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Understanding Millennials: What You Need to Know About This Generation

The Millennial generation is here. They feel entitled. They negotiate everything. And they'll tell you exactly what is on their mind...even if you don't want to know. Let's see you make a team, and a profit out of that!

Before we go any further (and before those of you with short attention spans form an opinion and clock out)...let me apologize. Sort of.

When talking about Millennials I like to warn people not to bucket. I warn them and then go right ahead and do it. I bucket. It's easy. It's convenient.

It's fun. And it makes about as much sense as asking, "What's your sign?"

What Defines a Millennial?

A generation is defined by its value-shaping experiences as anchored by the media and ceremony of the times. Each generation comes with a new set of aspirations and expectations and, right off the bat, this makes the Millennials different with a capital D. Their youthful experiences and values have given Millennials huge expectations, not necessarily the motivation or skills needed to realize them. On the job, forty percent of Millennials say they think they should be promoted every two years regardless of their performance. Deal with that, boss!

It's a Problem... a Big One!

Millennials are team players. They love to be a part of a team and they love to work as a team. Too bad they probably don't want to play on your team! Millennials played on lots of teams while at school. They played games where there were no losers, only winners, and everyone was beautiful. Doesn't sound like the real world, does it? But business leaders must learn how to build teams that will work and work well in the real world.

The clash of generations is upon us. Millennials are saying, gimme. Boomers are saying, earn it. And leaders are stuck in the middle. It seems only too fair that the Boomers who raised the Millennial generation now find themselves having to work with them... and sooner than you think, work for them!

Here's good news: you can build, train, and lead powerful, focused Millennial work teams. You just have to know how to turn them on and...turned-on teams can do anything!

The signature experience of the Millennial cohort is they were the first generation to be born in a digital world. We put the breakpoint at 1975 but the date is less important than the fact. When the world went digital, information and discovery exploded and suddenly, anything seemed possible.

To a Millennial everything is possible. The Millennial mantra goes something like this: My way. Right away. Why pay? Why should Millennials feel any different? Like all generations Millennials are simply the product of their times.

As customers, Millennials are the most knowledgeable consumers in modern history. They often know your product better than your staff. And while Boomers feel as if negotiating a price or service is a bit tawdry, Millennials think you are stupid if you don't.

They Want, They Want, They Want

Professor Jack Chambless of Valencia College in Orange County, Florida has his first year economics students write an essay detailing the support they think should be provided to them by the government. Chambless says 80 percent have the notion that government should pay for their assure their retirement, provide for their housing, and the list goes on. Oh, they also say that if necessary it would be okay to take money from the rich to help pay for such entitlement.

Millennials are dealing with the world as it was left to them by the Boomers, who were not exactly a shining example of good financial or environmental stewardship. Awash in student loans, 80 percent will at some time live with their parents after leaving college.

Turned-on Millennial Teams

Millennials, thanks to living so much of their lives online, develop short attention spans through constant interaction with technology. The average American teen receives 88 text messages per day. How can that not have an effect on your ability to compete in the workplace? And whatever you do, don't try to cloak the issue in the thin disguise of "multi-tasking."

Consider this about Millennials:

  • Millennials expect direct communication with top execs. They think their opinions are valuable and they want to be able to share their opinions at will.
  • Millennials want to be trained...on their schedule, not yours. They want to get the they need when they need it and not a minute too soon.
  • The Millennial employee expects work to be fun, hours to be flexible.
  • There is little or no Millennial loyalty to either the boss or the organization. Unlike Boomers who wrapped their entire lives around a corporate logo, Millennials won't give you their loyalty... you must earn it. After all, look at what blind loyalty did for their parents.

Millennials can be fun, smart, and, in the right hands, they can be members of turned-on teams capable of doing anything. If the old guard steps aside, will Millennials make the world a better place and take us to where we should have already gone?


T. Scott Gross, the creator of Positively Outrageous Service, studies Millennials up close and personal. Gross, a social explorer, calls his Millennial subjects Perfect Strangers and believes they are in many ways taking the workplace to where the Boomers should have already gone. He is the author of Invisible: How Millennials Are Changing the Way We Sell.

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