is Just a Job, It's Not My Career
How to Manage, Train, and Maintain Your Sanity
with the New Millennium Generation
“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
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
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
Rise of US industrial power
The Korean War
The rise of Communism
The McArthur Era
Ozzie & Harriet
Stagflation of the 70s
Latchkey Kid Syndrome
Beavis and Butthead
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
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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