I give a lot of thought to how I can best prepare my Millennial students for the world of work.
The other side of the coin is this: how can organizations best prepare to recruit and retain Millennials to fill the massive void that will be created when Baby Boomers retire?
Millennials ascending. Born between 1982 and 2000, the earliest-born Millennials began to populate college campuses around 2000. That means the first cohorts began to graduate around 2004 (for in-depth information on Millennials, see my post below, More With Les names person of the year).
When they graduate and enter the job market, Millennials will be working for and with those generational groups who precede them — Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and some remaining Silent Gen-types. Communication/PR/IMC skills and abilities learned in college and documented by a college diploma are a given. Like anyone else, Millennials must have this as an entry fee to be considered for most good communication/PR/IMC jobs.
But how Millennials relate to the other generational groups will help determine their success or failure on the job. Conversely, how these other generational groups relate to Millennials will determine who recruits and retains the best and the brightest Millennials. This is complicated by the fact that these three generational groups are very different from each other.
Millennials have high expectations and believe that they are special. They are typically enthusiastic, have good attitudes, and want to be challenged. But they also want to be coached, mentored, and respected. By contrast, Baby Boomers will do what the boss says without question and pay their dues because they are afraid to lose a good job. Millennials will job hop in a heartbeat if they are not doing interesting and challenging things from which they can collaborate, learn and grow. Job stagnation will drive them away rapidly.
This sets up a curious work place dynamic: upbeat, engaged, tech-savvy Millennial new hire meets narcissist, corporate-loyal Baby Boomer and scrappy, pragmatic, free-agent Gen-Xer. Fireworks ensue.
When generations collide. We now have these three generational groups on the job together. As more and more Millennials enter the work force, they must understand their supervisors’ and coworkers’ generational script just as supervisors must understand that of Millennials. It’s obvious that effective employee communication will be more important than ever before as Millennials fill jobs in organizations. And like all strategic communication/PR, relationships are essential. How do these disparate generational groups build and maintain mutually beneficial working relationships that facilitate organizational productivity and goal attainment?
To me, a key is for employee communicators to find the similarities between the groups and help to build relationships on that information. Find common ground. Research from The Center for Creative Leadership says the generations are not that different on major issues. Is it stylistic differences then that might cause problems? Stereotypes?
I believe it is imperative for employee communicators to develop a strategic alliance with Human Resources (you should already have it) to work together on employee relations, recruitment/retention, and training and development. The more the generations understand each other, the better (and more productive) the work environment will be.
Postscript: I am a Boomer. My time is ending. One day, like Frodo, I must go to the Gray Havens and sail away. But for now, it is my duty (and my great privilege) to help prepare Millennials for the world of work. I do so with respect and affection for them and with the firm belief that theirs will be one of the greatest generations.