museums&MORE Fall 2015
Editor’s Letter: A millennial transition By Zeke Jennings

The mere mention of the word millennial to someone over 40 often brings a dismissive roll of the eyes. It conjures up images of 20-somethings with their faces buried in their smartphones, more interested in what’s on the screen than what’s happening in the world around them.

The millennial generation is basically anyone born between 1980 and 1997 and a group that is now a major part of the work force — and its role will only get bigger in the coming years. Millennials are, stereotypically, more interested in communicating via technology than talking, slow to accept responsibility and desiring constant praise to stay motivated.

But have millennials been unfairly labeled by the soon-to-be-retiring baby boomers and soon-to-be-middle-aged Generation X-ers?

I recently led a panel discussion at the summer edition of NY NOW, titled “How to Hire, Manage and Retain Millennial Employees.” In addition to doing plenty of reading on the subject to prepare, I did an exercise with my Facebook friends and office co-workers.

I posed a hypothetical question: Would you: A) want a job you loved doing, but for a company that may not be around in three to five years; or B) rather have a job that maybe you weren’t passionate about, but the company was stable and offered great benefits. Let’s say the base salary/wage was the same.

The overwhelming majority of millennials chose A, which I expected. What surprised me is that a majority of the non-millennials also chose A. The ones who picked B added stipulations like, “I would have picked A when I was 25,” or “I have a family now, so I would take the stability and good benefits.”

It begs the question: Is expecting to be happy at work a generational thing or simply a youth thing?

In my experience, it’s more the latter. As a recent addition to the 40-something club, I would pick B — I have a daughter to think about and realize job stability and good benefits are harder to come by these days. However, if posed the question 15 years ago, I would have been a lot more likely to answer A.

While millennials may not be as fundamentally different as their predecessors tend to think they are, they have grown up a technological era and the job market has changed drastically in recent decades.

Here are a few observations I came away with following our panel discussion:

  • Yes, a lot of millennials are glued to social media, but social media is also a must in today’s market. If it’s not just your thing, then why not make your businesses social media a responsibility of one of your younger, tech-savvy employees. Work with them to devise a social media plan, including goals, and then have them implement it.
  • Millennials are more accepting of the increasingly unstable work market because they don’t know anything else. They are more willing to take a job for a young company with an uncertain future or work multiple part-time jobs to make a living. In turn, they value flexibility and especially the opportunity to gain skills to pursue other opportunities, whether with their current employer or elsewhere. An employee who feels you have their best interest in mind makes for a better employee.
  • Millennials do seem to put a higher emphasis on positive reinforcement — compliments, if you will — than older generations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Taking a minute to reinforce a job well done can be just as beneficial as constructive criticism, and that goes for an employee of any age.

Zeke Jennings

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