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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Anniversaries and Millennials

This past week my parents set off for a two-week cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. To say that I am in awe of their commitment and devotion to one another is an understatement. These days, it is a real magic act to find someone who can commit to a long weekend, let alone five decades.

It makes me think about what it takes to build any lasting relationship, whether bound by love, friendship, or work. I look at two of my more recent hires, both recent college graduates -- commonly referred to as “millennials” -- could I expect them to be around at the end of 2008, let alone 2028?

“They” say millennials approach the workplace with a sense of entitlement. What I am experiencing along with many of my clients is that millennials are willing to put skin in the game and work hard. (By the way who the hell are “they”?) In contrast, I can think of plenty of 20-year veteran managers who are absolute prima donnas. Millennials have definite expectations of their employers and honesty ranks at the top of their list. (It’s also been a huge factor in my parent’s marriage.)Being honest isn’t always easy – phrasing can be crucial -- but in the long run it builds respect and trust.

Companies need to take out the guesswork and place a priority on communications. Be truthful about a job position, about expectations, about opportunities for growth if you want commitment. As a generation that has grown up with instant communications, the web, and media outlets like TMZ, millennials are exposed to the fallout from dishonesty and deception. They are the most politically, socially, and environmental aware generation of any I have worked with.

Millennials expect flexibility and opportunities to be empowered. Sounds like entrepreneurship? Think more intrapreneurship. Companies like 3M, Intel, and Proctor & Gamble recognize the value of being open to new ideas and encouraging their employees to create their own space. Millennials are not afraid of taking a risk and they know it takes more than one person working in isolation to make a difference. Through social networking, instant communications (again!), and witnessing the rewards for innovative thinking, millennials are a generation of “we-we” rather than “me-me.” And that not being afraid part – well, unlike their parents, they are not afraid to make a career move if their needs are not being met. For those that display competencies such as leadership, creativity and team building – the lure of intrapreneurship can be very compelling.

Fifty years is a long time, and way beyond what anyone should expect or actually even want from an employee. (From a spouse, maybe.) I look forward to the future and how my millennial hires will help me grow my business. We’ll take each anniversary one year at a time and watch them add up. Want to share your thoughts about millennials and intrapreneurship? Please feel free to post your comments.

1 comment:

Kris Dunn said...

Karen -

Agree with your comments. I find the handwringing on how GenY is different is overplayed. Different expectations? Yes... But to stereotype all in the same way doesn't do GenY justice. As an X, I'm happy to have them around...


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