Millennials are not from Mars

Paul Nolan

Can we dial it back on the “what millennials want” talk?

You can’t pick up a magazine (we’re guilty) or attend a trade show these days without running into yet another discussion on the likes and dislikes of people born between 1982 and 2002 (the officially unofficial definition of millennials).

They like free snacks at work. Who doesn’t?

They need regular naps. Again, who doesn’t?

They want to learn job skills quickly and advance even quicker.

Enough already!

I recently sat in on a discussion group about how to manage millennials at a conference in which the group of about 35 was a mixture of millennials and baby boomers. You would have thought we were talking about the care and feeding of the mountain pygmy possum. (For the record, the pygmy mouse is the only Australian mammal that lives in alpine environments. But the small creature has been declining as its habitat is severely fragmented or destroyed by various construction projects and ski resorts. I’ll bet millennials like ski resorts...but only if they offer free snacks.)

I walked away from this 30-minute cram session on how to manage millennials more confident than ever that we’re buying into the stereotypes of the differences between the generations far too much.

An appreciation of better work/life balance is something that has emerged across all generations as technological advancements have made it more possible. Same goes for flexible schedules and working whenever the creative juices flow the most.

This is on my mind not only because the chatter is so pervasive in publications and industry events, but also because of our cover story in this issue on how to motivate workers without making Wells Fargonian (if I can coin a term) mistakes.

A lot is made of the younger set’s appetite for feedback (just be sure some of it is positive) and their preference for experiences over cash. I would argue that a large percentage of us across multiple generations have become more aware of the relative brevity of life and the importance of tallying up memories outside of the office.

Look, I love millennials as much as the next boomer. I raised three of them. I just don’t buy that their values are completely foreign and that we need a crew of social psychologists to figure them out.