Do you ever catch yourself doing or saying something that your parents used to do or say that drove you crazy? My dad used to used whistle while he was driving…all the time…non-stop. It would drive me insane! Now, I often find myself driving down the road, listening to some tunes, whistling away – and then I sense it, my 16 year old daughter is glaring at me like she wants to punch me in the face if I don’t stop immediately. I still mow the lawn the way my mom wanted it done when I was a kid. There are so many elements of what I do from leadership to the way I approach each day to the way that I treat other people that I picked up from my younger days. It molded me and shaped my thinking.
Of course there are some ways that I have progressed as well in my approach. Technology is one of the primary culprit in those changes, but not all of them. The world that I have lived in and have grown up in has played a major role in what I do, how I do it, how I interact with others, who and what I trust in, and the expectations that I have established in my mind. This is nothing new. It’s always been this way, and my guess is that it will always be that way.
Consider the Baby Boomers
They grew up during a transitional phase in our history. They were born after World War II during a time when America flourished and developed, and in many ways, ruled the world! But they were also impacted greatly by The Great Depression, when families lost everything they had and employment was at a premium. When you consider this generation, some of the commonalities would include:
- Extremely hard working – the term “workaholics” was created for them
- Motivated by prestige and high ranking positions
- Defined themselves by their work and accomplishments
- They are self-reliant, independent, confident, dedicated, passionate, and resourceful
- They were slow to change jobs because they were thankful just to have a job
- They think other generations lack work ethic and commitment
Consider the Millennials
They have also grown up during a transitional phase in our history. They are the first to have the internet available to them every day of their lives. If you consider what an overwhelming impact the internet has had on the way businesses operate, is it any wonder that it has also impacted an entire generation and how they see and communicate with the world around them?
Prior to the internet, kids would grow up in a town – maybe a small town – that had one main employer. Dad worked there. Granddad worked there. Great granddad worked there. Uncle worked there. Brother worked there. Where do you think the next person in the family was going to work? There! But with the internet available to us, the world is available to us. We no longer just hear about an opening at the local employer, we can see job openings all over the world. We can upload a resume. We can video interview without ever having to leave home. It made the pool of possibilities endless.
It also makes us dream bigger. Prior to the internet, that person looking for a job was maybe saying to himself, “If I come in and take this job, work hard, do what’s right – maybe in a few years I can be a supervisor. Then maybe, by the time I’m my dad’s age, I can be a manager or run a division.” But now, we see people like Mark Zuckerberg create something like Facebook and he was in college. We see high school kids writing code and creating new technologies. They are no longer thinking, well, maybe I’ll be a division manager one day. They’re thinking, “I can be rich. I can start the next big thing!”
Leadership has this assumption of Millennials that they are not committed and aren’t worth a heavy investment to recruit them. I’m not so sure that this is true. Think of the day and age where they have entered the workforce. These are not stable times. They see instability all around them – well known companies going under, start-ups flourishing, massive mergers and buy-outs, and I just think the landscape is fast moving and ever changing…so they have adapted to it. They are playing by the rules that have been displayed for them.
They have grown up in an incentivized world where you get reward points, and frequent customer rewards, and so on. They desire this in their employment as well. Remember, this is the group where everyone got a trophy or ribbon on the athletic field.
The world that all of us have grown up in truly has impacted us and molded our thinking and the way that we go about our careers and lives. I wonder what our smallest kids now are being taught and how it will shape and mold their thinking and behaviors 20 years from now? It’s an interesting question…but I guess we just have to wait and see the answers.