The Millennial gems are worth mining
Resource provided by Rob Carter RGD
It goes without saying that millennials take a bit of a bashing these days. Many who have been in our industry for some time find it challenging to understand the ever-critical and entitled view that the bulk of today’s graduates have towards employment, namely the belief that most opportunities are either beneath them or not aligned with their self-assessed value equation. But there’s more to it than that.

There is an entirely different approach to working that Generation Y believes is better suited to their expectations. Beginning with the proclamation that they refuse to work as hard as their parents did, millennials prefer the day to start on their terms, the deadlines (clients) to work around their schedules, focus to follow social updates and their salaries to be in line with those who have honed their skills for a decade. As ‘The GenY Guy’ Ryan Dorsey states, “56% will not work for a company that bans social media during office hours and 60% think they have the right to work remotely” and as flexibly as they choose. And in spirit, I’d have to say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Defining one’s own terms for how they earn a living is an admirable approach to controlling one’s own destiny. Great minds who alter or escape the fray can drive the world forward. Sometimes a less rigid environment is exactly what great minds need to flourish, finding inspiration in banal details that a less fertile mind on the hamster wheel might overlook. But this idealistic workforce would be the exception, not the norm. Most of us work in highly client-centric environments where accountability rules our actions. So the question is: which millennial are you talking to?


Of all the graduates I’ve ever spoken with, the vast majority do not possess the ability to push an organization forward, let alone the world. Certainly, age can be a factor. One, maybe two, that I’ve met appeared to have developed their innate skills to not only excel at their craft but also possess that elusive mix of maturity, communication skills and motivation. These are the ones who “pursue self-initiated projects, think for themselves and channel personal passions into self-made careers to share their perspectives. They are people who dream big and burn the midnight oil to forge their own paths.” These are the gems that sparkle. No, not because they work harder (and they may not), but because of their commitment to their chosen path. Yet, in order to help these gems develop and contribute to your company in a meaningful, long-term way, there’s more to be done.


For a small entrepreneurial operation, it is mission critical to help rising stars understand that team engagement is not only related to culture building, but also drives performance across the entire organization. Many candidates will do only what they have to as prescribed by ‘the man’: heads down in their devices, preferring to cling to their social support groups outside of the office. Identifying and investing in the ones who want to be in your environment and on your team is crucial. A GenY gem “can give a business an immediate competitive advantage and position the company for long-term growth and sustainability.” They can enlighten and infuse the more experienced team members, who can benefit from fresh and relevant perspectives. From a Principal or Creative Director’s perspective, young talent can reignite your creative team’s passion, interest and productivity…maybe even add a little healthy competition. These are the peripheral benefits that can easily match or even outweigh the billable revenue they contribute.

Truth is the millennials really are no different than any other generation. The Greatest Generation, Boomers, GenX, Hippies…they’ve all had their share of entitled cynics and ambitious achievers. There’s always been a small segment of each generation more motivated and innovative than the rest: the Ben & Jerrys, the Mark Zuckerbergs. Whether by nurture or nature, they possessed the right mix of drive, energy and will to build something. Putting more in and taking less because the risk and effort was worth the reward. The fact that we’re taking it out on the Ys may be more a statement about the GenX and Boomers than anyone. Maybe we’re programmed to repeat what our parents said about our generation? “A harmonious and engaged team will produce the desired business performance with significant contributions by the millennials”, but only if we take the time and have the patience to understand and mentor them. That’s a leadership thing, not a GenY thing. That doesn’t mean catering to them. It may just mean making them work harder than they have ever had to for those trophies they’ve come to expect.
So, before we turn into our parents and their parents with stories of walking to school uphill in the snow both ways, maybe we should acknowledge that painting a group of 80 million in an apathetic wash is probably not ideal. As long as it’s not destructive to your company’s environment or goals, perhaps putting in more effort to see the merit in the Y approach will yield quality results. And when we see promise, ensure that we’re tuned in to their needs and have the tools available to help foster excellence and develop leaders. I recommend Jason Dorsey’s book ‘Y-Size Your Business’. It may offer some value to your organization. Hey, if a GenY can show me how to work a 37-hour work week and achieve a sustainable, profitable and more fertile creative business, I’m all ears.

 With excerpts from Tim Hoover and Jessica Karle Heltzel.