Editor’s note: Examiner editor Jeff Fox and reporter/web content producer Kara Lewis attended a local event last week with a presentation on America’s different generations and how they function in the workplace. The comment set off a good deal of analysis and discussion.
I’m used to being The Examiner’s resident millennial. This manifests itself in many ways: I actually care about my horoscope, Los Lobos references fly over my head and I’ve offered to start a company Instagram. I can often be found microwaving popcorn or sneaking away to UpDog for cheese fries because I hate to cook, much to my editor’s chagrin. At staff meetings, I make everyone feel old with the cheeky reminder that I was born in 1995.
Above all, you’d know I’m a millennial because I’m tired of the constant criticism directed at my generation, especially in the form of backhanded compliments and jokes. The discussion of how to communicate with different generations in the workforce at the Blue Springs chamber luncheon only fueled this irritation. I heard millennials are outspoken, so here’s my response to some of the presentation’s tips – along with real advice of how to talk productively to millennial employees (so they don’t subtweet you, of course).
According to the presentation, millennials – the “participation trophy generation,” insert laugh here – crave constant feedback, but only if it’s positive. My advice: Unpack this joke and reflect on what a participation trophy really symbolizes. For me, the forgotten softball figurines illustrate effort, willingness to show up again and again, even if I wasn’t the best. I point out this trait in every cover letter: eagerness to learn.
Have open, constructive conversations with your millennial employees by recognizing this work ethic and then shifting to needed improvements.
The presentation also criticized millennials for job-hopping and always focusing on what’s next. I can’t deny this. Forbes reported that 60 percent of millennials describe themselves as open to a new job opportunity, and 21 percent switched jobs in 2016.
During the recession, many people in my generation watched their parents get laid off despite lifelong company loyalty. Now, a decade later, we consistently hear that the job market is good for us, because employers can hire us at lower salaries. U.S. student loan statistics reveal the average student loan debt for a 2017 graduate rang in at $39,400 – and these graduates enter a job market that smells this vulnerability and desperation, often with no regards to us as individuals.
If you want a millennial employee to value your company, lead by example. Show them you care about them. Ask them about their hobbies and values. Listen to their goals, engage their ambitions and help them find room to grow with the company, not away from it.
Call me a snowflake or tell me I’m “triggered.” But in my opinion, this advice will help you relate to all employees, not just millennials, more compassionately.