This is Just a Job, It's Not My Career
How to Manage, Train, and Maintain Your Sanity with the New Millennium Generation
By: Meagan Johnson

“This job sucks!” says Casey, a 21-year-old part time customer service representative.

“Ugggh! I don’t think they could make this job any more boring if they tried,” says Shea, a 19-year-old hourly employee at an electronics firm.

“I really wanted to go out tonight. I may just tell them to stick it and quit if they don’t give me the night off,” says Dylan, a 17-year-old server at a local restaurant.

These are the comments from the members of the NMG (New Millennium Generation), the 72 million people born after 1980. They are the second largest generation in our country and they are leaving managers scratching their heads over just how to manage, train, and motivate this new generation and still retain their own sanity.

When I ask audiences to describe the NMG, I get comments like “Bad Attitude, Continually Complaining, Gossiping, Lazy, Rude, Apathetic, Wants Reward and Wants to have Fun.” If the opening comments from the NMG are true, it is no wonder the professional world is so frustrated with them. However, these attitudes are nothing new. These same words were used describe a generation in a national magazine cover story. The publication was Life Magazine, the year was 1968, and the generation being described was the Baby Boomers.

Whenever a new generation enters the workforce we experience a level of frustration with their lack of experience and their unrealistic expectations of work life. On the other hand, there is not one of us that didn’t hold an entry level job that bored us to tears, or a part-time position we fantasized about walking out of.

“When I was 21,” says Helen, a baby boomer who works as a training specialist for a credit union,” I worked at the front desk of a large hotel. I could not stand going to work. I did not find the work interesting and the customers always seemed determined to be unhappy. The difference is, I went to work. I showed up on time and I would have been ashamed to quit without giving two weeks notice.” “These New Generation people don’t care about their jobs, and they aren’t afraid to show it!”

Right now there are four generations in the workforce and the marketplace. The Traditional Generation, people born prior to 1945. The Baby Boomer generation, people born between 1946 & 1964. The Gen Xers, born between 1965 & 1980. Finally the New Millennium Generation, people born after 1980.

If it is true that every new generation gets a bad rap when entering the workforce, and every workaholic Baby Boomer (people born between 1946 & 1964) and every Gen Xer (people born between 1964 & 1980) dreamed of blowing off their entry level position and leaving their bosses high & dry, why do NMGs seem so different? And, what can you do to work with them without strangling someone in the process?

Each generation brings a different set of assumptions and work related beliefs to the labor force. Our own assumptions and work related beliefs are largely shaped by our Generational Signposts.

A Generational Signpost is an event or cultural phenomenon that is specific to one generation. Signposts shape, influence and drive our expectations, actions and mindsets about the work we do and our careers. Every generation has its own set of these Generational Signposts. Here are some examples:

The Traditional Generation
The Great Depression
Fibber Mcgee & Molly
WWII
GI Bill
Rise of US industrial power
The Korean War
The rise of Communism
The McArthur Era
Ozzie & Harriet

Baby Boomers
Civil Rights
Archie Bunker
Vietnam
Flower power
Sexual revolution
Recreational drugs
Stagflation of the 70s
Watergate
Reaganism

Gen Xers
Divorced parents
Latchkey Kid Syndrome
Shuttle disaster
Iran Contra
Black Monday
Beavis and Butthead
Aids

What about The New Millennium Generation? What are the NMG Signposts and what do you do to make working with this generation a more successful effort?

First off, this generation never knew a time when they were not wanted. Very different from Generation X. Gen Xers were born and began their first years right after the pill became widely available in the United States. The NMG often have parents that have planned on having children, gone to great medical lengths to do so, and then spent sizable amounts of money on the children they did have.

The job market has always wanted the NMG. Visit a shopping mall or retail center and you will see dozens of stores with Help Wanted signs in their windows. College graduates are getting their degrees during the hottest job market for graduates in the last five years. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies will hire almost 20% more graduates than they did in 2006.

So what does this mean? Do not expect this generation to be grateful for a job. Sometimes we perceive their lack of gratitude as a lack of interest. Not true. It’s just that so many job opportunities are available. Your challenge is to make your job offering as interesting as possible. Create an experience for the NMG. What does your company, industry or team offer that is special or unique and capitalize on that with the NMG. Does your company have travel benefits, job sharing, true flex-time, no dress code, bring your pets to work, cool contests, and any opportunity to do something different and unique in their job? Think about what makes your job special to you and put an NMG spin on it.

