“All employees want to feel valued, empowered, and engaged at work.  This is a fundamental need, not a generational issue.  You can think of Millennials as pushing for changes that all the generations want to see happen.”  

- Harvard Business Review

I have been told that I have a gift of persuasion.  They say that when I point all my guns in the same direction…ideation, passion, strength, conviction, verbal acuity, etc…I can make a pretty compelling case for almost anything.  I am beginning to believe that I’ve lost whatever ability people thought I had.

I can’t seem to get anyone in my generation to change their opinion about “that” generation.

But to be fair to my generation, Millennials do seem to have a pretty daunting list of “wants”.  The Harvard Business Review recently summarized the following: 

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Oh, is that all?  I can see why so many leaders get so incredulous.  But they now comprise over 50% of the workforce…and growing.


So, like it or not, we better change our attitudes about this generation.  Just because we see things differently, doesn’t mean we see them rightly and them completely in the wrong.  So, I have a couple of ideas on how to embrace this challenge:

1.  Mature your organization

I've regularly made the argument that if your workforce isn’t motivated, you don’t have a generational issue but a leadership one.  In the companies where we’ve seen…

  • clear vision, values, and purpose established  
  • a well crafted organizational design
  • position agreements established for every team member where they understand the results expected, tasks to be performed, and the way they will be measured
  • a clear roadmap for the employee and the company
  • a consistent meeting model that ensures execution

…most of the issues leaders point to regarding this generation, are largely eliminated.  Maybe it is finally time to do the things that really mature your organization.  To get really serious about the essential things listed above that will address a multitude of problems, not the least of which is this one.

2.  Listen to them

Angela Ahrends took control of the tired and saggy Burberry in their 150th year in 2006.  As CEO, she increased sales from $2 to $7 billion and turned the company into a current and relevant international fashion brand.  She parlayed her success at Burberry to become the President of Retail for a little company called Apple in 2014.

She explained one of the secrets of her success in an interview at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast a few years ago.  She hired some more fashion-forward millennials into the brand and then cultivated their perspective and insight.

She formed strategic groups of them where she discussed the brand, product lines, and future vision for the company.  Having mined this valuable source of perspective, she took back that knowledge and understanding as an ambassador to the older generation of leadership to appropriate and execute.

She found incredible success by celebrating what each of the two primary generations brought to the table.

Now that is a revolutionary idea!

My generation likes to talk about finding the right seat on the bus for everyone, but seems to think that one whole generation shouldn’t be included along for the ride.  But like it or not, the millennial generation is now a majority of the workforce.  And ironically, getting them on the bus and comfortable, actually requires us becoming more of the kind of companies we should be becoming anyway.

At the end of the day, they are going to force us to grow, mature, and evolve.  Something none of us are really comfortable with. 


  • Be honest.  Have you sort of written off this generation?
  • How is that hurting your business and its’ future?
  • Are you ready to address this challenge/opportunity in a more thoughtful and mature way?   [The future success of your company (and this country, really) hang in the balance.]