In the game Grand Theft Auto 5, one of the young adult characters in the game stretches out on his bed playing--what else? -- a video game. His 40-something father has no patience for his son's laziness and throws a chair into the HDTV. Ouch.
The game is a social commentary--it's violent, caustic, and perverse. The great irony is that it's a video game making a point about playing too many video games. (Ironically, it also has an incredibly detailed storyline, if you can handle all the M-rated gameplay.)
For any small business owner, there's one question you might want to ask if you work with Millennials who have played GTA 5: Is the game really that accurate? Other than starting a debate, it might reveal whether Millennials really match the stereotype.
Society at large is not kind to this age group. They're overly entitled and lazy. They spend too much time on Facebook and Tumblr. They watch way too much television. But forget all of that. A Millennial might be the best person to hire in your organization. They offer a perspective that is incredibly valuable, especially in understanding other Millennials.
One of the most common misconceptions is that they are digitally obsessed. In a survey conducted by the talent management firm called Cornerstone OnDemand, Millennials said they are overwhelmed by our "always on" society. In fact, 60 percent said they prefer face-to-face interactions for collaboration over digital meet-ups. 41 percent of Millennials said they are overly inundated with information compared to 31% for older workers.
For a tech start-up in particular, it could mean that the younger generation can see through the thick fog of tech obsession and focus more on the end goal. They are digital natives, sure, but they can also take on new problems--even a few that are in the real, analog world.
Over the past few years, I've worked with many young adults in various capacities. I've encountered their entitlement before--complaints about low pay and long work hours. Yet, from what I've seen, they jump quickly right to the core issues. They see through the layers we've created in business that can obfuscate the real goals of an organization.
Here's one example. A friend of mine who is 26 helped me test out a Chevy Volt once, a car that has both an electric motor and a gas engine. I'm admittedly a bit enamored by this car, which can go 35 miles on a charge and switch over to the gas engine for another 200 miles. My friend cut through the sludge: He wondered if he would ever have time to recharge the car at night and then again during the day. He said he'd buy a Nissan Leaf if it meant less babysitting (that cars goes 100 miles on a charge).
In my experience, Millennials will usually ask the question "why" before they ask "what" or "how" because they want to get right to the point. They often want to know if something is worth the investment first rather than diving in just because you tell them it's a good idea. Maybe that's why we perceive them as lazy. They can get excited and work hard when it is worth the effort. Maybe we're to blame for making things too easy for them.
For a small business owner, that kind of fresh perspective on an app you're developing or a new service offering at your company (especially if it is intended for that generation). More than anything, they can provide another point-of-view on everything from sales to inventory management to customer service. If you can engage them as employees, motivate them, and listen to them, you might have an easier time with other age groups.
That's why hiring a Millennial makes sense. Maybe you're not ready to have one lead your entire marketing effort or the sales team. But there's a freshness to their thinking that can help any young company succeed. Don't be afraid to give them a chance to push your company ahead. They might just point out the one thing that really needs to change.