I find it funny how much disagreement there is about the generation most commonly knows as the Millennials. The professional world is still trying to figure out whether this group of young people is worth the hassle! Ministries wonder if they make good volunteers.
What about you? Would you want them on your team?
Millennials, also know as Gen Y, born roughly between 1980 and mid to late 90’s (that means they are roughly between the ages of 16 to 32 right now, but most often refers to college students and young professionals), are often known for their attitude of entitlement, their lackadaisical prowess, and their dire need for a wireless connection. They’ve been described as narcissistic, uncommitted and ultimately unreliable.
Is this stigma fair?
As a guy who spends a good part of my week researching youth culture, attitudes and trends, I often find myself going to bat for this age group. Recently, a friend of mine read me a paragraph from a well-known Christian book about emerging adulthood, and I heard much of the same descriptors: lazy, uncaring, selfish. I can’t say that I agreed with much. I constantly come across research to the contrary about this generation who, in a recent study by Metlife, was 8 percent more likely than the general population to work extra hours and take a second job.
My dad and I have spent quite a bit of time studying this age group for our seminars about volunteerism, detailing a lot of our findings in THE NEW BREED, our book about recruiting, training, and even firing today’s volunteers. We find GEN Y precarious at times, and definitely fragile… but well worth it.
Maybe some of us are critical because we don’t understand them. Half of them would choose a smartphone rather than a car. No, seriously. An automotive analyst for Gartner did a study on 18-24 year olds, summarizing, “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of Today.” That’s the thing about this generation. They will wow you one moment, and then leave you scratching your heads the next.
Funny… I was just sticking up for Gen Y this week, citing new research about how involved they are in social issues, and how their tech-savvy minds stretch us to think outside the box. Then just this morning I received an email from a youth worker who is bringing me out to teach a workshop to a bunch of Gen Y volunteers. They asked if I could move the workshop from 9AM to 10AM because 9AM is too early.
Soooooo Gen Y.
Ya gotta love em’…or you’ll probably shoot em.’
My dad just wrote an article titled, Why Are We Dissing Gen Y Volunteers When They Have So Much to Offer? in that article he quotes the head of human resources for a large corporation:
“You are not going to diss on Gen Y are you? We are getting so tired of people tearing them down. If you are going to do that, we don’t want you to speak to our group because we are finding that they are some of our best workers. They are creative, hard working and energetic compared to the cynical long-term employees who are just marking time until they can retire.”
We were glad to hear someone stick up for that group. He was pretty excited to hear that we were pro-Gen-Y. (In the article, my dad goes on to cite an MSN article describing Gen Y’s workplace strengths, according to a CareerBuilder writer. Fascinating stuff.)
Today another article dropped in my inbox (ht to Ypulse.com) about GEN Y, comparing their work ethic to Gen X (my generation). In this article, the author argues that Millennials want what she called “Work-Life Blending,” compared to Gen X, who wanted work-life balance:
Gen X workers introduced the mantra of work-life balance. They wanted their employers to give them flexibility in their job so they could still devote time to their families and personal wellbeing. Millennials have morphed that idea into work-life blending. Instead of switching between professional mode to personal mode like Gen Xers, Millennials are always in both.
At work, Millennials want to have the freedom to access social networks, take personal calls, chat with friends via IM, use their own tech devices, etc. Outside the office, they’ll take work calls at home, check their work email as often as their personal email (even during off hours), and view coworkers as friends. (Click here for the rest of that article from Ypulse).
Gen Y is definitely a mixed can of nuts.
But I always say, when life gives you peanuts, make peanut brittle. (Okay… I actually have never said that… until now.)
What has your experience been?
What has your experience been with this younger generation of teenagers, college students and 20-somethings who seem like they have to check their Facebook status from their smartphone every 8 minutes? Are they your next volunteer… your next employee? What have you learned managing this bunch?