Managing Millennials: First Decide If They Are Strivers or Slackers

Carl Weinschenk

Dennis Howlett has an interesting post at ZDNet. The bottom line is that he disagrees with the assessment that Millennials look at social tools as the key to their satisfaction with their jobs. This is how Howlett puts it:

I have had this argument with many 'social anything' promoters and the question I always raise is: 'When people come into a particular company, what are they really looking for?' I get a multitude of answers but they almost always center around the idea that somehow, people want to replicate their private lives through access to social tools, they want drop dead simple solutions with which to do their job all wrapped up in a great company culture that values ongoing learning. I argue this is the wrong answer.

This is his take on what is key for these young workers:

Instead, I argue that new hires want exactly what I see in this chart — a great salary and the opportunity to progress (i'e.[sic] enhance position and paycheck.) They may think that what the social crowd says is what they'll get but that doesn't happen in the real world. It is only as people get older that they value things like work life balance more than other factors.

Howlett’s analysis is based on a self-selecting poll at LinkedIn. Obviously, that suggests that it is best used as a broad indicator rather than a precise measure. That said, his point is a good one: Kids entering the work force are interested in making as much money as possible to move away from mom and dad and repay student loans, among other things. The better they are at the job, the more likely they are to move up and make a bit more. Therefore, they are not interested in making waves.

The juxtaposition Howlett makes is against the marketing position that Millennials care first and foremost about integrating their work and private lives. The thinking on this end of the spectrum is that the kids are so tech-savvy that they won’t suffer with the foolish businesses that only use email, don’t take advantage of BYOD platforms or in other ways still are stuck in the Jurassic period.

There is a lot to Howlett’s point. The clarification that I would make — and one with which Howlett would not necessarily disagree — is that the opinion that social networking at work is the most important thing for a Millennial is a sales pitch. Most of the people putting that point of view forward have a rooting interest in that being the reality.

The other side of the coin suggests that Millennials are different. This post at Inc., written by Mayra Jimenez, doesn’t deal with technology specifically, but it is pretty easy to see where it would fit in. Jimenez — who co-owns a swimwear company with her husband — is young herself.

Her post essentially is a list of complaints against Millennials. She believes they are spoiled (though she doesn’t use that word), unreliable and erratic. This of course directly contradicts Howlett’s assumption — and those revealed in the survey — that youngsters just want a good salary and a chance to advance. It may be that those who took the survey (youngsters who have bothered to register with LinkedIn and chose to respond to the survey) and folks who work for Jimenez are different subgroups of Millennials.

Whatever the reality, Red Alert Politics reproduces and describes an infographic put together by The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, the Young Entrepreneurs Council and its #FixYoungAmerica campaign on how to manage Millennials. It doesn’t say if they are addressing strivers or slackers.



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