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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Some new questions emerging

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It’s not about getting the young to act like the old, doing things the way we used to do them or have been doing them for years, it’s about a greater, harder shift that we need to find ways to ease ourselves and our organizations into. The obvious desire it to re-shape everybody to be little mini-me’s – young clones of the older people so things can keep on going once I’m gone. Some of this is about legacy. Some more is about mortality and preservation. Whatever you want to call it, it isn’t the recipe for future success, primarily because it is based on a reality from the past. See this story for a little more on this.

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posted by Michael Berger, 8:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

Buying a future

I came across a story on American Public Radio’s Marketplace the other day that was talking about a new way college students and recent grads are working to get an edge upon graduation. The company, University of Dreams, will find you a well placed internship to get you on the road to professional success. They offer good internships with desirable companies and in desirable locations. What makes University of Dreams different is that, for one thing, there’s a fee, and not a small one. Second, it’s not just about finding you an internship, it also provides room and board, health insurance, transportation, seminars to support the experience, even weekend excursions.

One young co-ed described it as a bit like “sleep away camp.” Now the geezers are saying, “GIVE ME A BREAK!” (I think I can even hear them.) But the younger folks – the Millennials – are saying, “Well that’s a cool idea.” And with Mom and Dad having already spent $100,000 on the college education, what’s another $10K to really seal the deal?

Now the reality of it is that this is a natural piece that’s really just filling the gap. As a generation that’s been painstakingly supported and nurtured (some would say coddled) up through college, this makes sense. These kids have been having their parents advocate for them, provide for them, enable them, and pay for them starting at birth, and continuing through college. You may have seen in this space and in other places how parents have been spotted arguing grades with professors, going on job interviews with their kids, calling HR when the performance review isn’t positive enough for Mom and Dad. This is just another piece of the process.

One thing that it means is that young adults entering into the workforce will be prepared at another level, one that enables them to enter in to the workforce with a bit more of an edge. Another by-product of this slice of reality is that they’re being given yet another skill or experience that takes them farther away from previous Generations, who are likely to say, “I had to work for my opportunities, not have my parents buy them for me.”

And while all of these things are true to some degree, it’s just another example of the way things are different for the Millennials from the previous generations. Neither good nor bad, just what is. Will this be a widespread phenomenon? It’s too early to tell. However, it is another niche that exists on the landscape and will continue for a little while.

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posted by Michael Berger, 12:29 AM | link | 0 comments |

Global Millennials

Friday, June 01, 2007

I had a request the other day from a journalist in Canberra (AUS) to comment about a story that was in the Wall Street Journal recently. The question comes from a story in the Journal that discussed the notion that this current youngest generation – The Millennials (born after 1980 and before 2000) who are now entering the workforce in some greater numbers –are the “most praised generation” in history. The charge is that they need more praise, more positive feedback, more ‘we’re all winners’ sentiment in their work, much as they’ve had in their entire lives up until this point.

The little bit of buzz around this article – a buzz that I saw cross oceans and continents quite quickly, I’ll add – is how much truth is there to this, and more locally, how relevant is this to life in Australia-New Zealand?

From what I know about the Millennials, whether more praise is needed for them or not isn’t really the central question. One can assume that because of the way things have been for them – all of the attention, support, equality that has been forced on them over their years getting to this stage in life – certainly points to the possibility that if you don’t give them the kind of praise they’re accustomed to, then they are going to be confused, at best, and hurt or pissed off, at worst.

The geezers may be saying “Tough Beans!” right now, and the Gen Xers may be saying, “No one was there to give me all that attention,” so there probably may not be so much tolerance for this, but it doesn’t really affect the way the Millennials are going to be experiencing the cold hard truth of the current norm.

If there’s any solace inside of this reality, the need for Boomers and beyond to provide more feed back, and I mean feedback in general, has been something the Gen Xers have been demanding for 15 years. (Whether or not the Boomer managers ever responded to that need is another question.) Now, the breadth of the feed back has simply been expanded.

And as far as a regional truth, there’s some variation on that as well, but not so much. The complaint in the article was that sometimes you need to give negative feedback to young employees and they need to be able to handle that. You can’t give everyone a medal just for showing up, regardless of the team’s record, like the kids experienced in youth soccer. Well, why not? Why can’t more people get recognized for just showing up? “It was great to have your contribution this week, Brendan.” Or, “I appreciate the attention you gave the project this week, Brittney.” Is that unreasonable or is it just a part of the leadership style that will be effective from this point forward? This isn’t about you, after all. It’s about them.

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posted by Michael Berger, 12:29 AM | link | 0 comments |
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