I was born in 1967. From my earliest of days, I remember being competitive. I remember playing football in the neighborhood with friends and always having to win. I remember having a basketball goal in my driveway and imagining hitting game winning shots at the final buzzer to win a championship. I remember playing checkers with my dad and not just wanting to win…but wanting to destroy him! I grew up in a musical family too, so competition was present their as well. If there was a talent show, I was going to win 1st place and get the biggest trophy. If there was a play or a musical, I would have the lead or the best solo. Winning was highly encouraged in my home growing up.
When I finished high school and college, I started to hear about youth sports leagues that were not going to keep score anymore, or that gave everyone the same trophy at the end of the season – not based on performance or achievement – just because they didn’t want anyone to feel inferior to someone else. I admit, I am not a psychologist and I have no idea how devastating it could be to an 8 year old if they came in 3rd place compared to 1st place. I guess there are those who would grow up to live in isolation and lack the interpersonal skills to be able to function in an adult world if they were edged out for the MVP of their soccer league at age 11. This whole concept was so foreign to me because of the way that I grew up.
As a young adult, I began working with junior high and high school students, and continued for almost 20 years. These were the very kids that grew up in the “everyone gets a trophy” age. And now, they are known as Gen Y or Millennials. I understand this generation, I believe, much better than most others would because I was so involved with them during those formative years. And now, as the Managing Director and Partner of a recruiting firm in Austin, Texas (Providence Partners), I see exactly how the “let’s not keep score” mindset has impacted their behaviors and thinking.
Employers now have had to change the way that they manager this generation. They’ve had to invest in technologies and tools that allow deeper collaboration and communication. The way recruiting is done is transforming because of some of the impact that the trophy mindset helped to establish. We now have 80 million people in or entering the workforce who have a deep need for immediate and constant reassurance of their value and the approval of the work they are doing. They hunger for quick responsive feedback. They have this need to feel involved in the strategic and inner thinking of an organization and feel that there should be no chain or command…that their ideas and thoughts should be just as valued as the CEO or a VP.
Gen Y or Millennials have this reputation for being uncommitted to their employers and always looking to transition into another job. I can see that and know that it happens. But the companies who have the most success in maintaining their Gen Y workforce are the ones who have adapted their management styles, recruitment strategies, and communication styles to adapt to the way they are wired. In a way, they still expect the trophy at the end of the week – only now it comes in the form of recognition, compliments, reassurance, and feeling valued in the work they do. If you want to see similar results, try making a few adaptations in your approach and see what happens!