A lot has been said about Millennials. There are you tube videos, articles, blogs, research and polls... Most of them trying to help us understand this new generation. They appear as aggressive, daring, intimidating,  careless, smart, fast, clueless, in sum "different," regardless on who sees them. They certainly have many faces.

Turning a New Leaf With Millennials
© 2013 AR_HRCom-Millennials

Those of us who have been working side by side with them have most likely experienced mixed feelings. It is basically turning a new leaf. Let's move toward greener fields! These young  partners can be exuberant and very lively and their concerns about professional or personal life can feel overwhelming. Often times you get what you see and hear. Does it make your assessment easier? I doubt. To me the challenge in assessment comes from the necessity to distance oneself from the individual. The ability to intellectualize things in this matter is a real gift. I can deal with it in a pretty fair fashion I would say. And, yet, the challenge is real. It appears that one is either easily drawn to or away from a Millennial for various reasons: that's where professionalism becomes obviously helpful. In the HR profession, it is a must. And yes, we have to remember that whether we deal with a twenty something or sixty year old, we deal with somebody's life. We are not the parent, nor the school advisor, even less the friend or the family physician; nevertheless we inherit the byproduct. On the other end, we also deal with business life.

In my observations, it is hard for managers to step away from that transactional model of relation of parent/child, older/younger vs. manager/subordinate, experienced/inexperienced when it comes to Millennials. And I wonder if it is because of the affectionate or exuberant side of Millennials or not, as I found myself surprised by their spontaneous expressions of gratitude, success sharing, satisfaction, and professional concerns. Older trainees can also be grateful and concern-sharing but in a quite different fashion.

So I can only imagine what managers are going through on a daily basis! Whether their new appointees or hires like them or not, it will undoubtedly be made known to them in a very clear fashion. Let alone that Millennials have big dreams. It's fair and normal, right? Except that the sad reality is that there is no one size fits all in the professional/business world. You are a proper fit or not. Millennials can be oblivious of such to a certain extend whenever blinded by their aspirations and dreams.

Stepping back a little bit, are we (older, parent, teacher, school advisor…) to blame? Did we read to them the "The little engine that could", didn't we teach them that all dreams are attainable? Did we many and many times told them that they are beautiful from the inside and that's what matters? …and did we forget along the way that as they grow up we needed to infuse a dose of Reality in our mind-building teachings? And here we are, reaping what we have been sowing,  whether we like to admit it or not. Garbage in, garbage out.

The New Role of HR

As HR professionals we can be falling in the same pattern. The bottom line is that we have a business to run, not just a HR business, not just certain parts of the business. We HAVE to be able to understand all interests and consequently have a well-rounded approach to all business interests. We cannot tell that new appointee that there was nothing wrong in his/her decision when he/she ordered one specialized staff to step away from his/her "station/base" to the detriment of patrons with special needs, to take care of things that anybody else could do, including him/herself (new appointee), just because we did not want to hurt his/her feelings or because we thought that he/she was right. If we honestly thought so, them we DO fail to understand what business is about. It is not about one specific, punctual need. It is about consistency, efficiency, optimization, and orchestration of all talents to their best potentials towards a common goal and common interests. That's why a business needs a HR professional, a new generation of HR, the one that is focused on its new customer: the business leader. Granted organizations vary in sizes and shapes. Nevertheless the HR role of the future generation of HR should be similar, just varying in scope. Granted also that we HR people are not created equal and do not always want or aspire to the same roles/functions, there is an appropriate role for all shapes and sizes of HR people in this new model. So, to all HR in many shapes and forms, let's take the following lessons from Millennials. You might be surprised.

Teach Companies How to Be Like Cats


From an enlightening conversation with a Millennial, I was positively shocked to learn a few tips. The same way I was pleasantly surprised from that one who cared about concealing his tattoos on a business picture.  I do not believe that they are exceptions. The majority of Millennials do actually "think". Just like in the movie Catching Fire, it is all about survival, interdependence, independence, and change. Millennials being careless? A Myth. Let's see what they have to say about "catching fire".

1. - Make Partnership When Needed 


 Blending into the business world means learning to adjust. Office politics are real, and so are changes, goals and metrics. The same with competition. Individual or business, you cannot live in silo: exchange is a must. You have to learn to establish partnership whenever needed. Learning to play out interdependence is how you can improve yourself, perfect your methods and/or strategies, and be part of a puzzle. Develop this survival skill.

2. - Develop True Networking

Partnering leads to Networking, or vice versa. Networking is a social skill at which Millennials excel. Learn how to reach out. Better yet, use the old fashion Facebook, or Linked In, Twitter or Instagram. Put in good use your mobile devices. Join groups, clubs, go to places where you could meet people in your area of expertise or interest. Be in, branché, as is said in French. 

3. - Look Cool!

