YouthI’ve talked with a number of people recently who are again hiring, or focused on issues of employee turnover.  In some ways it’s an encouraging sign, because it often indicates a company growth and improved economy.

But many business owners struggle with getting employees who are a good fit.  I often hear complaints which begin with “kids these days …”

Let me stop you right there.  You’re whining, not problem-solving.

“Kids these days don’t work hard!”  Absolutely not true.  When younger generations get inspired about the purpose behind what they’re doing, they can bring an incredible energy and dedication.  You haven’t given them a compelling reason to become dedicated.

“Kids these days don’t see the big picture!”  So how much of the big picture did YOU see when you were that age?  C’mon, doesn’t that perspective come with experience?

“Kids these days don’t want to stay with us for years!”  This is absolutely true, because we spent the last thirty years showing our children all kinds of opportunities and telling them that they could do anything they want.  So they don’t tend to plan 10 or 20 years advance (like WE ever did…) because they see endless opportunities and interesting things to do.  The way you keep young employees around is to support them in that flexibility, not by tying them to the same job for years on end.

“Kids these days are too self-involved!”  Yeah, so what did you focus on when you were young?  Probably entertainment and love, like everyone else.  From the outside, that looks like self-involvement.  But this is the path of humanity.

Here’s a real interesting exercise which I found quite enlightening:  I heard someone theorize that peoples’ world views are mostly formed by the major events and trends happening from about age 13-25.  And it makes a lot of sense.

For my generation (born 1955), key focuses of society were:

  • The cold war and fear of nuclear annihilation
  • Rock and roll and the “free love” movement, which also morphed into environmentalism
  • Globalization, but more in a competitive than cooperative way
  • Ubiquity of television and radio
  • Major advances in addressing American racial discrimination

By way of comparison, let’s look at someone who was born in 1995 and is now 19 years old.  Key forces have been:

  • 9/11 and the fear of terrorism
  • Continued focus on environmentalism and the cost of energy
  • True globalization, even where people feel more of “citizen of the world” than a “citizen of a country”
  • Ubiquity of the internet and cell phones
  • Personal entertainment, both video and audio

This is quite useful for figuring out why people think the way they do.  For instance, look at how people meet up for dinner.  When I was young, this process involved fair discussion around location and timing.  If you were going to be out of touch for the next six hours, it was important to have these details nailed down in advance.

When my kids want to meet up with friends, it’s more like, “I should be downtown about 7:00 or so.  We’ll figure it out.”  The rest of the decisions can be made on the fly using cell phones and then (gasp!) face to face conversation.

When you live with that kind of flexibility, tight planning isn’t as critical a part of your mindset.  So if you’re finding that your younger employees don’t “get” the concept of a five year business plan, this is one of the reasons why.

But, c’mon, how often is that really a problem?  Would it be more valuable to take advantage of their incredible energy and creativity?

By the way, this came to mind today because someone pointed me to the CSU School of Business Conference entitled Why Hire Gen-Y? It’s July 23-25 2014 in Fort Collins. If you’re looking to make great choices in hiring younger employees, you should check this out!