Editorial - No mystery to Millennials

Just think of young people as smarter versions of yourself.
Patrick Flannery
August 16, 2017
By
Still lots of expert talk about Millennials. No seminar program at a large event is complete without sessions telling us how to motivate them, how to retain them, how to find them and how to sell to them. What do they want? What do they like?
One pictures a curious crowd of Baby Boomers peering through the glass at a captive Millennial in a zoo, wondering what it eats. We’ve been guilty of this here at Canadian Rental Service. Our August issue celebrating young rental people, ironically enough, attracted some blowback from Millennials who perceived a condescending tone to an expert article offering older business owners advice on how to handle them. I’d like to set the record straight regarding my own views.

I don’t think the habits of Millennials can be all that exotic since they are, at the end of the day, simply young people. You know, like everyone was. Many of the complaints and observations I’ve read about Millennials are simply reruns of the same comments every generation has made about the one following. Compared to us, the young people are always lazy, irresponsible, intellectually shallow and focused on all the wrong things. Some of this is accurate, as young people are young people and by definition still have much to learn. And some of it is unfair and, dare I say, motivated by jealousy.

My observation of young people coming out of schools today is that they are superior to people my age in almost every respect. Smart, good-looking and remarkably healthy emotionally. Fewer problems with law-breaking, violence and substance abuse. Better educated. They lack only experience. Yes, the period of adolescence has been extended in this age of plenty and few Millennials are as committed to mortgages, careers and families as some of us were at the same age. Is this a sign of weak character or greater intelligence? People today can expect to live almost 10 years longer than they could when I was in my 20s. It sure makes more sense to me to use that time to extend your period of freedom and fun when you are young than to extend your time in the retirement home at the other end.

Here’s a quote from Frank Martin, University of South Carolina head basketball coach: “You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything. We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed.”

So if young people haven’t changed, why are business owners having such a struggle reaching them? It’s because the kids’ circumstances have changed and they are, as I opined above, smarter, better balanced and possessing a clearer sense of their own self-interest. They are not going to accept unpleasant working conditions because of some hard-work ethic designed to benefit the employer and not the employee. They are not going to sacrifice their experience today in order to get ahead at a company because they have no illusions about loyalty. They know they will likely jump from company to company for many years before settling into a long-term position. They don’t trust employers to reward loyalty with loyalty and they understand that the financial and economic conditions around a business will determine whether they have a job or not. And they have options.

Bottom line: they value their time highly and won’t be taken advantage of. Millennials are mostly the same as any other generation and want all the same things. They are just a heck of a lot better at getting them.

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