The Last Millennial Article HR Professionals Need to Read



Ben Mueller
03/25/2014

The New York Times Magazine published a remarkable think piece this month on millennial startup culture in Silicon Valley and how, for better or for worse (often worse), every twenty-something has a hankering to be the next Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat. Yiren Lu, the story’s author and a computer science graduate student at Columbia, details how today’s best and brightest grads want to go to San Francisco to work at a service-based app, not your dad’s tech hardware company—and how that’s affecting recruitment and retention practices at Silicon Valley stalwarts like IBM and Cisco.

I fundamentally believe that although millennial think pieces—case studies rather—are great (CLN published its very own earlier this year), the best way to understand us is by examining the technology that rules our lives, the technology that we have created. Lu puts into words what our generation feels in the bottom of our little emoji hearts but can’t autocomplete fast enough to post.

Below, check out the top five takeaways from the article: Gen X vs. Gen Y in the tech world, the new hire skills gap, and why the loudest population crying foul on the uselessness of millennials are the millennials themselves.

1. The shortage of talent in the software industry, and ostensibly others, is best explained by a millennial skills gap and cultural friction.

The 40-year-old engineer working for a Taco Locater app may know exactly how the behind-the-scenes "semiconductors, data storage and networking" get the app off the ground, but he isn’t exactly thrilled to be surrounded by Gen Y bar crawls and office Nerf gun wars. On the flip side, Gen Y has all the ambition and Mountain Dew jitters that a stuffy company can handle, but can’t be bothered by the infrastructure necessary to make their web app more successful than their friend’s. For a company to succeed, look to our second point.

2. The most successful companies of this era are the ones that successfully appeal to both older and newer techie generations, in both employees and customers (e.g. Google and Apple).

As the phrase in the valley goes, "innovate or die." Part of that innovation means firmly understanding what motivates millennials and what doesn’t, especially by means of the following.

3. Millennials don’t care about salary or job security. They just want to be excited about their work.

Lu explains that a major hurdle for HR professionals in recruiting and retaining millennials is to accept that "what matters most [to them] is not salary, or stability, or job security, but cool. Cool exists at the ineffable confluence of smart people, big money and compelling product."

4. Conversely, Gen Y is racked by a sneaking dread that the work that they care about and create—Snapchat, Foursquare, and the rest—might not hold meaning.

Every generation is unsatisfied, but Lu nails why this is particularly so among the babes of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Apps crop up on our phones and almost immediately dissolve, online feeds never finish scrolling, and a new, always more hopeful romantic interest is just a swipe away on the location-based dating app Tinder. The consequences of disposable tech give millennials a near-constant sense of emptiness. This blazes a clear strategy for engagement in our final point.

5. To engage millennials, support their freedom.

Millennials live in a world where a laptop and hot wi-fi is all you need to get work done: in a coffee shop, on the street, while they workout. The development demands of the software world are a great metaphor for the self-governed but stressful style of work millennials know. "There are no longer hectic six-week stretches that culminate in a release day followed by a lull. Every day is release day." So support work-from-home days, office breaks, an hour here and there to chat innovation. Millennials will pay you back by never turning off, their iPhones always next to their pillows.

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