Perceptions, mis-perceptions of millennials as a workforce
Local business community attempts to better understand a generation that is taking over the labor force
Millennials, those born between 1982 and 2003, are entitled, spoiled, lazy, self-absorbed and lack a strong work ethic.
We’ve all heard these generalizations, but are they really warranted?
The local business community weighed in on the perceptions and mis-perceptions surrounding millennials during a Women in Business luncheon hosted by the Prescott Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Facilitating the discussion was Ariana Bennett, president of the Prescott Area Young Professionals.
“Millennials are not so different from other generations,” Bennett said. “They want to like what they do; they want to like who they work with; and they want to know that what they are doing is valuable.”
To help address the matter, a panel made up of five businesswomen who work closely with millennials answered a series of prepared questions posed by Chamber members.
A few of those questions and some of the responses they generated are as follows:
1) A widely held perception is that millennials are entitled, but I have had many millennial colleagues who are hard working. Is this perception born out of a gap in understanding between different generations of what millennials value?
“I do think millennials are entitled,” said Courtney Osterfelt, founder and director of The Launch Pad Teen Center, a nonprofit teen center in Prescott. “I am a millennial. But I also think that we are hardworking. I don’t think it’s an either or.”
“As an employer, I pay attention to that and I look at how I can motivate somebody,” said Danielle Rickert, owner of Sir Speedy Printing in Prescott. “[Millennials] value a life with purpose.”
Rickert said she does three things to provide value and purpose for her employees. The first is consistent training.
“I think that’s going to make them feel like they’re learning something and they’re growing, and it has got to continue,” Rickert said.
The second is appreciation.
“They need to feel like they’re valued,” Rickert said. “As an employer, I need to feel appreciated too. If I’m going to do something for you, I want a simple thank you. I want to feel like I did that and it was worth something to you.”
The third is providing some sort of incentive program.
“I want them to feel like they’re part of the company; that what they’re doing benefits them in some way directly, not just me,” Rickert said.
2) What are millennials passionate about? What type of things are they ultimately concerned about, so much that they organize everything they do around this concern?
Holli Maurer, vice president of Operations for Prescott Hotels, jumped on this question first. She volunteers to teach at Northern Arizona University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.
During a recent class, the students were presented with 35 cards, each with a word on it that represented a value. Asked to pick their top three, the students chose philanthropy, fun and teamwork.
For Maurer, her top three were independent, authority and loyalty.
“I think we all just need to keep that in mind as leaders in the community and with our own businesses and realize we have to change in some ways,” Maurer said. “Even though those aren’t the frontrunners for us, they are for the younger demographic.”
3) With the perception of millennials job hopping, do millennials feel an expectation of immediate success?
“One of the things as a business owner that I find very frustrating when looking at resumes from millennials is the six months here, six months there,” said Krista Carman, a local attorney who manages Carman Law Firm with her husband. “Why do I want to invite them into my company and invest the six months to train them and then they leave? So I do think that’s a true statement about millennials, they do job hop. But have we created that monster? I think we have in that we raised this generation to believe that if you’re not happy, do something else.”
Osterfelt agrees, but thinks it’s not so much up to businesses to encourage millennials to change their trained behavior as it is up the businesses to recognize the issue and find a solution.
“I’m not saying that people need to change their entire work environment to keep millennials, but I am saying we can’t go back and change failed parenting strategies,” Osterfelt said. “So am I just going to eliminate every person who I think grew up in a family where they told them to shift positions every time they’re unhappy? Or am I going to work on figuring out what kind of environment I can create where I can really tap into their potential? Because I do believe that millennials have something to offer that we can’t get from any other population of people.”
Wrapping up discussion
As the discussion came to a close, some facts were presented.
In 2015, millennials made up about 34 percent of the total U.S. labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2025, they’ll make up as much as 75 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the Brookings Institution.
With that in mind, Bennett gave the participants at the event something to think about as they returned to their daily lives.
“What can your company, what can you workplace offer to start attracting some of those millennials,” Bennett said. “I’d invite you keep that discussion going.”