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Is the Entitlement Generation Really Entitled?

Spoiled. Uncooperative. Impatient. Lazy.

These are just a few words used to describe who some have deemed the “entitlement generation” – often called Millennials or Gen Y or even Generation C. Sure, with stories like the 18-year old girl who is suing her parents for financial support flying around the web, is anyone really surprised?

I must admit even, as a latter Gen Y myself, this somewhat shocked me. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head saying what she used to say to me as a kid when I’d complain and moan “…fine you want to leave, you’re so miserable, then just remember – you leave this house the way you came into it – with nothing.” Needless to say, I never left, and I didn’t sue them for college tuition either! Thanks, Mom!

But per the girl suing her parents, my parents taught me to not pass judgment based on one person’s behavior, and generalize it across the entire population.

In fact – the entitlement generation – let’s just call them Millennials, shall we – have a lot to bring to the table.

They bring new ways of doing things. Innovation. And with a record 47% of the active adult working population being labeled as a Millennial this year, there may be a lot of work left to be done to integrate them into the business world, but for your business to grow and succeed you should be harnessing what they have to offer – not scoffing at them.

Some hot button issues my clients usually mention relate to work hours, social media and technology, and an overall general attitude and communication style.

Though I am not one to recommend catering to any one particular demographics’ demands without requesting something in return – this generation has the potential to bring an organization to the next level. So rather than dig your feet into the ground – why not alter how you do business a bit to make it work for everyone – a win/win?

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Coaching and Communication – Millennials are not afraid to speak up or call the boss by his first name. They believe that communication is imperative in all directions, up, down, and lateral. To engage this generation create an environment where they are encouraged and rewarded for speaking up regarding ideas and concerns, regardless of level in the organization. Don’t view this as disrespect; harness this style of communication, which often leads to innovation. Millennials prefer coaches not bosses.

  • To engage Millennials, add a structured coaching or mentoring program to your organization – cross generational if possible. Build in frequent developmental check-ins and create a trusted relationship and space for discussion. Helping to guide open communication, career progression, and build trust leads to increased engagement, innovation and high performance.

Connectedness – Millennials need to feel connected to the organization to remain engaged. They expect a seat at the table, want questions answered directly, often challenge the status quo, they have a need to understand the big picture – this doesn’t mean they expect to be CEO tomorrow. Don’t just provide access and input to your corporate strategy, mission, and vision to senior leaders. Allow access to and input from your Millennial non executive employees as well. They tend to feel more connected and engaged when they know their own values and beliefs and work align to those of the organization.

  • To engage Millennials, provide the opportunity to give and receive feedback, not just regarding their own careers but on the overall direction and vision of the organization, this is important to Millennials and helps them feel heard, respected, connected and remain engaged.

Tap Into Technology – Millennials are used to technology, some were even born with it at their fingertips. They aren’t scared of new technologies and adapt fast to new innovations. Many are creating their own (do you have an ap for that?) Don’t shy away from new technologies that enable telecommuting or virtual work environments, that facilitate learning and training on the go, or that help contribute to work life balance. Utilize video teleconferencing, Webinars, and test out whatever is new and innovative. Technology can be used to encourage group and project based work. Use technology – and social media – to build in collaboration, create informal team building exercises, and as a communication tool for positive public relations for your organization.

  • To engage Millennials, utilize social media and new technology as a communication and feedback tool and for telecommuting and enhancing collaboration. Creating public forums for employees to pose insights, questions and concerns, and for the organization to have a place to respond real time to address issues, and share information. This helps everyone feel heard and can increase engagement and productivity.

As you can see – there are things you can provide to harness Millennial innovation that don’t necessarily cost large sums of money nor do they alter your organization’s values and strategy. This generation, when given the opportunity, provides businesses with ideas and innovations that will give you the edge when it comes to winning over customers – just advise your General Counsel not to cancel the tuition reimbursement program!

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

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