Baby boomers have been extremely successful in the workplace. As a generation, they’ve blazed a path of productivity and rewards. Their formula is simple.
Hard Work + Sacrifice = Success
Not a bad approach, overall. This formula can actually be carried across all generations. The problem though, is that the definition of those words—hard work, sacrifice, success—change with each generation.
Which means we’re not all on the same page when it comes to performance expectations. You’ve heard the issues. Boomers say millennials are lazy. Millennials say boomers are too tied to their work. Boomers define “hard work” as putting in your time, working 50-70 hours per week; the “sacrifice” they experienced was time away from family and friends to accomplish their career goals. Their resulting “success” came in the form of money, recognition, titles and climbing the ladder.
But now let’s jump to the millennials’ view of this formula. They don’t want to work harder; they want to work smarter. Technology makes this possible! (Why sit in a brick and mortar office from 8 to 5 when you can be more productive working virtually—anywhere, anytime? Why work 10 hours a day when you can come up with a solution to complete the task in seven hours?) “Sacrifice” means pursuing a job outside of their sweet spot (or, dare I say, within the boomer formula). They “sacrifice” their passions because they need to pay the bills. And “success” for this generation is defined by adding value and making a difference in the organization or simply in another person’s life.
I know, I know… my boomer friends out there might be saying, “But these millennials don’t know what it’s like to work hard!” My challenge to you is to first grasp their definition of hard work, then model for them the benefits of working hard. Those benefits must align with their own definitions of sacrifice and success, not yours—or you’ll never gain their buy-in.
That means when working with millennials, you can’t just tell them to dig a hole; you have to tell them why they are digging it. The “why” matters to them. Resist the temptation to complain that they “should be able to figure it out” (I hear this one a lot). Instead, challenge yourself to teach them. I promise you this approach will not only benefit the millennials you’re mentoring, but it will also benefit you personally, as well as your organization.