There’s no getting around the fact that different generations can clash in the workplace with their varying philosophies. As baby boomers retire and younger, more tech-savvy employees join the workforce, a bit of understanding can help smooth things out, while acknowledging that a generation has diversity within it. Not all millennials and Generation Z’s are alike.
Matt Thomas and Oliver Schihl, two 20-something engineers from Valbruna Slater Stainless, gave a little insight into their perspectives on job ads and the workplace at their presentation Nov. 22 at Rotary Club of Fort Wayne.
“Matt is a millennial,” Schihl, 24, said. “I’m the youngest as they come. I am a Generation Z, I found out, the oldest they come.”
Thomas, 25, and Schihl have done some research, but much of their advice comes from their perspectives as white, college-educated men. And like a Parenting 101 book, tips don’t apply to everyone, and they merged their generations for the sake of their discussion.
Baby boomers in 2021 on average are 65 years old; Generation X averages at 50; millennials at 35 and Generation Z at 17.
“Typically the articles being published in your news outlets, business magazines are being written by those of an older generation, 40-50, even older,” Thomas said. “From their opinions that they’re putting out you can tell they’re not really taking much from the generation they’re talking about. They’re just looking at us as a group as a whole and slapping an adjective on it. They’re not really taking any input from us.”
The two tackled the often-heard phrase of “Millennials are entitled.” And while there are some who act that way, “to attach a single adjective like that to a generation, when you really start thinking about it doesn’t make sense,” Schihl said. “A generation is just too diverse of a group to attach these singular labels onto.”
Class, culture and upbringing are among the many factors that can affect an individual, and any poll of millennials on satisfaction in the workplace excludes those who didn’t take the poll, Schihl said.
“A big difference in our (generations’) upbringing is the technology,” Thomas said. “Video games boomed when we were in high school, middle school to rival novels and TV as the media center. With this, when we hit puberty, so did smart phones. And now all of a sudden we all have smart phones.” That led to parents treating them as the “in-home IT department.” Now, after being praised for being tech-savvy, “now that we’ve hit our 20s, we’re entering the workforce, it’s no longer seen as a good thing. We were praised once and now we’re (said to be) disconnected from the real world because all we want to do is be talking to people on our phone.”
Schihl pointed to the sort of hypocrisy regarding technology because older generations are giving toddlers access to technology that millennials weren’t exposed to until they’re middle school years.
“I really encourage everyone, and employers particularly, to think about how they can be incorporating technology and trying to accommodate a little bit more to our way of doing things, “ Schihl said. “Because in two decades there’s going to be the (current) 4-year-olds entering the workforce, and we can’t predict the future, but if you think we’re bad, just wait.”
The 2008 recession hit the millennials during their formative years. So job security is a main concern for them, Thomas said. “How likely is it if, when, we suffer another economic collapse will I get laid off,” Thomas said of their thinking.
That has many looking at sectors that won’t be hit: automotive.
“Additionally, we look for that work-life balance,” Thomas said. “We want to work. We like to work, but also we want to go home and see our friends and family.”
While boomers were labeled as hard workers who’d stay in the office 12 hours a day, millennials want a job where they get things done and head home.
When posting ads for jobs, the two advise:
• Be up front about the work environment: loud machinery, quiet like a library, or does it fluctuate? Schihl himself said he needs quiet for desk work while doing manual labor he can have noise all around him.
• Show diversity. “Show us you have groups of people from multiple backgrounds, multiple age brackets working together,” Thomas said. “We want to see people like ourselves already working there.” They also want to see people with more experience who they can go to for questions and help.
• Express openness to new ideas: Show that you welcome more out-of-the-box thinking.
• Be honest in job ads: While reading hundreds of job postings before graduating from college a couple of years ago, Schihl said, “all of them were as nondescript as you could image. ‘We want hard workers.’ ‘We want people who can excel in a fast-paced environment.’ ‘We want people who can switch on the fly’ and ‘We like to work hard and play hard.’” He said those come off as “red flags.” Nothing distinguished one job from another. Also be specific on the needed skills. “We’re young, but we might be willing to learn on the job,” he said. However, if employers need someone to hit the ground running, that won’t work out.
Retention of millennials
Making sure supervisors and managers are not only available but, more importantly, approachable, Schihl said. Millennials can always “Google” an answer. “The questions we want to ask are to save time, making sure the job is being done right. It might just be advice on being a good employee in general.”