“Hating Millennials is all the rage these days. One need not look far to find some article complaining about how members of that odious generation, defined usually as those born in the period from the early 1980s to the late 1990s are lazy, distracted, technology-obsessed, privacy-averse, unemployed, socialist, or whatever other defect or trend a deadline-facing, click-driven online content generator has to write about that day. They’re also destroying just about everything, from mayonnaise to Hooters and everything in between.” (from Everybody Hates Millennials, By Jack Butler, September 8, 2018 in National Review)
Along with other members of our team, I spent Wednesday through Friday of this past week in Dallas at the Gathering of Games, the annual convention for Great Game of Business (GGOB) practitioners. In addition to break-out sessions about Leadership, Family Businesses, Culture and Visioning, I was able to connect with other leaders who have chosen to manage their organizations with transparency and shared goals. It was a great few days and I learned and was encouraged in many areas.
Two things had the most impact on me.
First, Jack Stack (the founder of GGOB) in his opening Keynote address shared his concern for what he believes is the single most likely thing which could cause their failure if not addressed: People. By people, he means the lack of them. The inability to hire and retain talented and capable people is rapidly becoming the most critical issue for all of us.
With 10,000 baby boomers retiring from the work force every day, there is not enough people coming into the workforce to replace them. While 70% of Americans believe that manufacturing is what will allow us to close the gap between the lower and middle class, less than 17% of parents want their children to go into manufacturing jobs. At Kimray we have experienced this to an even greater degree than Jack Stack’s company, SRC. At SRC they went from 1,400 to 1,800 people with a turnover rate of 25%, meaning they had to hire roughly 1,000 people. That’s difficult to do when there are enough people, it’s nearly impossible when there aren’t. However, Kimray has gone from less than 350 people to over 800 with turnover rates between 12-15%. I would say that is equally or even more difficult.
Second, in many (if not all) of the sessions I attended the speaker brought up Millennials. Mostly the reference was to some way this “special’ group needed to be treated. While the speakers were not intentionally slighting the millennial (many of them were in the audience), it still felt as if they were somehow either irritated that these “concessions” needed to be made or resigned about them.
According to published accounts, Millennials place an emphasis on producing meaningful work, finding a creative outlet, and prefer immediate feedback. Highly comfortable with technology; failing to see why “where” the work is done matters; wanting close and rewarding relationships at work, not just in their personal lives; and having little interest in kowtowing to traditional management structures. Some employers are concerned that millennials have too great of expectations from the workplace.
Is it unrealistic to want to be part of a mission that is bigger than just getting the next account, closing the next deal or meeting the next KPI target? Is it unreasonable to want your whole person and all your talents to be engaged during the 35% of your waking hours you spend at “work?” Speaking of work, is it so odd to want to know in real time how you are doing and whether you are meeting other people’s expectations? Is it ridiculous that you might want to let those same people know when they are not meeting yours? Should someone be valued more because they are farther up the corporate ladder than you?
I don’t think the questions should be about the millennials. They should be about the rest of us.
Why don’t we all want these things. Maybe we do. Maybe we do, but have been afraid to ask, or demand that we be cared for in these ways.
Why shouldn’t everyone be connected to a mission that matters and resonates with them? Why shouldn’t everyone be engaged and fully utilized in a cooperative (not competitive) way? Why shouldn’t everyone have useful feedback and the ability to provide feedback to others? Why shouldn’t everyone be valued and respected regardless of their position or tenure?
The Kimray Way is about creating a community that cares for all its members in exactly these ways. If we believe in the intrinsic value of each person, this should be the natural result. Being this kind of community won’t magically fix the coming crisis of the shrinking pool of people to join our team, but it is certainly a significant piece. There are plenty of people available if everyone wants to be part of our team.
I don’t think we have to do anything special for millennials. I think we should do special things for everybody.