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

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