Back in the Dark Ages of human civilization, before Woodstock, the Summer of Love, even before the Beatles came to America, a little book was published titled "Through Darkest Adolescence." Its declared purpose was to help the older generation understand the younger generation, whose curious customs and priorities were attracting widespread media attention. But the book's author, Richard Armour, was noted for his humor, and his underlying message was "This too shall pass." Boy has it ever.
I was reminded of that book when I read an article about consultants who are charging thousands of dollars to help that same "younger generation"--the now nearing-retirement Baby Boomers--interpret the Millennial generation so that everyone can co-exist peacefully in the workplace. Wow. It may be true that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but people will always find new ways to charge a consultant fee.
Take it from this Baby Boomer: Save yourself a quick $20K and let the Millennials in your workforce tell you what they want. You're already paying their salary.
At Big Ass Solutions, the majority of our employees are between the ages of 20 and 35. What they have in common as Millennials is the ability to text fluently and a fondness for taking selfies--and maybe waxing nostalgic over shows like Full House. Beyond that, the similarities dwindle. Our millennials work in departments from production and engineering to analytics, sales, marketing and management. They come from rural, suburban and urban backgrounds. Some have advanced degrees, some didn't go to college. Many are single and go out often after work; others have growing families and head straight home. In other words, they're 600 individuals. How do we find out what they want in a job and a workplace? We ask them!
As it happens, we already have the kind of work environment many in their age group reportedly seek: one with constant challenges, rapid growth and advancement, and a culture of creative collaboration. A recent survey featured in Harvard Business Review listed "opportunity to learn and grow" as extremely important to a majority of 20-to-35-year-olds. The same survey also noted the importance for that cohort of two other factors: opportunities for advancement and managers who recognize their talents. Honestly, I don't see how you can have one without the other. (And I also find it hard to imagine how any employee of any age wouldn't want the very same things.)
So part of our appeal to Millennials is the nature of our company, but the other part is nurture. We want them to stick around, so we find ways to make them feel welcome. Of course, there are the requisite ping-pong tables, and a beer fridge that opens at the end of good sales days. But we also have an events and engagement team whose members' average age is 26. They divine for us what their fellow Millennials (and other ages) want because their co-workers tell them. That's why we have sports leagues, fundraisers for causes our employees care about--including adopting a nearby highway--even financial education sessions and professional development opportunities. That's how we choose monthly activities like canoe trips and evenings at a local comedy club.
I don't want to undermine anybody's lucrative racket--OK, maybe I do--but the last thing that Baby Boomer bosses need is a consultant to explain their Millennial employees, when according to the latest Labor Department statistics, they're surrounded by them. All the older generation needs to do is stop, look around, and listen--and remember that once upon a time, they were the younger generation, too.