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Five Fresh Questions For Working Millennials

Put Down The Research (For a Moment), Start a Conversation.

I’m a Millennial. An ‘old’ Millennial. This is my last year as a twenty-something and my second year as a parent. I won’t be following my bliss to Coachella this year, or spending any time culturing artisanal Kombucha in a mason jar. I’m too busy. I’m growing human beings.

I may be covered in sticky little handprints most of the time, but I’ve earned my Millennial status. My partner and I help organizations connect to people individually, to understand them as a 'society' instead of a data point. Our young start-up thinks disruptively about market research. Again and again, we’ve seen the fascination with appealing to Millennials, particularly as it relates to the work environment.

Have you ever googled ‘Millennials?’ Take a moment. It’s like Millennials are mythical creatures we’ve studied from afar during their migration into the workplace. They aren’t fictional. They have opinions, priorities, and objectives. An organization’s role is to understand them better, build something that allows them to maximize their potential, and ultimately deliver value to shareholders. In many respects, this could mean complete reinvention of how we work.

To supplement your reading, here's a list of questions you could ask your nearest Millennial to better understand his or her perspective:

‘What do you want to build?’ We train ourselves to believe that mending something broken will make it okay, make it sustainable and functional, ‘as good as new.’

I have a deck on the back of my house. We’ve propped it up so many times I lost count. It snows. The deck sags. We get emotional. We add supports. The cycle repeats. Here’s the inevitable reality: we need a new deck.

Organizations need to stop saying ‘how can we fix what’s broken?’ and start asking, ‘how do we build something better?’ Don’t make assumptions. Get your research right. Talk to the people you’re investing in.

‘What is broken?’ Gain a first-hand sense of what matters to Millennials. Understand what they perceive as a problem. These are the things they’ll funnel their passion into.

‘In ten years, what could be your biggest regret?’ Professional decisions should help a person check something off his list of potential regrets. It’s that simple. Regret raises the stakes. Instead of saying, 'This is what I should probably do,' a conversation about regret changes the lens to 'I'll regret not doing this.' A generation full of ‘makers,’ inventors, people who want to put new things into the universe- they’ll have an insightful answer to this question.

‘Tell me about something you’ve worked on that caused you to completely lose track of time.’ Isn’t this telling? The guy who answers ‘making craft beers’ probably shouldn’t spend 80% of his time bookkeeping, unless he says ‘the only thing I love more than making craft beers is bookkeeping for all the craft beers I sell.’

‘What should matter to me?’ This is a big one, and it’s a question that comes down to the honest priorities of the organization. Where do your values align with the people you’re trying to attract? Do your values align at all? There isn’t a right or wrong answer, there is only a conversation that needs to happen, for the sake of perspective-setting.

The solution to understanding a group of people is never to generalize or stereotype. Understand them, individually, one person at a time. And when our interest in Millennials dries up, the same will be true for whatever the next generation throws at us. Keep listening. Keep learning.

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