Generalizing About “What Millennials Want” Isn’t That Helpful

Written by Mike Shapiro | | June 2, 2015

Caroline Fairchild posted a great article on LinkedIn about a problem that keeps CEOs awake.

It’s tough — and probably not that helpful — to try to generalize about what Millennials want, except to say that they are not as much influenced by what those in the power structure want for them or think they should want, or even what their friends want.

Any manager or executive who thinks things are going to get easier once he or she figures out what “they” want so she can design a workplace that provides those things, is mistaken.  (I hope the one panelist was joking when he said that because they expect things to go faster, he’s going to speed things up.)

And these expressed preferences about what an ideal workplace would look like can be expected to change as the associates mature as workers and as people.

Making knee-jerk, across-the-board accommodations to what some workers say they want in response to that question, isn’t usually the right thing to do — for them or for the company or its customers.  Instead, pay close attention to what all members of your team — of all generations — are saying and doing, day-to-day, as they go about their regular work.  What does that information tell you — based on your own experience and judgment — about what they need from you right now to get the job done?  Float some ideas.  Experiment.  Get some more feedback.  Repeat.