Generational Differences vs "Is This the Right Person for the Job?"

by Eileen Nonemaker

Generational Differences vs

A client asked for some hints on handling a millennial employee.

Since this was the second request for help in managing this employee, I asked if it was a generational issue or if this employee wasn't suitable for the job. The answer was, "I don't know. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt by understanding how to manage her."

Knowing how costly it is to hire and train a new employee, I agreed that this was an intelligent decision. I provided discussion points and resources to educate the manager on some of the characteristics of this generation.

Millennial, an abbreviation for the millennial generation, is a term used by demographers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Sometimes referred to as "Generation Y," millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation. In many presentations on generational differences, I have described the Millennial or "Y" in the following way:

  • Fortune magazine deemed Gen Y the highest maintenance but potentially highest performing generation in history. Viewed as technologically sophisticated, they are well-positioned to address global issues and usually see the world as a vast resource. Driven to make a difference, they can be entitled and outspoken.
  • Millennials enjoy flex-time, telecommuting, volunteer service, and career incentives that permit talented and competent candidates to advance quickly. An organization must support the technology they use and commit to socially responsible causes to retain one. They will gravitate to organizations that focus on profits and have socially responsible missions. You encourage their values and show you care.
  • To manage a "Y," be aware that they want the best and think they deserve it. They do not want to be seen as children and they ignore any gender roles. It is essential to show how their work will contribute to the organization. Mentoring is critical.
  • As employees, they enjoy hands-on and team-based activities. It is vital to make it fun and provide lots of feedback. Allow for creativity. Incorporate games and technology, as well as simulations and case studies. They do like structure and like to tie learning into actions.

Seem like a lot to absorb and consider? It is a great amount of information. There is a decision to be made between designing the position and organizing the rest of the team to fit the new employee's characteristics and style or having the new employee adapt to the role required.

When I followed up a few weeks later, I found out that my client had terminated this employee. She only worked on her passionate projects - a millennial characteristic. She ignored detail- a mission-critical aspect of her position -such as proofing materials going to print and on the web. She did not clean up after events and lacked a sense of responsibility - the wrong person for the job. She also overestimated her abilities and would not ask for help when needed. In addition, she was intimidated by other team members - another indicator of selecting the wrong person.

The bottom line for my client was the negative effect this employee was having on the rest of the team that had worked well together for several years. She recently reorganized job responsibilities and brought on a junior member to handle more administrative tasks instead of events.

Most importantly, she has realized the importance of the various online assessments available to evaluate a potential employee's personality, values, and styles. Taking some guesswork out of the hiring process is a meaningful way to avoid months of stress, anxiety, and lack of production. Nothing is foolproof, but the odds are in our favor when we know more about the person we hired regarding their personality, generational tendencies, and skillsets.