Hiring Millennials, bright young generation? Or dripping with entitlement?
For a few years now, I’ve been hearing the same story from old, over-the-hill hiring managers. They say that they cannot find any qualified, temperamentally balanced young workers. Almost always, they refer to these candidates as kids, and do not seem to have any self-awareness about how absurd and out of touch they are. It is, at last, my moment to speak out about it.
Why now? Well, the simple answer is that I recently spoke to a hiring manager, who had her head buried so deep in the ground that she mistook tree roots for tree branches. What struck me about this woman--and ultimately prompted me to write this now--is how sure she was that she was right. In brief, she told her story like this: She’s a manager at a design firm (it could really be anywhere, though), who is responsible for all the firm’s hiring. Her company is in desperate need of junior-level employees, but she claims that all the talented young people that she interviews have terrible attitudes, enormous egos, and drip with entitlement. She says she doesn’t know what to do because even the few that the firm has hired in the last few years have ended up leaving. Her solution to this whole mess is to hire older, less imaginative designers. It turns out she’s having trouble finding enough of those mediocre workers too, and therein lies her problem. She also insists that this is the widely accepted mindset amongst all of the other septuagenarian, middle management with whom she rubs shoulders. None of these Boomer hiring managers want anything to do with Millennial workers.
For all of you scoring at home, I hope you realize that this is about the worst possible way to handle hiring in today’s economy, regardless of industry. This hiring manager is right; she does have a big problem. That is just about all she is right about, though. Listen, I get it. I don’t agree, but I understand that it can be difficult for people of a certain generation to deal with bright, young workers. Even the most stubborn Millennial-haters seem to be beginning to understand that their businesses won’t be able to survive if they refuse to hire young people. Millennials now make up a third of the workforce, so not hiring them is no longer an option. Frankly though, it has never been a good strategy either.
I do not think I need to run through the litany of ways that this new generation of workers has been demonized; they have been bad-mouthed for years. I firmly believe that much of this can be explained by older generations--my generation, for one--not understanding the particular skills that this younger generation can offer. Simply put, this is one of the largest and certainly the best educated generation to ever enter the workforce, and if your company doesn’t know how to deal with them, it’s your loss. Any company that is struggling with hiring Millennials can, without a doubt, learn a lot from what they have to offer--I certainly have. I want to help those of you struggling to trust these young people because a good economy benefits us all, so I am going to try to explain some of the nitty-gritty to you.
Part of the issue for older people is that they think Millennials are uncommitted because when they take a job they are already thinking about the next step. Well, welcome to the new normal. If a twenty-five-year old works somewhere for two years, it’s a lifetime. Gone are the days where people stay in one job for life. The sooner people begin to understand this, the better off we will all be. My point here is that you need to just hire good workers without worrying about how long they last.
This mindset is part of a larger issue with how older managers see Millennial workers. Too many people in charge of hiring mistake ambition for entitlement. The dumbest part about this whole pattern is that those ambitious young workers are exactly the people you want working at your company. In my experience, Millennials, more than any other generation of workers I’ve experienced, are hungry to succeed and looking for mentors who will help them. This group of young men and women are smart and driven and truly believe that they are destined for greatness. What people are still struggling to wrap their white-haired heads around is that many of them are! These young people with great promise don’t need smaller egos, they need someone with experience and a bigger ego to show them how to grow in their field and succeed. If middle- and upper-level management can’t or won’t see this group for what it is, there will be a whole generation of companies stuck hiring uncreative talent who will do just enough to keep the lights on.
Believe me, invest in these young workers and they’ll pay dividends. Or keep doing whatever you’re doing and wait for one of these young, ambitious kids to buy your company and fire you in five years! Your choice.