For example, UPS holds Super Loading contests. UPS knows that working in the warehouse consists of plodding repetitive jobs in an atmosphere that is far from luxurious. Super Loading Contests allow the NMG to have a good time, learn from their mistakes and feel like something more than a cog in the wheel.

The more you can take the job and change it into an opportunity to have an experience like nothing else, not just a place to get a paycheck the more your workplace is going to resonate with the NMG.

The NMG has gown up with tremendous tragedy and violence in its own backyard. Starting with the 1986 Shuttle Blast, there came the incident in Waco Texas in 1993, the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, the Olympics Bombing in Atlanta Ga. in 1996, the Columbine Shootings in 1999, the September 11th World Trade Center Attack and Pentagon attacks in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the recent Virginia Tech Shooting in 2007. These types of Generational Signposts are different from JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations of the Baby Boomer Generation. Whereas those were tragedies that involved specific celebrity victims, these recent events involve large numbers of the general population. The message is clear that they, the NMG, can fall victim to a madman’s whim or fanatic’s fancy in an instant, and it can happen in masses.

So What? The NMG expects honesty. The NMG has had brutal honesty in their faces their entire lives. As a potential employer you must be honest with them about hours, pay and job conditions. If you are hiring someone part-time and the expected wait time to get a full-time position is 18 months, you must be upfront. Show them the working conditions before you offer the job. Do you expect them to work in small cramped cubicles that do not get their share of air-conditioning? If so, you need to not just tell them but show them. Show them the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep in mind the NMG may not be interviewee savvy so they may not know all the right questions to ask. It is your responsibility to answer the questions they may have not thought to ask. For example, has the potential employee thought about how long it is going to take to commute to work?

Why should you do this? First, it prevents you from hiring the wrong employee that will leave you in six weeks because the job was “not what they expected.” Second, it demonstrates to the NMG you are interested in their success at your organization – that it’s not just a stop over.

Remember the first time you used a microwave? What impressed you the most? The speed at which the microwave could boil water, contort a hot dog, or turn a loaf of bread into a brick. NMGs are not impressed with the speed of a microwave. After all, microwave ovens have been a part of their lives for their entire lives.

How long are you waiting to give the NMG information on their performance? The NMG has WWW information at the fingertips, their parents are a cell phone call away, and their favorite five friends can be instant messaged instantly. Yet we expect the NMG to go back in time and be appreciative of a yearly review. You must give the NMG information frequently and fast.

180 Solutions, an online-search marketing company hung plasma TV around their offices that give minute by minute updates on how the employees are performing. A NMG employee can know at any second how close he is to receiving a bonus. The employees feel in control of their performance and their salary.

“I am not going to be here years from now, when I am old … like you!” You may have heard this from the NMG in their quest to move up and get promoted as fast as possible. NMGs want to feel as if they are moving towards something. Sitting at their desks all day is stagnating, not accelerating in the minds of the NMG. So what can you do? Provide training. Provide a variety of training in different areas and with different people. Diverse types of training help eliminate boredom and create a positive buzz about your company with the NMG, which makes recruiting easier.

PrintingForLess spends 14% of payroll on training. According to the American Society for Training and Development, that is almost 12% percent more than the average company. PrintingForLess has become a place the NMG wants to work at.

“Why should I do all this?” you ask. FACT: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by year 2008 22 million people will have left the labor force to retire. Who do you have to replace them? Having a cohesive, multi-generational workforce is vital to survival. The sooner you begin to understand NMGs, the better chances you and your company have of surviving and thriving. The sooner you begin to relate to and enjoy what NMGs have to offer, the sooner you will stop saying “why should I” and start saying “I am so happy I did.” Honestly, are taking your dog to work, having creative contests and helping someone get what they want out of their career such a bad thing?

Meagan Johnson is Bright, Funny, and a Delightfully Obnoxious Generational Humorist! she graduated from Arizona State University Business School with a BS in Marketing. She spent several years working in sales for companies like Quaker Oats, Kraft Foods and Xerox. At every company Meagan became discouraged to hear all the negative comments about Generation X. She began to research everything from small to large corporations in order to find successful ways to work with the younger generation. From that ZAP THE GAP Solving the Multi-Generational Puzzle was born.

Copyright © 2012 Meagan Johnson. All Rights Reserved.

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