Mark McFall: Don't jump on the millennial bandwagon

There is a plethora of theory on the web that provides businesses with top tips on how best to 'engage, retain and recruit millennials' '“ those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

Mark McFall, managing director of Change Recruitment Group. Picture: Contributed

These Generation Y-ers, or “digital natives”, have grown up with technology and are, on the whole, more connected to the wider world than their older counterparts. They have different values and beliefs, and are brimming with confidence. They move and adapt quickly, in tandem with developing technology, and their smartphone is an extension of self – the first place they turn for pretty much everything.

This is true for some, but definitely not all. And there’s the rub as far as businesses are concerned.

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Having absorbed much of this theory, it’s an easy leap for businesses to make to jump on the new management bandwagon. And in doing so, they could be creating an incredibly damaging and limiting management strategy for their business.  

As one millennial, Liz Barker-Woods, recently wrote, if you stereotype all the “special unicorns” you run the risk of impacting employee engagement by assuming that all sub-33-year-olds are the same – tarring them all as narcissistic, privileged and obnoxious.

But is the world really that simple? Does everyone born after 1983 have an inflated sense of his or her own self-worth and entitlement?  

Instead of encouraging employees to thrive and learn as individuals, by jumping onto the millennial theory bandwagon, businesses run the risk of demotivating and disenfranchising many of them. Not everyone born of this generation will be motivated by regular feedback, varied work, development opportunities and flexibility.

What about the 23-year-old, born of a low-income family, who by hard work and ambition was the first in their family to complete a university degree, but has no career map reference points of what opportunities are open to them? It might be better to motivate this person as an individual rather than assuming that advancement is all they crave. How do they even know what their career path might be if they, as yet, have few mentors?  

Is everyone who is a part of Generation Y really impressed by cool break-out areas and volunteering options? They might not share your choice of colour scheme or cause – will they be as motivated as you think? Blanket generalisation across any workforce, gender or generation group is extremely dangerous for an employer and incredibly shortsighted.  

What is key to remember, however, is that although this post-80s generation has been brought up in a new media age, they haven’t all been impacted in the same way, and assuming so would be foolhardy. Not every 30-year-old has a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ account – they still might need help to figure these things out.

A broad range of cultural, regional, religious and environmental circumstances impact on every person and make us who we are – an individual with diverse needs that can’t and shouldn’t be stereotyped.

• Mark McFall is managing director at Change Recruitment Group