We talk about the chasm between “baby boomers” – brought up in a time when higher education was free and jobs were for life – and today’s “millennials” as if the culture clash was a new phenomenon.
But, going back through the decades, each generation has clashed with the one that went before.
Author Denise M Dudley sums it up well: “The silent generation (born between 1926 and 1946) whined about the lavish spending habits of baby boomers (1947 to 1965) who, in turn, carped about the laziness of Gen Xers (1965 to 1980), who now gripe about the self-absorbed, egotistical temperaments of millennials.”
It is always dangerous to make generalisations about an entire generation as if they are one homogenous group, rather than individuals who just happen to have been born in vaguely the same era.
However, over the past decade, I’ve hired many millennials – both on behalf of clients and myself – and personally I think their reputation (“snowflakes” or “lazy, entitled narcissists” anyone?) is largely unfair and unjustified.
In fact, many of the very characters “oldies” complain about can make millennials great employees, particularly in the estate agency sector.
Complaint no 1: “They’re job-hoppers”
Take their reputation for job-hopping. A recent survey of 7,000 millennials found that in the past five years they have had an average of 2.29 jobs, which means they’ve changed jobs roughly every 26 months.
They were also three times more likely than baby boomers to switch jobs to relocate.
But before dismissing millennials for their lack of commitment, look at the reason they change jobs after two years or so.
The research showed millennials overwhelmingly want to see value in their work and will not hesitate to change jobs in order to feel fulfilled.
They work to make a difference, not simply to pay the bills. Isn’t that exactly the kind of person you want working for you?
Complaint no 2: “They’re always glued to their phones”
It’s true that “the youth of today” appear to be surgically attached to their mobiles but, in fairness, aren’t we all since the advent of smartphones?
Few of us can resist the urge to constantly check our messages, emails or the latest footy score. Millennials are the first generation to have grown up with technology – digital natives – so it’s hardly surprising their digital devices are an integral part of their lives.
I would argue that their addiction to technology is an asset.
They intuitively know how to get the most out of estate agency systems like Reapit, can find almost anything you need online within seconds, are adept at finding their way around portals and are great communicators.
Admittedly, their chosen method of communication isn’t always conventional – they may opt for a text message, WhatsApp or Messenger rather than a formal letter, but aren’t regular updates, whatever form they take, one of the things sellers are always telling us they want?
Complaint no 3: “They have no respect for older generations”
I cannot disagree with this accusation strongly enough.
I’ve found millennials are usually respectful of their elders – the difference is they expect people to earn their respect: it’s not automatically granted purely by virtue of age.
What’s more, I would argue that it cuts both ways.
Ian Hoskins, age 51¼ and director for Rayner Personnel’s east region, told me about an instance when a 24-year-old with four years’ sales experience was interviewed by the 50-something sales director of a company.
His candidate turned down the offer of a second interview and when asked why, explained it was because the sales director had constantly referred to him throughout the interview as “young man”, which he, unsurprisingly, found both stuffy and condescending.
Undoubtedly, there is a massive disconnect between millennials and earlier generations, but it is our responsibility – and, indeed, in our interests – to bridge that gap.
After all, when those in senior positions today retire in ten years’ time, millennials will rule the workplace.