When I interview millennials and ask them to name their strengths, many profess to be “hard-working.” Makes sense, right? In a job interview, most of us would try to sell a potential employer on our outstanding work ethic. But what does that mean, exactly?
In my experience, I’ve learned that “hard-working” is difficult to define. It means different things to different people—or more specifically, to different generations. Consider this scenario:
You’re the manager. At the end of the day you give two employees the same assignment. You mention you’ll be out tomorrow and need the completed report on your desk by 8 a.m. the day after. When you return to work, both assignments are sitting on your desk. You review them; they’re done equally well. However, upon further investigation, you learn the first employee came in at 6 a.m. and left at 6 p.m. The second employee came in at 8 a.m. and left at 3 p.m.
Who worked harder?
If you said the first employee, you’re thinking like a boomer. If you said the second employee, you’re thinking like a millennial.
One of the cultural workplace trends I’ve followed over the years is a shift from a “presence” model to a “performance” model. Boomers value presence. In their experience, hard-working means putting in long hours. If you beat your boomer boss into work and leave after him/her, that boss is likely to say you’re a hard worker.
Millennials, however, value performance over presence. Many students come to me asking the question, “Chad, I don’t get it. Why do I have to come into work for eight hours a day if I get my work done in six hours?” Millennials prefer flexible schedules and circumstances. With their ties to technology, they believe they can work from home—or anywhere else—and be just as productive as the person who parks in the office for eight-plus hours a day.
Neither perspective is right or wrong; they’re just different.
With the millennial generation predicted to make up 70 percent of the workforce in ten years, forward-thinking employers will be taking steps now to attract and retain highest quality millennial employees. One question you need to ask is whether your organization’s culture is presence-driven or performance-driven—and will you choose to adapt for the benefit of long-term success.