Among our ever endless quests for silver bullets to solve all our problems, many leaders want to know the secret to leading millennials – that huge phalanx of people born roughly between 1980 and 2000.
Google HR chief Laszlo Bock, who hires a ton of millennials, says there is no silver bullet – although the temptation to think there is one is fairly universal.
“We measure this sort of thing closely, and if you look at what their underlying needs and aspirations are, there’s no difference at all between this new generation of workers and my generation and my father’s generation,” he said.
“Every single human being wants the same thing in the workplace — we want to be treated with respect, we want to have a sense of meaning and agency and impact, and we want our boss to just leave us alone so we can get our work done.”
Yes, there are differences from one cohort to another, especially when it comes to political and social preferences. But what matters most is not what macro-trend data tell us. Instead, it’s what we learn from our relationships with individuals.
When our perceptions rely too heavily on data garnered from broad surveys, we can become blind to the vastly more important data offered by interaction among individuals.
Complicating the leadership challenge is the fact that millennials are the most diverse generation ever when it comes to race, ethnicity and income backgrounds. Diversity generates important intragenerational differences that broad categories built around birth data must inevitably overlook.
Case in point: the immigrant who grew up a subsistence environment in the hardscrabble slums of a large city is bound to look at things differently than the person who grew up in the midst of privilege in a suburban McMansion and has traveled the world.
That’s what prompts Joan Kuhl, a millennial consultant, to confess the irony that one of her primary jobs is to undo companies’ preconceived notions about millennials.
New York Times Columnist Farhad Majoo has more to say about the best approaches to leading millennials here.