I am Generation X (if a generation really can define a person). Born between the Baby Boomers before me and Generation Ys after, in a group that is smaller than both. Working for a communications strategy firm while in graduate school, my boss told me that my generation was technologically astute, individualistic, cynical, and had a healthy disdain for authority. And this guy liked me. Sound familiar?
I remembered this experience last week while reading the umpteenth article about the new Gen X — Generation Y (aka Millennials).
Every day, it seems like someone else chimes in on the generation that came of age in 2000. This is largely because Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.
I have noticed some curious trends about how Millennials are discussed. Articles lately are used to talk about them — not directly to them. “Millennials are reshaping the workplace,” one report says. “Millennials have taken over the American workforce,” warns this Fortune magazine headline.
Some articles express concern about how Millennials want to work. They present Millennials as a singular group of children who must be appeased. If we, as employers, do not deliver “what they really want,” it is implied that our own businesses will suffer.
I understand why employers worry about this. Finding, hiring, and retaining top talent is a challenge. But I would like to propose a slightly different question to you today.
How do Millennials want to work? Perhaps the better question is, who cares?
I do not say this to be flippant or dismissive. I say it because I know Millennials want to work hard and will exceed expectations when they are provided a framework for success and respected — just like any previous generation before them.
We have several Millennials on our team at Aha! today. They are crucial members of our team whom we value not just for what they do, but also who they are. They matter just as much as our Gen X and Baby Boomer team members — and we give everyone bold goals and the support to be their best.
Ultimately, we spend our time creating the best possible culture for all of our team members. Regardless of their age.
Here is what works for us — all of us:
Work From Anywhere
People are the most important part of any business. And sometimes the best person for the job might live in a different city. So we made a decision early on at Aha! to build a distributed company — our team has the freedom to work from anywhere in the US. We use new tools that help us collaborate and be more productive as a remote team. This allows our team to work when and where they are most productive.
Build What Matters
Each person at your company plays a unique and important role. And one of the greatest motivators for any employee is to see how their work is part of the big picture. By having a strategy, setting goals, and sharing them openly, you ensure that everyone is working on what really matters. It creates a sense of unity that transcends age — and helps your whole team prioritize work that will add the most business value.
Life is work, and work is life. They cannot be separated since we toil for everything that is meaningful to us — including our relationships with those whom we love. Everything worth having in life involves work. That is why we believe at Aha! that people are most fulfilled when they are able to integrate life with work — not see them as mutually exclusive. This is something that everyone deserves — not just members of a single generation.
The recent Millennial uproar is ironic — because it is really nothing new at all. There have been generational differences in the workforce since the beginning of time.
That is why the intense focus on Millennials amuses me. Organizational development gurus talk about them as a collective problem to be managed (or freed depending on the guru) — not valued contributors who will grow based on what they contribute.
Somehow, the world’s biggest companies survived past generational differences. So, why do we treat Millennials as a new animal in the workplace?
Are Millennials something new?