I’d Make HR Better By…Dropping The Millennial Stereotypes

Millennial Cat


Over the past few years, the HR blogosphere was littered with posts about millennials, and how managing this segment of the workforce was somehow different than managing any other demographic…WTF?! (It’s a millennial thing)


Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the material that I have come across was penned by people far more educated and experienced than myself and which provided invaluable perspectives on the topics – I respect that, but if it were up to me to make HR better in 2015 and beyond…I’d start by dropping the millennial stereotypes.


I turned 32 this past November, which according to some makes me part of the millennial generation (some use the year 1982 as the start of the generation because of its correlation with the millennial year 2000). As one of the most blogged about topics last year most posts identified a slew of generational stereotypes about millennials currently out there: millennials aren’t loyal, they’re too entitled, and lack the work ethic of some of the older generations at work.


A stereotype is just that and no more…a mere misconceived notion of a group of people (mostly due to the ignorance of others in my opinion). More importantly, my age or my generational background shouldn’t define how I fit into the fabric of an organization; the skills and experience that I bring to the table should.




It’s no secret that the days of employees lasting with a single employer for 20 years are long gone. Today the standard number being floated around is anywhere between 2 to 5 years. But really, someone please tell me how this is a millennial issue? Between our most recent economic recession, recent legislation (i.e. ACA), stagnant wages, and training departments becoming the red-headed step child of HR, how did millennials get blamed for new tenure standards?


Business is business, and the underlying concepts of profitably apply to both internal and external customers, therefore, is it that surprising that employee loyalty has decreased over the years when the cards have been stacked so inequitably against them?


The recession of 2008-2009 turned the labor market into an employer’s market…that was just a reality, wages dropped and the economy went south pretty quick for a whole lot of people. However, what didn’t change was the need for employee’s to earn a living and meet other basic human needs (think Maslow’s Hierarchy). Millenials are no different from any other worker when it comes to this.


Cash isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to employment. A lot of millenials are looking for the same benefits as many other’s in the workforce, personally; I value an employer’s commitment to my personal and professional development when it comes time to commit to a new employment relationship. If, as an employer, you aren’t focusing on a total rewards approach to compensation, millenials won’t be the only ones looking to find greener pastures now-a-days.


Entitled vs. Self-Confident


Critics say that millenials come to the workforce with a sense of entitlement, but I think that they are misreading the cues, and to be completely honest…to some of the older generations: you’re failing to see the result of your parenting.


Growing up, I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be…even the President of the United States (c’mon, really?! A kid from the Lower East Side of New York in the White House…yeah okay mom!), and I’m sure many other kids in my generation were told the same. Heck, even the Army’s slogan going back as early as I could remember was “Be all that you can be.” From a very young age, my generation was taught to be self-confident in their abilities…and many of us approach work with that same mindset.


One of my favorite quotes from the movie Pearl Harbor with Ben Afleck and Josh Hartnett, is when Ben Afleck’s character Rafe McCawley is sent to England during the start of World War II on loan to the British Royal Air Force, and during his initial meeting with his squadron leader, the British officer asks him “Are all Yanks as anxious as you…to get themselves killed, Pilot Officer?” McCawley (Afleck) responds “not anxious to die, sir. Just anxious to matter.”


I think that being “anxious to matter” is a perfect embodiment of the very mindset that my generational colleagues bring to the workforce. For most it’s not selfish or narcissistic (although there may be some of that involved), rather; it’s self-confidence in our ability to integrate ourselves within the fabric of our chosen employers or even professions and help contribute to the organizational success of the aforementioned.


But hey, nothing in this world is free…and if I’m going to bust my hump, hell yeah I expect to be recompensed accordingly…does that make me entitled?


This Isn’t Your Grandad’s Work Environment Anymore!


Hands down…my favorite crock about millenials is their lack of a good work ethic. The question to be asked is “what is a good work ethic?” Is it staying past 5PM at the office everyday? Working weekends? Holidays? Having multiple jobs? Sadly, the answer is a lot of different things to different people.


What all of us share in common today is how our work is completed…which has changed tremendously over the past two decades. Advances in technology such as email, video conference calls/webinars, mobile technology and much more have really impacted how our current generation “get’s things done.” What’s wrong with that? Am I any less efficient if I send an email from home as opposed to the office?


As an employee…I value my time away from work – it’s time that I use to continue my personal and professional development outside of work, it’s time I spend with my wife and our toddler twins, but most importantly it’s time that I use to recharge in order to be at my best day in and day out. I embrace the fact that technology really allows me to complete the same amount of work if not more without being in an office from sun up to sun down. Do you really want me to become that grumpy old guy who’s always at work? – I didn’t think so either.


So, what would you do to make HR better?!


Categories: Human Resources

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3 replies

  1. Fantastic post Ernie – I concur and wrote on the ‘biology’ of this just recently. It’s really nonsense to think of genetic change across 20 years and you nailed it. Thin slicing of our lives is something we must all deal with. I’m glad we’ve connected.


    • Peter, I’m also glad we connected. I couldn’t agree more, as an employee segment millennials aren’t different from any other generational segment in the workforce. My biggest hope for this post was for readers to understand that we have the same drivers and motivators as anyone else…so no special plan, studies, or anything else are needed to figure out how to manage a millennial in the workplace. Thanks again for your insights!

      Liked by 1 person


  1. Carnival of HR: Make HR Better Edition !! | Everyday People

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