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Since we started our blog last month, we've been a couple of bloggin' fools. Come and see what we've got to say - and by all means, talk back!

By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

In last month's issue of Fresh Milk, we tackled Part One of the topic of the Millennial Generation, and promised to finish our current take on the subject this month. In preparation for this article, we gave our readers in the Baby Boomer category the following assignment: Right now (or as soon as you're back at work), find somebody under the age of 32 or so, and ask them, "What's the one thing about people my age that drives you craziest?"

Some - not a lot - of you took us seriously, and responded, and to you go our thanks. Here's a sampling of what you said:

"Any sentence that starts 'When I was your age' or 'back in my day.' A 26 year old told me she knows things were different back then, but that was then and this is now, and you boomers need to move on! Look at what is and not at what was. If you really believe that your future is 'behind' you then you need to get out of the way of those who are looking ahead."

Most of the other comments centered on technology - a point we brought up in last month's article. While most of these were fairly general, this one got a little more granular:
"My gripe would be the lack of willingness or ability (or both) to adapt to new technology - using, understanding, being aware it's available, etc. It shouldn't be up to the 'young' people to do all of the discovery and research regarding the lastest gizmo."

Good advice, we think. Here's more, from us.

Escape from cubicle nation
Many millennials are attracted by the prospect of autonomy. Many want, but may not yet be fully prepared, to run their own shows. One of the most popular blogs among millennials is Escape From Cubicle Nation. The tagline on the home page reads "How to go from corporate prisoner to thriving entrepreneur." You want to populate your outfit with bright, creative, hardworking young people? Toss out all the bureaucratic nonsense you're still using, and make yours an entrepreneurial organization. A real one. Not a fake. They're pretty good at spotting fakes.

See ya'
In general, millennials look at time off in a totally different light than you and I. In the United States, we give newcomers a week's paid vacation after a year; oldtimers get more. Friends, I'm afraid we've got this backward. Many of us are trying to attract the under-thirty crowd with our traditional defined benefits plan and a week off after a year of good behavior. The fact is that many of them want more control of how they spend their benefits money and their time off, and they're willing to pay for it. So we need to get more creative, and less rigid about time off, with and without pay. This isn't complicated to figure out. But it's oh-so-hard to abandon the old "rules" and go with something that works.

A recent conference audience member came up to me after a presentation and related the following story. About a year before, she had been excited about hiring a 25-year-old we'll call Matt. He seemed to have the right attitude, values, talents, and brief experience. Up front, before accepting an offer, though, he wanted to negotiate three weeks off, two of which were to be without pay, to climb Peru's Machu Picchu with his buddies. Let me be clear, Matt didn't say he'd like to make the trip; he was going. The tickets were bought and the plans were made. His only hope was that he would be able to both take his vacation and accept the job offer. Our friend decided to pass on Matt. She couldn't forego the three weeks of productivity represented by Matt's audacious request, and besides, it kind of rankled her that this brash kid expected to take time off within two months of starting. But then, get this. Two other applicants for the same position had plans to be away in the next few months as well. The position remained open for nearly four months, before being filled by a similarly qualified young person, by which time Matt had returned from Peru and taken a good job somewhere else. So much for productivity.

What we have here is. . .
Speaking of communication, don't abandon good old- fashioned face-to-face, heart-to-heart sit-downs. Take a look at this video on youtube. Click here, and you'll see about 2.5 minutes of a show produced by PBS (the Public Broadcasting System in the U.S.), in cooperation with the GenNext Project. It does a pretty good job of summing up two or three of the most important elements of working successfully with the younger generation.

Beyond what the people are saying on the video is the fact that Joe Muse sits down regularly, once a month, to have meaningful conversations with the younger workers in his company. What a concept! Give it a try.

Some things never change
Call us corny, old-fashioned, or whatever, but we still believe (no - this we know) that young people, just like their older counterparts, want meaningful work. You want to attract and retain members of the younger generation? Find ways to connect their work with something that matters to them, and you'll have them right where you want them. Mix things up a little. Help them make the customer connection, especially if the normal course of their job takes them nowhere near one. Teach them how your business makes money, and how they can contribute to it, and them, making more of it. Show them - no, let them experience, how your product or service helps people.

If this sounds like a lot of flexibility, change, and adjustment on your part, it is. But, we're not advocating total capitulation. We boomers (and geezers) have an obligation to mold and mentor our younger co- workers, to teach them some of the lessons we, and our parents, learned, and that aren't going to change with time. Lessons about integrity, creativity, leadership, competition, and the immeasurable value of kindness.

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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