The Millennials Are Coming! (So What?)

There is so much written about the Millennials entering the workforce and what it means for companies looking to hire the best talent.


If we took all of the conventional wisdom and put it together to create the ideal work environment for Millennials, the average workplace would resemble that summer you spent living with your parents right after college: Sitting on the couch in your pajamas, dog at your feet, wasting time on a shiny gadget while your mom told you how proud she is of you.

Current opinion paints Millennials as a vast sea of self-indulgent, perma-children who must be catered to at every turn. I seem to recall my generation (X) being painted with a similar brush. Guess what? We grew up. And so will the Millennials. If I was a CEO using current opinion on the matter to shape my Millennial strategy, everyone who works for me would be their own boss, have unlimited “creativity” time, be told how great they are doing three times a day, work from home, and deliver all their work via 140 characters on their smartphone. I would also have each and every one of them come into my office twice a day to tell me how much better at my job they would be.

For some reason we have been duped into thinking that this generation is somehow vastly different from all the ones that came before it. The only concrete difference that truly exists is that they are young. Just like the Xers were young, and the Boomers were young. Every generation was young once. Millennials are in the workforce at this very moment, and are being creative, productive members of society without having to turn the Fortune 500 into a cabal of overpriced daycare centers.

It just so happens that Millennials are young during a time when mobile and social technologies are exploding, so we somehow equate the technology with the generation. When the Internet became more ubiquitous while Generation X was young, there was similar hand-wringing over engaging these new workers. But the Internet is a technology for everyone, not just Xers. Exactly the same way that, even though kids think they have cornered the mobile device market, every segment of the workforce is using them. Smartphones and tablets are native to Millennials, and some Millennials may be more adept at using the devices than their older counterparts, but they certainly are not the only people with their noses buried in a mobile device most of the day.

So when you are developing a strategy around new learning technologies, don’t focus too hard on catering to Millennials. Mobile and social technologies have the potential to round out an effective learning strategy without becoming gimmicky and a waste of time. I’ve done some informal research in this area, and while every single Millennial I’ve spoken with is addicted to their phone and some form of social media, none of them say that they want their work environment to mirror that. Work is work, home is home.

The key is to create a strategy that incorporates these new technologies in a way that makes learning engaging across the entire organization – including Millennials, but not exclusive to them. A strategy that caters to a group of potential workers that may or may not exist is bound to fall flat with the very people it is targeting while simultaneously alienating everyone else.

David Wentworth, Senior Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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