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Boomers are to blame for their reputation. But here’s how to fully engage them for your business success

David Fuller“I can’t find anyone who wants to work,” my client spoke boldly as he told of his frustration with hiring young millennials. I had heard this frustration before.

In fact, I challenge you to go into most long-standing businesses and take a walk up to the management offices and ask them what they think of the work ethic of millennials and young people in general. You will probably be faced with an explosion of expletives that might turn a brown donkey’s face red!

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996 and have been getting a bad rap over the past decade due to their apparent lack of enthusiasm for working. But is that reputation warranted?

In 2014, Deloitte conducted a study of 7,800 millennials about their work expectations. The study predicted that, by 2025, 75 percent of the workforce would be millennials. Deloitte’s findings revealed that 70 percent of millennials thought they would be self-employed, while 50 percent were unsure of the motives of the businesses they were working for. Now almost a decade later, some employers are still complaining that they can’t get millennials or any youth for that matter, to work.

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Here is why I think that we as boomers are to blame.

We Chose Work over Our Children: Boomers’ work-life balance was something less than stellar. In many families, boomers worked long hours for the company and spent less time with their children than past generations. Boomers, in many cases, felt the effects of parents who had gone through wars and the great depression; they wanted something better for their kids. Two family incomes were a must, and the drive for bigger houses, more cars and better toys gave the message to our kids that work was more important than our children. They rebelled!

Boomers Coddled their Children. Millennials are the offspring of baby boomers who wanted to give their best to the new generation. This included putting them in every music lesson, sport and activity possible. We taught them to be Attention Deficit. If boomers had a meagre upbringing, they wanted their children to lack nothing. We protected them, spoiled them and let them know they were special and perfect. When we were not home, we gave them technology to play with. They learned that they could communicate differently than past generations with less effort. Why open a book when you could search google? Why put so much effort into something when everyone passes anyways? Why work when daddy or mommy would just give you some money? In effect, we coddled millennials and the youth of today.

We Lack Structured Onboarding: According to Greg Weiss, author of the book So You Got the Job, WTF is Next?, 25 percent of young adults don’t make it past the four-month mark in a job. Whose fault is that? The boomers who own the company and the boomers who are running the HR department. We have often failed to implement structured onboarding processes to train our people properly. We expect today’s youth to have the same work ethic of the past and forget to put effort into teaching our young people how to work and what is expected of them. You might have learned to work by doing chores, working on a farm, or slaving in the family business. Those days have changed. We sent our kids off to practice sports and music, not chores and farming.

Most Businesses Lack Accountability processes: If our youth get through the probation period, they might not work hard because accountability processes are lacking in our organizations. We think people know how to work, so we don’t train them. Once they are in the job, we fail to keep them accountable for accomplishing their tasks. The lack of accountability is one of the leading reasons people leave a company: It leads to work cultures that run counter-productive to serving our customers, supporting our staff, improving the business, or making a profit to enable the business to continue into the future. If we are stressed because people aren’t doing the job as well as we think we can, it’s because we didn’t teach them properly and weren’t challenging them to follow the processes that lead to success.

Lack of Flexibility: I have heard some business owners tell me that they are frustrated because their employees want to work flexible hours, pick up their kids from school, watch their children in sports and take weekends off. They don’t want to work long hours, overtime, or attend meetings after hours. Boomers missed their children growing up; this generation is putting family and leisure first in many cases. Millennials saw how their parents worked from morning until night and are rejecting that notion of work-life balance in favour of something different.

It may be that some millennials and young people don’t want to work and might even be lazy, but that cannot be said of all youth. Many young people want jobs and want to work hard, possibly harder than their parents. They just see things differently, and as employers, we need to clarify what it will take to support them in matching our needs as employers with their needs as employees. This clarity, along with implementing processes to keep them accountable to their commitments, training them properly so they can do the job they were hired for, engage them in our company so they feel part of the team, we will be successful.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.

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