A recent discussion with a successful entrepreneur of the Baby Boomer generation led me to write this article. Like many Boomers, this man worked hard, sacrificed, and paid his dues for many years (his words, not mine). Based on his life experiences he believes that success means you must relentlessly sacrifice. Also, that Millennials aren't willing to sacrifice enough, therefore they don't deserve success. (Again, his words, not mine.)
I find that Millennials are often stereotyped by Boomers and Gen-Xers as lazy, entitled, and unwilling to conform. They seem to cite the same tired examples of a generation who only comes to work if and when they feel like it. And, that they have no idea of how to communicate because they are glued to a device.
Is any of this true? Sure, but it only applies to some, not the vast majority of individuals born of this generation. And, let's face it, every young generation has demonstrated behavior that challenges the values and beliefs of their elders.
As Baby Boomers entered their teen years, boys grew their hair to previously unheard-of lengths. Some dodged the draft when their fathers had loyally served to protect their country. Couples lived together before walking down the aisle. Never mind the evolution of rock 'n roll and the public protests against the government. According to the late social scientist, Lewis Yablonsky, approximately 400,000 young people participated in the counterculture in 1968. As for holding down a steady job, Gen-X and those born during the baby boom were job-hopping long before Millennials made it the popular thing to do. A 2015 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American born between 1957 and 1964, the latter years of the baby boom, held nearly a dozen (11.7) jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. Today, since employers no longer offer hefty pensions and other golden opportunities, job hopping is simply inevitable. Yes, the world has changed.
It's admirable that some of our more experienced entrepreneurs and executives worked so hard for what they have today. Yes, success is hard work, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. Millennials have mastered the art of doing what they love and making money at it. Perhaps this fact makes it seem as though they aren't working hard and making the same sacrifices that previous generations have made.
Another often discussed issue is the lack of a dedicated workforce for lower level jobs. One thing to consider is that Millennials don't need these jobs as much as we did. Yes, it's partially because some parents are supporting their children into later years than our parents did. It's also never been easier to work from home, earn a good living, and make the time to smell the roses too.
The fact that 51 percent of Millennials own or intend to own a business states loud and clear that people of this generation want to make their own rules. They have already launched twice as many businesses than boomers ever have. And get this: they see a much larger gross profit margin than boomer entrepreneurs. If you believe they don't know how to communicate, know that these young managers are successfully leading larger teams: staffs of about 122 people, compared to boomers' 30. Yes, they are bullish and driven--but they go about earning success in a different way.
In my experience of working with entrepreneurs for over 15 years, I can say that this generation of young entrepreneurs is incredibly creative and innovative. Yes, they are breaking rules and patterns--like the one that says you will be in business for at least three years before making a decent profit. I've worked with 20 and 30-somethings who have not only turned a generous profit within six months but have hit the seven-figure-mark in under a year. Trends are changing. Boomers waited until their 40's and 50's to achieve success, Gen-X trended in the 30's and 40's. Millennials aren't having any of that--they are hitting the same benchmarks in their 20's and 30's.
Gross generalizations aside, many Millennials work very hard. They do make sacrifices, but they do it on their own terms. As employees, the problem with Millennials may not be in their attitude, but in how they are managed.
How do you inspire your employees? Is your culture an inclusive one? Do you invest in your employees with education and training so they may thrive and grow? What do you do to support their values and beliefs?
As you consider the differences in the generations, remember, we don't have to follow in someone else's footsteps. Millennials are blazing their own, sometimes unconventional, paths to success.