spent much time sitting in classrooms and reading textbooks learning about revolutions, and have learned that there is always room for improvement. After all, previous generations have taught us that. We now want to continue to stand up for ourselves, this time for a work/life balance and increasing the love we have for what we do.

We want the ability to work from home, to finish that report on Sunday afternoon instead of on Friday night, and to work in our casual clothes. We understand that there are some jobs that just won�t work out, but there are many that could give us some degree of flexibility in how and when we prefer to work.

I want to give back.

Having grown up in recent decades, news has pretty much always hit our ears in real time. We�ve had more news thrown in our faces than any other generation up to now, and much of that news has been bad � shootings, oil spills, melting ice caps, terrorist attacks. Hearing that stuff from the time we were children, affects a person. It makes us want to sponsor the opposite of those things; we want to give back by supporting the good.

Giving back can mean making personal donations, but seeing as we are young (and thus have relatively small personal financial portfolios), we like supporting companies that do the donating for us. Think about all the one-for-one companies out there (Tom�s Shoes is one example). We like these brands because we champion the giveback mentality. Not only are we supporting something good, but we get to show that support for the cause by sporting the shoes amongst our peers.

Of course, our generation is more dynamic than I can give us credit for in this post. We cannot simply be summed up in a few traits, nor would I say that these traits define all of my generation. But these are certainly commonalities. This information is meant to be insightful, enabling you to understand, reel in, and keep a few employees from the Millennial Generation. And as a result, help you solidify the future of your organization.

(Molly Meyer is the creative director for a marketing agency. She is also a co-author of It�s My Company Too!, which uncovers the dynamics, leadership, and engagement of eight successful organizations.)



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