Originally posted in October 2015 by Social Media Contractors

Recently I was asked to give a talk at Creighton University about business to business content marketing.  Before the lecture, I was talking with a professor and we were comparing notes about teaching and working with millennials.  We agreed that we “old guys” have a huge opportunity to learn from this generation. In my previous blog series, “Four Pillars of a Great Life,” I spent a bunch of time outlining the idea that we don’t have to worry about survival anymore, and this really has impacted how the next generation defines success for their lives.

My generation and the boomers have defined success as more “stuff,” bigger “stuff,” and faster “stuff.”  I am learning that many millennials look at success very differently.  Now, to be clear, I am still a curmudgeon and will fall right in line with many of the people who describe this newest generation as coddled, spoiled, entitled, and all sorts of other things every generation says about the previous generation.  In many ways I agree.  However, I also see the exact opposite everyday with my staff.  Aspects of these attributes may occasionally shine through; however, when I think I might see this, I have to stop myself and ask, “Is this who that person really is?”  The obvious answer is “no.” I would never hire someone who is an entitled slacker and they for damn sure wouldn’t last very long if I did.  So I am realizing that this is where my opportunity for education lies.

To use a music analogy, as a 48 year old I believe I belong to the translator generation.  On one end is the extreme excess of disco and on the other, Indie rock.  Apparently, that is where Grunge music comes in—transition music from excess and commercially viable to poetic and searching.

When I started working, quantity was valued over quality; how much you worked was a badge of honor and this was a gauge for success. The idea of being new and leaving on Wednesday afternoon to go golf was unheard of (Dylan).  I, like everyone I worked with, was essentially afraid to leave and/or not show up early.  We valued action and engagement more than quality.  In addition, most of us defined success simply by the paycheck we received.  The quality of work completed, the quality of the work environment, and the quality of life all took a distant back seat to time spent and the paycheck.

There are still younger workers who have aspects of this approach, and I believe that these vestiges are the people who traditional employers will look at and call “clean cut” or “on the ball” or ????? But in reality, I am beginning to wonder if maybe this new generation’s approach may be spot on.  What would be wrong with putting quality of work completed, quality of the work environment, and overall quality of life above the paycheck?  As an employer, my challenge is to not only realize this but embrace it.

Here is why. The hidden secret inside this approach is that when taken and implemented, millennials will work harder, be more accountable, and do better work than any previous generation—provided they have a quality reason for engaging.  Take away the time clock, associate “job” with “rewarding, quality work,” challenge them to be great, provide them the tools and directions they need, and get out of the way.  Provided you have put the right people in the right seats, they will chase a quality life and as a result provide great work, results, and examples of what success really looks like.

Old guys work to get a paycheck to get more stuff.  Millennials appear to work to provide a quality reason for living and to have great quality of life.

Yep, I think maybe we can learn something from them.

Now get back to work, slackers…

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