Millennial Myths

16 Apr

Last month, I recommended that organizations seeking growth from innovation should “Overdose on Youth” to give them a performance enhancing boost. The response to the charge to load up on smart, talented, energetic young people was met with skepticism and anecdotes about the needy and narcissistic Millennial Generation that want everything and are not truly committed to the organization.

Then along comes an article in the latest issue of Strategy + Business by Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership titled “Five Millennial Myths”. It lends my position some weight using empirical research into the behaviors and beliefs of those in the millennial generation. Ms. Deal found that the stereotypes are “inconsistent at best and destructive at worst.” At 2 ½ pages, you should read the entire article, but here are the five myths she identifies:

#1 Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. This proved to be flat out wrong, the young people of this generation turn out to be much more willing to defer to authority than Boomers or Gen Xers (try telling me what to do). The research says that they want to know what the expectations are at work.

#2 Millennials lack organizational loyalty. The fact is that each generation has historically changed jobs more frequently when they were in their 20s than they do later in life. Young people are looking for jobs that help them learn. When they switch it is not due to a lack of loyalty, but a yearning to grow through challenging experiences.

#3 Millennials aren’t interested in their work. No one of any generation is motivated to do the boring work that gets pushed down to lower levels. Don’t assume that younger people are not able to take on meaningful tasks. Find the superstars that are capable of doing more and whip the fast horses. If some portion of their job doesn’t captivate their imagination, you deserve to lose them.

#4 Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay. The extensive research showed no difference between generations. Yes, when you are younger and making less money, you are likely to be slightly more motivated by extrinsic rewards, but pay and perks are not going to engender loyalty.

#5 Millennials want more work-life balance. This is somewhat accurate, but is likely the result of a societal shift and related to life-stage than generation. Millennials want the flexibility to make their contributions and enjoy life at the same time. Work is more integrated into life than ever before.

This research gives me the opportunity to reiterate my recommendation to pack your organization with talented people under the age of 30. Make sure that they have interesting work to do and the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. You will reap tremendous rewards from their contributions. Youth is like an innovation performance enhancing drug that will make the pulse of your organization beat a lot faster if taken in large quantities. I am sticking by my advice to overdose.

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