I’m not too sure about the whole idea of supposing one generation has a distinct set of characteristics as compared to another one. It seems to be the fashionable thing to do, and it generates an awful lot of column inches – more, in my view, than the idea deserves.
Recently I came across this open letter from a Millennial to the world’s employers: Why Millennials Keep Dumping You: An Open Letter to Management .
Have a read of it. I’m not convinced that the things this correspondent wants are especially ‘Millennial’. In fact, to bracket them as such does them a disservice. I think she is surfacing issues that apply to the entire workforce – particularly the issues around meaningfulness, which are incredibly stark.
Here’s why I think meaningfulness is on people’s minds (not just those of Millennials). The world is changing so quickly that what is true today may not be true tomorrow. There’s so little security that our sense of there being things we can rely on has been enormously undermined – and that sense is a big part of meaningfulness. There is so much spin and there are so many people talking inauthentically and they are doing it in our faces via our social media apps.
So why would a Millennial – or indeed anyone – give their full, unwavering commitment to a role when that role may not be around for very long (either because the company fails or the role itself is modified by the company, responding to the world’s speed of change)?
And why would they see much point giving themselves wholeheartedly to the business if they just don’t particularly buy what you’re selling? They know what other companies are like (Glassdoor) and they know what sort of messaging they are OK with, simply through having been saturated by messaging (it is all around them). Thanks to the modern voice of advertising, people are wise to the way that companies try to make friends with them now – and you are a company.
There’s only so much you can do about this, but being level with people is one of them. So is making a real effort to be authentic and to recognise and call out spin when you see it at work in your business.
So many voices are vying to be the voice of reason. The voice of reason that makes people buy something. Bear that in mind when thinking about the messaging at your business. People have heard it all before. Or have they? Can you make it all add up?
You probably can’t woo message-weary employees with your culture. ‘Starting with why’ won’t guarantee that people stay. Ultimately they know that you’re trying to make money out of them. If you want their buy-in, don’t expect their buy-in. Be pleasantly surprised if you get it. And you might just get it by treating them as individuals, individuals with no great personal connection to your company and its ‘culture’.