A Watermark Management, CEO Speaks Series
By: Amy Watson, President and CEO, Watermark Management Group
If you are reading this, you are probably part of the millennial bashing club. I have been known to be a member of that club myself.
We are in an interesting time as a society. While we are losing members of “The Greatest Generation”, the first of “The Baby Boomer Generation” are beginning to retire. On deck, are members of Generation “X” (that is me, and probably you too). We didn’t and don’t exhibit any behavior that gave us a catchy name, so we simply got a letter. They didn’t know what to do with us, imagine that!
Members of Gen “X”, in a sense are the most fortunate of all. Our world was safer, or it seemed to be. We lived before cell phones and the internet- and therefore had to learn people and research skills. And, we lived before parents felt the need to protect us from all pain. Yet, somehow, we are followed by the millennial generation (also called Gen “Y”), and as a society, we are challenged by this generation entering the work force. As a rule, few of them remember a time without cell phones and access to the world-wide-web. Few of them ever used an encyclopedia, none of them ever used a rotary dial phone and some of them don’t even know what a land line is. Most of them were either not born or very young when America faced a dark time in her history, September 11, 2001. I am not all together convinced that that day didn’t drive members of Generation “X” to raise their children as safely as they could. That was a day that changed everything in this country, and there is no doubt it plays into our society every day.
As a society, especially lately, we would rather complain about them than help them. It isn’t really anybody’s fault that they don’t know “the way it used to be”; or that they are constantly plugged in; or that they lack in people skills. But that doesn’t change the very real fact that this generation lacks the knowledge necessary to enter the work force, or even interview to get into the workforce.
There are a few reasons for this, predominantly a good portion of high school seniors graduate from high school with an Associates Degree. Their parents (rightfully so) sacrificed to ensure their children are well educated but there is a disconnect in normal, everyday life. We are not seeing young teens get first jobs at restaurants while in high school (or at all), in fact, we aren’t seeing college students get entry level jobs. They are committed to education, and that is remarkable, but most of us not only figured out how to, but had to, figure out how to work and go to school at the same time. But in a global economy, we are seeing this generation under more pressure to be “bigger, faster and stronger” and that almost never includes teaching them life skills.
This isn’t always bad thing. One only has to use your favorite search engine to identify a successful millennial, most notably Mark Zukerburg, and his juggernaut that was birthed in a dorm room. This generation brings with it a fresh take on life; they are not cynical and we can learn from that. However, we have an obligation to fill in gaps for them.
What does that mean for hiring authorities? At any given time, we juggle 300 candidates for our clients. After 22 years in this industry, I have had to lead my team in a very different way. As a matter of fact, a good portion of my team are millenials. And, they are the best team I have ever had. Why?
“If you can’t beat them, join them”
We feel frustrated when candidates exhibit behavior that is jaw dropping. If I were to name a few: no shows to interviews; demanding more money than experience dictates; and a urgent desire for a work/life balance. We see them quitting jobs before they have secured another and resumes that are as unstable as their people skills.
These things are frustrating, and except for the latter, these are behaviors that can be corrected, if somebody would just teach them. I am not sure we can fix the desire for work/life balance and I am not at all convinced that this is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, one of my large clients brings this to their management candidates; and sometimes candidates will choose less money for more time with their families.
We are working twice as hard for the same results. This is because we are filling a role in the lives of these candidates, teaching them the importance of character, integrity, and dedication. It takes longer, it makes us less profitable, but at the end of the day, we are investing in our future. We all could argue this isn’t our job, but isn’t it? After all, this generation is going to be on deck for your children at some point.
As a hiring authority, it may be necessary for you to consider candidates that you would have never considered before. I use instincts and can almost always identify that they just don’t know any better. And, I have found “when you know better, you do better”(Maya Angelou). We view this as an investment in our future as a society but more importantly the lives of people; and for me, that is the greatest gratification of them all; and certainly a reason to get up in the morning and stay in this insane business.
So, we have stopped looking for the X factor in a Y generation; and when you do that, you would be surprised at what you get.
Amy Watson is President and CEO of Watermark Management Group, a recruiting firm dedicated to building relationships and changing lives. She has 23 years of experience in agency experience and is committed to integrity, dedication and excellence. For more information call 727-489-5802