Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coping with Millennials


By now you are probably familiar with the term "Millennials" or "Gen Y" - these are young people from about 8-30 years old. If you are not, here are some links:

As I read about this upcoming generation, I am reminded of a comment made by a boss I once had. He said that the new employee Sam, "wanted to start at the top and work his way up".

Part of me is rather unsympathetic to this new generation and thier expectations. But as a business owner, we have to come to grips with them. I could of course hire only people over the age of 30 (inverting the old 60's adage to 'never trust anyone over 30'), and I could sell my products only to older people.

For those who don't want to pursue the above course w e should ask ourselves: what do I need/want from that group of people and how can I get it?

From the employee side, I need to hire the best people I can find. And many of the younger generation have valuable skills that can be useful. First, remember that even within the generation there are outliers - there are young people who won't quit at the first chance to go tubing in Chile. Second, don't forget Joel Spolsky's adage to hire "smart people who get things done". Even if the person in front of you has very different expectations, if you two can negotiate a win-win situation, it could be very productive.

Yet, these different expectations of the younger generation should cause you to ask questions like "is it more important that their body is here from 8-5, or that the work gets done" or "why should my best employees stay working here". I believe that in trying to answer these types of questions, you will be able to better handle all the employees and customers you can gain.

From the customer side, it is much more difficult. Depending on your product or service, you may have a hard time reaching them. If you sell expensive watches, what will be the effect of young people no longer using watches (they use their cell phone to tell the time!) My brother, who is a creative designer, wears interesting watches that are more jewelry or statement than they are watches, since his computer, phone, ipod all tell him the actual time.

You might want to hire 'one of them' to help you market to 'them'. But what happens when she says you need to change the way you are selling your products or marketing or even the products you stock - then what?

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