Working With the Next Generation

What does the work world think of this next generation (looking at the 17-35 year olds out there) coming into the work place? You don’t need a study or poll to tell you that the majority of them consider the group to be over educated, addicted to technology, entitled ‘kids’, who expect to be hired into high level positions and advance immediately. I hear all the time that ‘no one wants to work anymore’, or ‘they want to make six figures to play on social media’, or ‘they wasted money on a fancy degree’, or ‘they have no experience/they don’t know the real world.’ It comes from all different industries too. I hear these same types of comments from people in the trades, financial industries, health care, and manufacturing. Could it really be that the group of people entering the work force and rising up in it really are as bad as they’re made out to be?

Now by pure survey, I must be wrong because I am always out voted but let’s just pretend for argument sake that I am right. This group doesn’t look for a stable job that pays a fair wage and offers comparable benefits. They see these things as tent stakes that should be a given for any employer and they are looking for more. They are looking to make an impact both at the company and in the world. They are looking to actually balance work and life, bringing their best to both, rather than to one or the other. They are willing to hustle and work long hours in one season if they can see a need and that it won’t last forever. This group of people have actually found a way to know their self worth, highlight and support their passions, and do so in a way that provides innovative solutions to the companies they work for. What I’ve seen first hand from this demographic is that they are incredibly driven on things that are important to them and need help with the structure and guidance on how the mundane affects the bigger goal. We know how to create structure. Heck, creating structure is what the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers are all about! Reframing that perspective actually makes the ‘kids’ sound like employees we’d be searching after right? If we looked at it that way we’d want to bring them in in droves. We could help them connect the dots to why our companies fit their missions and engage them in work that feels critical to advancing their passions.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on

Oh wait, that flipped the script, we tell them why our company is right for them and not ask them to justify why they are right for us? Yes, connect those dots. Think about it. If you have a teacher who understood social media and was motivated to love on students, couldn’t you engage them in building an antibullying movement for your school or district? If you had a construction worker who was creative and passionate about the environment, couldn’t you engage them in decreasing the amount of waste materials on the job site and training others to do the same? If you had a life insurance salesperson who was an advocate for whole health couldn’t you engage them in campaigns to promote health and wellness to your policy holders? If you had people working with you in any sector that had a strong understanding of social media and how marketing and organizing on those platforms works couldn’t you engage them to use that to advance the business through advertising, sharing customer feedback, and broadening your network? If their strengths are to be creative, connect people, drive toward a higher purpose and yours are to technical skills built through experience in your industry and an understanding of the structure and business side, you could certainly work well with them. That combination could be unstoppable.

These are ways to bring them in and to keep them with you and advancing to get to that ‘unstoppable’ place but you do have to flip your script. You do have to look at it from a standpoint of selling to them how your company is advancing in local and universal movements. You do have to truly respect and encourage them to have lives apart from work. You do have to find ways for them to fuel their passions through work. Gone are the days where people just come in and do their job every day for 30 years, and you know what, that is a good thing! Leading these ‘kids’ well brings about innovation, more ideas, improved results, and so much more. They will no longer just ‘do the job’ they’ll find a way to blow the job out of the water which will have a lasting impact even if they’re only in the role for a few years. Reframe your perspective and stretch your own strengths, and you’ll find an incredible asset in this new and emerging workforce.

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