A new Pew report shows that millennials (ages 18–34) took over from us Generation Xers (ages 35–50) as the largest chunk of the U.S. workforce in the first quarter of 2015. Woe unto anyone hoping to get things done, right, Trail King CEO Bruce Yakley?
Paul Ten Haken, 37-year-old boss at Click Rain, joined that Sioux Falls paper’s weeklong discussion of the millennial work ethic with an essay declaring that millennials want more than money from work:
When I interview employees today, they are asking questions – really great questions – about the character of our company. Does the company give back to the community – not just financially, but does it give employees the chance to serve on the company dime? Does the company offer opportunities to grow as a person rather than an employee, providing seminars on financial literacy, time management, wellness and other “non-work” topics? Does management take the employees out for a beer and some darts at 4 p.m. on a Friday? Yes, that shuts down production for an hour, which directly impacts the bottom line. But what does that hour do for morale and team building — and ultimately, retention? [Paul Ten Haken, “Millennials Anything But Lazy, Entitled,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.05.06].
I look at this list, and I have to wonder: are Ten Haken’s millennial applicants applying for a job, a social club, or a self-help group? Job seekers, how many of you are seeking work you really want to do, and how many of you are seeking a workplace with lots of non-work activities to ease the pain of work that doesn’t really fire your soul?
Ten Haken insists that seminars and company-supported international service trips make for better people and better workers:
Investing in employees is much more than what shows up on their paycheck every two weeks. In the highly competitive employment market in South Dakota, it’s critical for employers in all verticals to begin shifting their culture to one of inclusion, service and family in order to retain the new workforce that desires to put community and home life ahead of the making profits for the man [Ten Haken, 2015.05.06].
Let me expose my generation gap: employers, pay me well, give me decent hours, don’t be jerks, and you’ve got me. I’ll be able to take care of my family and participate in my community just fine, without your guidance. I can balance my checkbook, manage my time, and eat well and exercise without your spending valuable company resources on seminars. And please, please, please, don’t feel obliged to take me, your employee, your subordinate, out for beer and darts. If you’re really shutting down the shop an hour early, I’ve got lots of things I can do in that hour with my wife, my daughter, my bike, my blog, and my power tools that will boost my morale than any activity you and HR can come up with.
Besides, as StarMark Cabinetry president John Swedeen suggests, we might all feel better if we just show up at work and get things done:
“Paul’s white-collar jobs? It would be great for us … to have a beer with the employees at 4, too. Let’s go out like they do at Google, hold hands and sing Kumbaya. But that’s not reality for us,” Swedeen said. “I have customers that I have to ship cabinets out to” [Steve Young, “Can S.D. Manufacturers Count on Millennials?” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.05.11].
Work should enrich us. That enrichment should come from the work itself, from the things we make, the services we provide. Doing worthwhile work (teaching, coaching, writing) boosts my morale and builds my team spirit with the people who help me do that work. Doing meaningless, drudgerous, cog-like work (sales, marketing) drains my soul, and piling a bunch of non-work activities onto my schedule won’t change the fact that from 9 to 5 (or 9 to 4 and beer-and-darts days), I’m doing work that doesn’t make the world or myself better.
Millennials, Gen-X, everybody in the workforce, what do you really want from your work?