By Tony Anderson
The millennial generation spans something like 1980 to 1996, I believe. I am a baby boomer, and I am upset about the reputation that some of “my kind” have painted about these kids. I have read articles about millennials being the most hated generation because they are lazy, cocky, impatient and entitled (among other more derogatory comments).
At Cherryland Electric Cooperative, we have 58 employees and 24 of them fall into the millennial category. Yes, over 40 percent of the workforce at your cooperative is comprised of a generation that seemingly has no redeemable characteristics if you believe anything Google has to say about them. Why am I not afraid for the future of electricity delivery as we know it in our region?
Rather than being afraid for our future, I am excited because the future is in great hands. I strongly disagree with all the negative characteristics heaped unfairly on this generation. When I watch our millennials work on a daily basis, I see people who work hard, appreciate feedback, believe in our purpose and want the best for their families.
Millennials are the most educated generation in history. Why? Their parents and every generation before them insisted that they go to college. Generations past looked down on the trades and skilled labor jobs and steered this generation into piles of college debt.
At your cooperative, we have a great group who would not be turned away from a lifestyle and career that they wanted. They sought construction jobs and outdoor work while avoiding high college debt. There is only a minor percentage of college debt among the 24 Cherryland millennials.
Books about millennials say that they don’t stay in one job very long. The actual history of the Cherryland 24 tells a different story. I have been at Cherryland almost 16 years now, and I can count on less than five fingers the millennials who have left in under five years. Moving from one job to another better job has been done in every generation. This boomer did it three times in my first 10 years in the working world.
Another chapter of the millennial story says that they want 50 percent more feedback than other workers. Well, Captain Obvious, maybe it’s because they are new to the working world and want to get their job right. Again, this boomer needed and appreciated more feedback 30 years ago than I do today.
Find me a worker who complains about the millennial generation, and I will show you somebody who needs a better human resources department. Cast a wide net, interview right, and don’t settle for mediocre candidates and any business can build a great employee group from any generation of workers. Don’t blame poor hiring practices on millennials.
Finally, I think the real reason that this generation doesn’t get the positive due it deserves is my generation. The boomers are aging out of the workforce and many of us refuse to recognize what we see in this generation of young, energetic and talented people.
What are boomers looking at when they look down on millennials? We see ourselves at the start of our careers, beginning a family and making our first noises in the world. Millennials are us. I refuse to be negative because they are young and new. Instead, I choose to be happy and proud to put our future in their hands.