They’re the generation whose parents told them, “You’re special.” They’re the millennials. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 are now 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be 46% of the workforce. If you want to create a successful organization, you need the millennials.
Senior leaders complain that the younger generation wants everything right now; they aren’t willing to do the hard work to get ahead. But that hasn’t been my experience.
I work with millennials on a daily basis with clients like Google and Hootsuite. The millennials I know are very willing to do hard work. What they’re not willing to do is meaningless work.
People of every age want purpose and meaning in their work. The difference is, the younger group wants to experience it now. Their elders believe it comes with accomplishment.
On this issue, I side with the millennials. I’m not alone. Hootsuite Chief Revenue Officer Steve Johnson says, “The thing I really appreciate about these younger workers is they look at it and say, life’s too short. If it’s not aligned around my purpose I’m going to go somewhere else.”
As the parent of a millennial I’ve watched my daughter and her friends navigate the working world. I’m continually impressed by their ability to quickly assess their boss’ motivations. As the first generation that grew up with a bombardment of Internet messages, the millennials have an uncanny ability to spot authenticity, and conversely, inauthenticity.
In her recent guest column for Forbes.com, titled Why Millennials Are Dumping You, my daughter, Elizabeth McLeod, wrote:
I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit and I have quit a few times myself. I’ve seen our older bosses wondering ‘what happened?’ Here’s what’s really behind a millennials’ resignation letter:
ROI is not enough for me
I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our clients. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist is useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow.
I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You tell me I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number. So what? I need something to care about TODAY. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.
I’m not a line item
Treat me like a number? I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this.
Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. Eight months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay. That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know:
I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies. I’ll fetch coffee. I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.
I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.
Signed, your future best employee