What's a generation? What makes a Gen Xer a Gen Xer? What makes a Millennial a Millennial?

According to Karl Mannheim, the guy who came up with the idea of "a generation," it's a group of people born within a certain time frame who share a common experience of a significant historical event. Say, for example, soaring house prices, a war, a particularly bad recession.

The broad brush approach is often taken when journalists, professionals, or any other people talk about generations. I think this is incorrect. Being a Millennial doesn't necessarily mean you're a a self-confessed snowflake, addicted to social media with no savings. So when talking about "How to Motivate a Millennial Workforce"--a headline I've seen countless times--we have to remember that most of the workforce now remembers the recession, significant natural disasters, and the plethora of atrocities in today's world.

There are some recurring themes that research is showing us about young generations: We save less, spend more, and value experiences more than things. I spoke to a number of Millennials and Baby Boomers for this article, and I think these values can be applied to most generations.

Responsibility

Millennials have grown up with instant gratification. We get impatient when our Amazon Fresh delivery is missing items, when our 4G stops working for a few seconds, or when our $1,000 Macs decide to unexpectedly restart. So we're going to get annoyed if we've got to wait two years for responsibility.

Responsibility can also come in the form of giving your employees more challenging, important pieces of work as opposed to the scanning or filing. Hugo Campbell, a Millennial co-founder of British catering company Feast It, says:

"I think that it's really important that the whole team are making communal decisions on the direction of the company. In my last job, it was the fact that I was denied a voice when it came to big and interesting decisions that made me dissatisfied so we try and make sure that everyone genuinely has a big input. Also, there's no doubt that Millennials are a well informed and capable generation so we'd be fools not to."

Money

"I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse"--Henry IV, Part II.

For some, Shakespeare was quite impenetrable at school. I think this line is a truth universally acknowledged among Millennials in particular. With soaring house prices, ridiculous rents, Millennials are going to have a serious problem getting on the housing ladder.

And even though we're not buying houses, we still need to fund lots of avocado toast and bottomless brunch (not to mention, cotton wool to wrap ourselves in). Millennials might be chasing a better work-life balance than previous generations, but money is still important for us.

Trust

Trust can come in a variety of different forms. Trust that you won't misuse the business credit card, for example. Or trust you can meet with a client and not bring the firm into disrepute.

Another example is your boss trusting that when you work from home, you're working from home--and not sitting by your window (Millennials can't afford gardens) with a glass of white wine, pumping out The Rolling Stones, thinking you're in 1970s West London with Mick Jagger by your side.

Campbell says his company has decided to "be very flexible on aspects like holiday time and things like working from home. We effectively put no limits on either and simply trust that no one will take advantage, which so far they haven't."

Finally, as a Millennial, I have one last point to make. According to a BBC article from last year, people in my generation--contrary to belief--are taking fewer drugs, drinking less, and having less sex than any generation before them. Think on, Baby Boomers!

Published on: Aug 31, 2017