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Don’t over-emphasise the millenials!

Natalie Maroun


Employers worldwide are faced with the question of how to juggle the demands and expectations of the incoming millennial workforce without alienating the baby boomers - and losing their valuable knowledge and experience. However, this distinction encapsulates one of the biggest problems within the job sector today: a glaring overemphasis on the generations and what divides them - as opposed to what binds them. In fact, there's been a complete over-emphasis on millennials and their wants and needs.

What's frequently overlooked is the broader scenario of work and people's ideological views on it, evolving as a direct result of the changing world we live in. Technology and its impact on communication is a definite game changer, regardless of the generation you find yourself in.

That's why I'm convinced that to overplay and over-respond to the 'millennial – baby boomer' divide is a big mistake. What's required instead is the acceptance that most organisations will, in fact, have a whole gambit of generations working for them. They need to:

  • Understand who their workforce is,
  • What is and isn't going to work for them, and
  • Be cautious not to oversubscribe to just one group.

Running a business is about getting certain fundamentals right

This is true no matter who you're talking to. Every generation wants a view on where the organisation is going, a sense of how they fit into that organisation and want to feel secure in their job. Even though millennials may be less preoccupied with it than baby boomers, and are more inclined to change jobs more often, every generation cares about job security.

Mobility is another big issue

Baby boomers crave progression. It's an important part of validating themselves. Millennials, on the other hand, might not require the same upward progression but they want variety. So whether it's vertical or horizontal progression, progression remains the requirement.

Perks in a work environment aren't restricted to one generation

Most baby boomers will have children, be committed to a bond or a long-term relationship, which drives certain requirements in terms of stability and earning capacity. This might not be the case with a millennial as a person's responsibilities are determined by their commitments rather than the generation they find themselves in.

In terms of working environment, traditionally baby boomers may also be more accepting of authority and more compliant. I'd venture to suggest millennials are equally compliant but that what they do need is the capacity to voice their opinion as they are already doing this through platforms such as social media networks. Having learnt to trade in that space is merely because of the availability of that technology and having done so from a young age. If baby boomers had also had the ability available to them, they would possibly also be more inclined to do it today.

Where and how employees want to work is also largely a function of their circumstance and not necessarily of their preference or socialisation. While most boomers have been socialised into a routine of going into the office and having set office hours, it's also true that reality has a way of getting in the way. Most boomers will have families at home – and with that comes disruption. That's why you can't compare someone of 23 living in his own apartment and his desire to work from home to someone who wants to be at the office the whole day because family life keeps them far too preoccupied at home.

Essentially, this all boils down to the fact that while there does need to be an emphasis on generational gaps and an understanding of the differences between the generations, stereotyping employees and their behaviour will be both counterproductive and counterintuitive to success.

It would be unwise to select any one of the generations and align your overall employee value proposition (EVP) to one of them exclusively. Rather run a business so that it makes sense to everyone involved.

It boils down to freedom within a framework. Offer people insight into where the company is going, excite them about it, connect them to it, and give them growth and recognition opportunities within the context of their contribution within the company's growth path. Understand each employee's unique incentive requirements and then supply options to leverage these and create an optimal working environment.

Natalie Maroun is the group managing director at LRMG. She dreams of propelling all organisations to great heights and believes that to reach optimal effectiveness, organisations need to empower, inspire and uplift their people. This means everything Natalie does is aimed at awakening her dream so that organisations can achieve so much more than they ever imagined. She threads experience through all her strategic consulting solutions and leads a dream team of carefully selected consultants who're aligned and committed. Natalie delivers management consulting experiences that are creatively and strategically different, leaving an indelible mark on her clients' organisations.