Running a Shop

A Case for Millennials

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I think it’s time someone stands up for the millennial generation. Over the past couple of years, it seems like the word “millennial” has built a pretty bad reputation. From what I understand, millennials don’t like to be referred to as millennials. Don’t get me wrong, I probably agree with most of the things I’ve heard said about millennials. However, I’m not so sure we can do anything to change that. I also don’t think it matters; I think millennials are great. 

I didn’t initially start out as a fan of the millennial generation. Like most people my age and older, it was easy to notice the differences in this new generation entering the workforce. I’ve seen and experienced firsthand the negatives that are so often mentioned when their generation is spoken of. After all, the majority of the people working in our company are millennials. 

So, where did it all change for me? 

Several years ago, while attending a 20 Group meeting in Denver, we listened to a speaker by the name of Cam Marston. He gave a presentation on the different generations in the workforce. His presentation was so well received, he was the first speaker ever invited back to our 20 Group to make a second presentation. He mentioned that this was the first time in history that there were four different generations in the workforce. There are the millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and what he refers to as the Matures. It was a fascinating presentation that gave the audience some great takeaways. You can find some of his presentations on YouTube if you’d like to hear him.

Part of dealing with any individual—whether it be a customer, insurance staff, or in-house teammate—is to have the right mindset on who we are dealing with. While we may desire this, most people aren’t going to conform their behavior to our wishes. People and generations are going to be influenced by the times in which they grow up. I watched a terrific YouTube video by Simon Sinek titled “The Millennial Question.” In the video, Simon says that none of us would get frustrated with someone who was a penny pincher if we knew they grew up during the Great Depression. We would completely understand why they had developed that behavior of being frugal. 

We must look at the millennials the same way. They grew up in a generation where everything was instant. They had the Internet in kindergarten. Amazon and video streaming have been around longer than they have. It’s no wonder they don’t want to hear the phrase, “You have to pay your dues” like my generation heard when starting at a new company. 

That doesn’t mean we let them become a head painter after two months of sanding parts, though. It just means that we must change the discussions we have. When I talk to millennials about their futures, I usually keep the conversation about the immediate future, because that’s what interests them. And our company benefits from having a group of people who are focused on what their next immediate steps are. 

One of the things I love most about millennials is they are willing to make changes quickly. They are used to change, and, I believe, thrive with it. Their life experiences have been built around changes. Nothing has stayed the same very long for them. I can remember when I used to listen to cassette tapes growing up and being blown away by how cool CDs where when they first came out. The time I spend listening to music on CDs spanned almost two decades before MP3s became the norm. The millennial generation has gotten so accustomed to change and I see it as a big strength of their generation.

Back in 1995, our shop was full of baby boomers. When I wanted to make a change in how we repaired vehicles, it was a very slow and frustrating process. I would say it took a full two years of me learning how to lead our staff through the changes. I got resistance from our team every step of the way. Now when I want to make a change, I literally can see the results the same day we discuss the change. While the boomers fought me on change, the millennials get excited to make a change. I would say they thrive on change because they grew up in a world where change happens so rapidly. That is one of the things I love about millennials. As our industry ramps up the pace at which changes are coming at us, we are fortunate to be amid a generation that is perfectly suited to deal with all the changes. 

I have found that each generation comes with its own unique set of traits that any company can benefit from. I challenge you to find the generational traits of your staff as assets instead of liabilities. 


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