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Millennial Generation to Corporate America: Bring It On!

August 6, 2009

In this economic environment I think it is important to find the silver lining.  I am happy to report, based on my initial analysis of the Impact of the Recession on the Millennial Generation survey that I have found a couple. 

*Please note my comments that follow are based on an initial analysis of the results and are subject to change once the survey closes and a full analysis is prepared. Survey is available until Friday, August 7th and is for those under 30 years old who were laid off in 2008 or 2009. 

Bank of Mom & Dad – Closed Due to Lack of Business

Don’t sell this generation short –they are taking care of themselves and dealing with their circumstances in ways which shows maturity beyond their years.  When asked “since you have been laid off have you received considerable financial assistance from your parents?” 75% answered no.  And when asked “what are you doing now… since you were laid off,” only 8% answered that they moved back home and are living with their parents.

Cutting With Kindness

The sense I get from this generation is that they understand business decisions have to be made for a company to survive and those decisions can’t be easy to make.  But Corporate America they are judging you on how you deal with the execution of your decisions.  Business down?  Ok- let’s tighten the belt but let’s do it across the board, COMMUNICATE with me as you do it and please show me by your words and actions that you care about how this affects me. *Really – is this generation much different from yours?*  I don’t know many people that would be okay with being laid off when the top management is still flying first class, took the same percentage pay cut as a $40,000 salaried employee and feels justified in their decisions to do so.  In a February article (Cutting With Kindness) in Workforce Management magazine, Tom Waldron, executive vice president of HR and brand of ING Americas, was quoted as saying “You need to treat people with dignity. That’s important for the morale of the people who are remaining with you as well as for the people who are leaving.”  This is a simple concept but one I think many companies are unfortunately failing.   

Will Work for $$$

So how is this recession impacting our youngest working generation?  They are taking care of themselves, pounding the pavement like never before (and some for the first time) and looking for work.  When asked “In the short term (now up to three years) do you plan to work for Corporate America again or are you thinking of different options,” 45% said yes with the other options being starting a business, going into non-profit work, starting a family or continuing education/MBA.  So when Corporate America does rise up from the recession there will be younger workers for them to choose from.  But what I found interesting is when asked about their long term plans and working for Corporate America there was a more even split – approximately 45% do plan to work for Corporate America again but 55% answered no or not sure.  With the way the labor force is trending and if this attitude continues even as the economy rebounds that is not good news for companies. 

Can’t Get No Respect

What I didn’t expect to happen with this survey was the few instances of backlash.  One instance, in particular, shows how deep the divide among the generations are and could have negative impacts on Millennials looking for work.  I was fortunate to have The Herman Groupsend out information about the survey in one of their weekly Herman Trend Alert eblast (29,000 subscribers in 85 countries).  One person – who did not identify himself – sent the following message back to The Herman Group which was forwarded to me (edited for grammar). 

 Many of our colleagues in this region laid off Millennials.  They agreed that they faced a clear culture clash– they expect deadlines to be met without excuses, each  workday to be organized effectively, the work to take precedence over perpetual text messaging to friends, and priority work to be completed before leaving for the day, and other equally foolish ideas, etc. Their next hires?  They will seek more experienced employees and wait for the Millennials to grow up.”

 We all know the Millennials get a bad rap – sometimes justified and sometimes not – but what I would like to know is how members of the Millennial generation would respond to such an attack on their generation. 

 Next Steps

The survey closes tomorrow, Friday, August 7th and with almost 250 respondents I am looking forward to diving into the data and seeing what trends emerge.  If you know of any Millennials (under 30 years old) who have been laid off please send them this blog post and ask them to consider taking the 10 to 15 minute survey at www.surveymonkey.com/recessionsurvey.com.  Results will be posted on my website at www.sbrconsult.com in mid-September. 

As always – I welcome your comments. 

 ~ Stacey

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One comment

  1. Great post as always Stacey! In reference to…

    “what I found interesting is when asked about their long term plans and working for Corporate America there was a more even split – approximately 45% do plan to work for Corporate America again but 55% answered no or not sure. With the way the labor force is trending and if this attitude continues even as the economy rebounds that is not good news for companies.”

    … I think there is a convergence of ideas and times here. We know that Millennials have been pushed by their helicopter parents to succeed. We also know Millennials seek instant gratification. But we need to take into account some of the history that faced Millennials which makes them the way they are. Millennials have already seen two recessions, one in the 80’s and another one in the late 90’s. They witnessed the hard work and sacrifice their parents gave to their companies, only to have their jobs shipped overseas or productivity gains distributed to top executives. Now these Millennials face their own recession, but there is one stark difference between Millennials and past generations—they are highly mobile.

    We Mellennials don’t have allegiance to any person, company, or entity. This allows Millennials to focus on what’s best for us – not our employer. Most Millennials learned the lessons thrown by Corporate America to our parents to compete in our global economy. From that, we’ve gathered we can’t cater to Corporate America, only to have Corporate America reap the benefits of our labor and ideas. Corporate America is simply a stepping block amongst our own agenda(s). This is the area where most older managers disconnect with Millennials. Managers have a sense of loyalty to the company while we do not. As a result managers call us snobs, demanding, lazy, undisciplined, etc. But the truth is, we aren’t any of those. We are in some ways wiser because we witnessed the strife of our parents during the earlier recessions. I remember my dad telling me… the only secure job you will have is the one you create for yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to start my own business, but it DOES mean I won’t let Corporate America dictate MY life and I certainly will not entrust MY wealth or security to Corporate America. Among my friends, the ideas of 401K’s, retirement packages, and customary “benefits” are mute points when it comes to choosing a career. We’ve seen 401Ks vanish (think Enron). We’ve seen health care dwindle (think WellPath). And we’ve seen benefit packages suffer. What matters is how this job is going to contribute to my next stage in life. The notion of a career at XYZ company is already gone; and I think the definition of CAREER itself will change.

    I assume our society will become more mobile, and as Millennials grow, with the right mix of policies and practice, we will redefine WORK (with help from the next generation – I believe we call them Tweens now). The notion of 40hr work weeks will be gone– In a mobile society working at 2am is the same as working at 2pm. The notion of employer provided benefit packages will be redefined—sure you can contribute to MY retirement, this is the institution where MY IRA/401K is held. And I presume in the next 10 years 80% of people ages 20-35 will be unsure if they plan to work for Corporate America.



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