Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Once and for All, Millennials Are NOT All Alike

My friend John Graham, who runs the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE)---yes the association for associations—likes to say, “If you’ve seen one association, you’ve seen one association.” By that he means no two trade associations are the same. And that’s how we feel about Millennials.

It’s tempting to lump all the young people in today’s workforce as all the same—smart, tech savvy, but somewhat narcissistic, entitled, apathetic and addicted to their devices and social media. Sure that may apply to some members of NextGen, but it’s dangerous to stereotype an entire cohort, just like it is for young people to pigeonhole all Boomers as tech-challenged, materialistic workaholics.

Spencer Stuart’s James Citrin, author of The Career Playbook, makes the common mistake of
lumping all Millennials into the same bucket, although we give him props for advising parents of Millennials not to relive their own career dreams (and mistakes) through their kids.

Our Take: If you’re hiring young adults or trying to land them as clients, you won’t be very successful if you take a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding them. You need to treat them as unique individuals—just as you do with members of older generations—and recognize that each young person , has unique strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and skills—just like any of your other candidates and client.

As Farhad Manjoo recently noted in the New York Times, “
If your management or marketing theories involve collapsing all millennials into a catchall anthropological category — as if you’re dealing with space aliens or some newly discovered aboriginal tribe that’s suddenly invaded modernity — you’re doing it wrong.”

According to Laszlo Bock, Google’s director of human resources interviewed by Manjoo, “What we’ve seen is that every single generation enters the work force and feels like they’re a unique generation, and the generation that’s one or two ahead of them looks back and says, ‘Who are these weird, strange kids coming into the work force with their attitudes of entitlement and not wanting to fit in?’” Bock said. “It’s a cycle that’s been repeated every 10 to 15 years for the last 50 years.”

I recently interviewed Patrick Leclerc, head of the Canadian Urban Transit Association who frequently appears on 40-Under-40 lists.  “Every time I go to a conference I hear about Millennials—no offense—from Boomers citing studies done about the Millennials by other Boomers about what Millennials want in the workplace, what drives them and what their aspirations in life are,” said Leclerc. “We don’t very often give the microphone to Millennials ask them directly, what’s important to you in life? What do you expect in the workplace from an employer?  That’s what we’re doing at CUTA.”

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics.


Borrow a page from Leclerc and Mahatma Gandhi, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”


TAGS: Millennials not all the same, James Citrin, Farhad Manjoo, Laszlo Bock, John Graham, NextGen in the workplace

Saturday, May 21, 2016

You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

Make every day count
I’ve been thinking about the concept of time recently. Death has a way of doing that. After losing my younger sister, Claire, to cancer in January, we lost not one, but two beloved nonagenarians in our extended family over the past fortnight. Claire, who was in the prime of her life, packed a mind-boggling array of experiences and friendships into her short time on the planet. She took up politics on the latest stages of her life and was still running for public office two months before passing. While Claire is no longer with us, her spirit and her fight for diversity and school curriculum reform lives on through her foundation.

The late Kay Morrison, 90, went back to college and graduate school AFTER her children were grown and remained passionate and active in the arts and civic activities well into her 80s. Oh, and there was the running thing. Although not athletic in her youth, Kay and her husband took up distance running in their 60s and competed in full (26.2 mile marathons) well into their 70s, earning medals at the Senior Olympics. Kay’s memorial service was today outside Washington, D.C.

My father-in-law
Bill Sessions, passed away last week at age 96 after suffering complications from congestive heart failure and a 25-year battle with prostate cancer—that’s right 25 years! He was a chemical engineer and Fortune 500 exec by training, but in reality a renaissance man who was passionate about theater and opera throughout his life. He played tennis and golf through his 80s (nearly shooting his age), took a swim in 60-degree water every evening at the family summer cottage in Michigan through age 95, and in retirement became a nationally renowned woodworker who never really stepped away from his lathe.

It’s hard to imagine how much change and disruption Bill and Kay saw during their lifetimes, but Neil Irwin’s thought provoking piece in last week’s New York Times, Tracking Down the True Golden Age of Innovation, puts some historical perspective on it. Depending upon who you talk to, Irwin said it’s either a wonderful to be alive thanks to amazing advances and healthcare and digital technology—or it’s a depressing time to be alive since “innovation has slowed and living standards” (not to mention human interaction) is barely rising. We can’t bully other countries like we used to with our economic or military might—and even if the “presumptive” Republican presidential nominee pulls an upset in November—America is NOT going to win as easily on the newly level global playing field.

Our blog and website have more about this and related topics.


On thing’s for sure, we have both more challenges and more opportunities than any generation in our nation’s history. Take a page from Claire, Kay and Bill—make the most out of every day and remember, you’re never too old to learn something new.
As my father in law, Bill told my wife Brooke and I at our wedding, “Be Young, Have Fun!” Our 21st anniversary is today.