Just for clarity purposes, I am a Gen X guy born in 1970.
I have been aware of Generationalists for a while now and have generally understood the principles behind it and the general habits or preferences each generation appear to display.
But in recent times I have not felt overly comfortable about how Millennials have been portrayed.
To be a Millennial you need to have been born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials were previously known as Gen Y., so over the last 20 years or so Millennials have been entering the workplace and have increasing buying power, in fact by 2020 according to the Financial Times and Forbes Millennials will be the generation with the biggest buying power.
About 4 or 5 years ago I attended a conference in the USA where the keynote speaker was a celebrated Generationalist whose specialized generation was Millennials, in fact, he was a Millennial himself.
He was an extremely engaging speaker, very humorous and poked fun at the audience who were made up mainly of Gen X or Baby Boomers.
At that time, I was not managing a big team of people (only 1 who also was a Millennial!) So the ‘bad’ news he was telling us about Millennials as employees or customers didn’t concern me so much, but it did scare me as I wondered do I really want to manage team in the future which will be full of these difficult Millennials or do I want to manage a business that would reply on their custom?
The keynote speaker told us that Millennials are –
- Don’t read
- Never answer emails
- Are experienced led, in fact, if you don’t sign their leave form to go to a festival they will resign and go anyway!
- Hate rules
- Are needy
- Are tech-dependent
- Are not loyal to companies or brands
- Are more interested in the packaging than the product
- Won’t buy long-term products, they rather lease and have the funds available to purchase more experiences
- And are extremely expecting
My god, I thought these will be tough people to please and manage.
Fast forward 5 years and here I am leading a team of Millennials and about to open a new club to a customer base of which a good percentage will be Millennials
During the previous 5 years, I saw a lot of articles and bad press on Millennials. If I were one I would have been offended! and in my impression, it wasn’t true.
This got me thinking and I now have a couple of theories –
- You cannot blame a generation for the circumstances they are born into. For sure they will be a little tech depended because we live in a tech world? Aren’t we all? I’m a Gen X er and need my wifi connection as much as the Millennial. The youngest Millennials were 10-11 years old when the first I-phone was introduced. Doing business through platforms such as Whatsapp is now common practice. How many e-mails did the average Manager receive in the 90’s compared to today? Further, you cannot blame them for being experience led, there is just so much more out there to do, cheaper travel, better marketing more companies going after your disposable income, I would have been the same in my youth if so much were on offer then.
- Almost all of the information and data on Millennials is coming out of middle / upper-class America. This segment of society is so structured and so prescribed that it is quite understandable that the Millennials in the USA are like the keynote speaker describes. Studies on Millennials in Asia paints a very different picture. Confident and determined. Maybe to do with the single child policy in China?
I sent my Millennials a 16-question questionnaire by email, which they read! and responded to and I gathered some fascinating information.
Here are some of the findings from my survey of ‘the rest of the world Millennials’
- They don’t think their opinion is the most important
- They like to read and a high percentage read for pleasure
- Tech is important to them
- They are constantly looking for career enhancement
- They are loyal to brands, but it’s the best product, not the best packaging!
- Contrary to popular belief they are not overly experience led and this certainly doesn’t rate higher than owning assets
- In fact, they do have a concern for the future and don’t just live for the moment
- Most were comfortable in work and social environment without the need for devices
- When asked about how long they feel they need to be with a company to show loyalty it averaged 3 – 5 years
- When asked when they think they will retire most were around 60 / 65 … are we programmed to think that way? Funnily enough, the two people (youngest) with the least responsibility – no wife, no kids expect to retire before 50 … they’ll learn!!
- Most feel they will retire richer than their parents and are optimistic about the future for their kids
- On average they think 5 years is long enough in one job
- And as to how many careers they will have in their lifetime they think around 3 – 4, which is half of what is commonly reported.
- When asked about brand loyalty we had zero to 10 years, the 10 years was a tech company! The zero just stated ‘my need is more important than my likes’
- When asked about attention span we had: easily sidetracked, 5 minutes, an hour and a great quote,’ very good playing golf has helped me to maintain focus for long periods of time!’
- When asked if they read long emails or just skim over, 90% said they read long emails
- Interestingly when asked the preferred medium of communication I was pleasantly surprised
- In 3rd place – Whatsapp
- In 2nd place – Email
- In 1st place – Face to face – this was great news to me!
Finally, when posed with the question I am more likely to resign from ‘a bad company with a good manager’ or ‘a bad manager in a good company’ 82% would leave the bad manager.
“They [millennial workforce] want to feel deeply committed to their role and to work for a manager who invests in their development”. (Rigoni et al 2016)
My overall conclusion from the survey was that the RoW Millennials are normal functioning human beings who have really the same wants and needs of people from previous generations. A safe fair work environment. A craving to do well for themselves, their employer and their family.
The ROW Millennials are great well-rounded people who are passionate about contributing to the success of the company. For sure they have certain generation nuances but none to the level that is portrayed by some reports.
So how do you manage Millennials? I don’t think there is a magic formula, you can look back in time to some classic management theories.
I refer back to a workshop the Club Managers Association of Europe did back in 2017 where a group of Certified Club Managers explored the Best Management style for the future and in doing so reviewed some theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McGregor’s Theory X and Y and Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory.
The conclusion of the workshop was that the right management style for the future that engages and motivates employees is – an approach of a collaborative, communicative nature where the manager is now seen as a coach and mentor.
A majority of colleagues, old and new, should understand the role and be equipped with the skills to perform their duties. (click here for the full CMAE CCM white paper)
Millennials enter the workplace usually far more qualified than their senior bosses, have so much information at their fingertips and they know how to access it.
And a desire to change the old ways of doing things. Add this to motivation and you have some great assets on your team…. So, don’t get in their way they can do some great things.
As Steve Jobs said – ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do’.
Finally, I pose one question – Is the golf industry keeping up to speed with other industries on how millennials and Gen Z’s are managed?
This is why I love millennials and you should too!
Thank you to my team of Millennials for responding to my random questionnaire and most, in particular, our Director of Golf Rhys Beecher who added some great additional insight to this article.