This one is interesting: be Cool! Cats look and act like they do not care but need to have somebody to scratch them. There goes again interdependency. This also means that you need to look beyond appearances. You need to understand and know your people or business partners in order to establish a viable communication. Millennials are NOT selfish: they care about the environment, they make a big deal of ethical issues, believe in respect to diversity and global awareness. Is your organization truthfully active on those matters? You have the committed support of tomorrow's leader. 

4. - Cats Are Free Agents: Be Ready for Change

This Millennial laughed about this: "Cats are free agents, yes, they are horrible!" What is to be added? Independence is crucial to survival in these days and times. Adjust your strategy: don't rely on a unique source, have back-up plans and back-up people. Be and stay competitive: nothing is earned, nothing is to be taken for granted. Things, people, situations are not to stay the same for an infinite period of time. Be ready for change and adjustment anytime. Your business could be just a step towards another step forward. 

5. - Cats are Singular vs. Dogs are Pack Mentality

The notion of loyalty is changed. You will not keep your people out of loyalty. This is why compensation strategies and strategic planning become more than relevant. You need to know how to respond to a "What's in for me?" silent question. Your retention strategy is to be tied to your business mission and goals, your company culture, and the career path that you offer. Engagement is a two-way path. You will be selected as much as you select. 

6. - Be Lithe: Be flexible, Know How to Move Forward, Have a Foresight


Handle situations with grace, says one. Mistake was made, let's move forward says another.  We have lessons to take from this new generation. They know how to fall and pick themselves up swiftly. They are by essence very future-oriented, and have a positive outlook of situations. Maybe because many of them have a foresight: they know how to fall and bounce back promptly. Or because as they simply put it "if you are so rigid and afraid, you cannot move forward." While baby boomers loom over the uncertainty of social security, Millennials display an amazing positivism, flexibility and malleability to unfortunate situations. The key? They "make firewood from the dead tree." Translate: learn from your mistakes for regrowth  - "Burn or someone else will pick up the ashes and will turn it into fertilizer for new ideas" says this Millennial. Lesson? Seize every opportunity.

7. - Solving Business on a Day-to-Day Basis is Being Behind in the Future

"Plan Ahead. If you solve business on a day-to-day basis, you are behind in the future" is the advice. "Companies are like trees: too rooted, too rigid, unflexible, they will die and be chopped! Those .who are able to branch out and turn a new leaf while maintaining the core tradition/beliefs (mission and vision), can weather the changes of marketplace."

© 2013 AR_HRCom-MillennialsFire

Et Sur Cette Leçon de La Nouvelle Génération, Tournons Une Nouvelle Page....

A Little Update: a series of articles on 30s on Forbes features Millennials who change the world for 2014.


  1. At last, a non-millenial who acknowledges that yes, while millennials may not be perfect, neither is anyone. Though still present is an overgeneralization of millennials and a shared something that I will call the "millennial attitude". Most writers of the articles I've read about millennials seem to think that all millennials are naïve, either overly enthusiastic or overly lazy, and lacking confidence. This may be true for some millennials yes, but it can also be true for some members of older generations. Millennials can be confident and knowledgeable, just as can other generations. There can even be cases where millennials have more knowledge in certain areas than those from other generations.

    Even the term "millennial" is a tad inflammatory. When did this term begin being favored over the term "Generation Y"? Has someone compared the two terms from a sociolinguistic perspective? That would certainly be an interesting read. Though I suppose we as a society need simple, catchy phrases if we're going to ridicule something, don't we?

    Then comes the Forbes article, which I find rather amusing. Some of the people mentioned as making contributions to certain fields aren't even real members of those fields. That guy who "changed art" is actually a businessman. Of course Forbes would be featuring people who aren't as controversial. Instead of featuring Malala Yousafzai herself, Forbes instead features someone who profited from her. Yes, it's Forbes, it specializes in entrepreneurship. Supposedly. If it does, then why does it feature Bruno Mars, who has only been wildly popular and nothing else, and not Adele who has won at least two Grammys and is active in many charities, or Jaden Smith who has his own fashion line, or Avril Lavigne, who has had all but one of her albums (her most recent) go platinum and has her own fashion line and charity, or Katy Perry or Ke$ha or Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus who have both been insanely successful over the past several years? Well, the last ones likely weren't featured because they're too controversial, but that's not even close to an excuse for an excuse for the rest of the people I've mentioned. (And even despite her popularity, I seem to remember Lady Gaga being featured in a list of powerful people in Forbes a while back…)

    In short, wow Forbes, you're still written by out of touch people who don't seem to care much for people on the front lines of issues unless they happen to be capitalizing on other people by starting a company and making loads of money off of them. I'm so surprised.

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  3. Thanks, AC for your insight! Flamboyant and typically "Millennial-ish?" Take it as a compliment. Fresh blood - fresh ideas, comments - is good: it keeps us moving, growing as a society. And you are so correct: we all can be brilliant in our own right. One thing is sure: Millennials, that "tech" generation, is hard to beat in speed and in technology handling or anything related to it. There is a place for everyone in this world. This is no competition but a partnership, and yes "older generations" could have a hard time assuming that reality.


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