Millennials dispel spoiled reputation

At nearly every gathering of pros in my age group (let's just say 40-somethings), I hear the same lament, "What about the younger staff? They just don't work like we did, do they? Such an attitude of ... entitlement."

At nearly every gathering of pros in my age group (let's just say 40-somethings), I hear the same lament, "What about the younger staff? They just don't work like we did, do they? Such an attitude of ... entitlement."

I'll admit my first inclination was to agree. Working long hours was the badge of honor when I started in the '80s. But I thought about my younger colleagues at Capstrat and realized every one of them works as hard, if not harder, than I do. They pay attention to details that I no longer want to address. They take direction well, biting their tongues when necessary. They tolerate the technical ineptitude of colleagues who resist instant messaging and still watch television on a television.

So, as an old-school TV junkie, I watched, with interest a 60 Minutes report on Millennials last month. These young people, born between 1980 and 2000, are the generation doted on by their parents, constantly told they were special, and rewarded for simply showing up. They were shuttled from activity to activity - soccer to music lessons to tennis. They never had to get a part-time job. Supposedly they are delaying adulthood.
Half of them move back home after college. They need classes to teach them the basics of work - being on time, office manners, and even hiding their tattoos and body piercings.

If the 25 or so Millennials at Capstrat are any indication of the rest of their cohort, I say bring them on. They are major contributors to our company's success. Maybe the variety of activities their parents overscheduled is why they are so open to learning new tasks. They don't say, "I've never done this before." They figure out how to do it - usually adding a new approach in the process.

There's no need to worry about whether they are interested in paying their dues to get to the next rung on the corporate ladder. For this generation it doesn't seem to be about brown-nosing the higher ups. What I see are professionals who truly work diligently and do a great job just because that's what you do. Could it be that showing up for them has always meant playing hard - not just giving extra effort when someone is watching?

Maybe the fact that everybody got a trophy at the end of the season has something to do with why they work so well together. They tend to watch out for each other rather than let a coworker come up short. They are multicultural and inclusive. They favor collaboration over advancing their own agenda. This group, also known as the Digital Generation, is self-sufficient in and ready to embrace new technology tools.

A quick scan down Capstrat's employee roster shows that about one-third of our staff is Millennials. It is the fastest growing group in our company, outnumbering Boomers and closing ranks on our Generation X staffers. One of the keys to our future has to be tapping into the talents and work ethic of this generation. We need to find ways to inspire and capture innovation while creating diverse opportunities that appeal to their curiosity and world view.

Karen Albritton is an EVP at Capstrat.


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