Bridges 0420 1402x672

Bridges Over Ladders

April 1, 2020
Proven Strategies to Help Business Leaders Position the Millennial Workforce as Their Greatest Source of Innovation — What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of […]

Proven Strategies to Help Business Leaders Position the Millennial Workforce as Their Greatest Source of Innovation —

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of millennials?

In a survey of 6,000+ Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, the top 6 answers are:
1. Entitled
2. Lazy
3. Selfish
4. Unreliable
5. Irresponsible
6. Spoiled

In a survey of 22,000+ millennials, the top 6 answers are:
1. Innovative
2. Creative
3. Smart
4. Passionate
5. Progressive
6. Optimistic

Which one of the groups has the highest probability of securing organization growth? The entitled, lazy, and selfish group? Or the innovative, creative, and smart group? One seems to threaten stability, while the other could fortify certainty. One will seemingly squander resources, while the other seems confident they can add exponential value.

There is no denying it, there is a confounding conflict of perspective between millennials and the generations before them. In spite of the cross-generational differences in perspective, this project develops a model2grow, a strategy2profit, and a need2doNOW with millennials. However the path to growth and profit with millennial employees and customers begins with fully understanding the conflict. This article provides an introduction to a lens2understand.

If you can step away from the edge of the cliff, compartmentalize judgement, and keep walking for a short season, you will recognize that a future of extraordinary growth is right in front of you with a millennial workforce and customer base. This research project reveals how to retain millennial employees and members, master millennial talent acquisition, empower millennials to be thought leaders, equip them to be generators of innovative ideas of value, and become the driving force of growth.

If you can’t compartmentalize your judgement, take the plunge into the abyss, adapt to the chaos of survival, and discover that the sharks are hungry!

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

Millennials Reject What?

A widow once told me that rejection is worse than death. While the pain from death may fade, rejection is always in y our face. Rejection is an open wound that is hard to heal and feels intimately personal.

Ground Zero of the conflict between Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers (BXers) and millennials is developed around rejection. Outcomes in the Millennial ONLY Survey definitively reveal that millennials reject longstanding methods and definitions of success established by the generations before them.

However, the rejection is not personal, arrogant, or a character assassination; it’s a conscious decision based on observation from a strategic sear. Putting a lens2understand on rejection, then utilizing the knowledge to wisely develop a path of growth, WILL define the future of your organization and the legacy of your leadership.

Based on the outcomes in the project and hundreds of face-to-face interviews with millennials over the last 2 years, I pose this question: When millennials look back at their parents, grandparents, and the generations before them, what do they see? They see hard work, commitment, routine, sacrifice, and growth – all of which are attributes that millennials respect and appreciate.

The most emphatically answered question in the Millennial ONLY Survey is Do you respect and adhere to the core values of the generations before you? The answer is shocking and unexpected to every non-millennial: 84% of the respondents say they "do" respect and adhere to the core value from the generations before them.

Further, the follow-up questions Do you value the leadership wisdom from the generations before you? Again, every non-millennial is stunned when they see that 78% of millennials state that they "do" value the leadership wisdom from the generations before them.

Equipped with this knowledge, there is an underlying message here to all BXers: millennials are looking to you for leadership; yet throwing stones of "entitled, lazy, and selfish" is not the leadership model that millennials will follow.

Knowing that millennials move from job to job at an average of every 18 months, I’m aware that the core values and leadership revelation is a bit perplexing to BXers. Thus, if millennials respect and adhere to the core value of the generations before them and respect their leadership wisdom, then what are millennials rejecting? The answer is PROCESS!

Millennials reject the process that BXers used to achieve financial security. Millennials reject the ladder of success.

BXers that are baffled or offended by the rejection of the ladder of success, which is the majority, you have a critical and urgent decision to make. What is more important: the core values and end result, or the process utilized to achieve and end result?

Are you willing to forfeit growth with millennials in order to cling to  your process? ("We’ve always done it this way.) Are you willing to waste the creative and innovative talents of your millennial employees, members, and customers by steadfastly holding on to your process of "My way or the highway"? If so, your organization will remain isolated on an island named Conflict, while the island named Growth quickly expands with innovation and influence. The decision is yours!

A lens2understand: Millennial Perspectives from 22,000+ Firsthand Voices in the Survey

Any statement perceived as a blanket statement in this project speaks to outcomes with 75% or greater response rate.

Millennials do not view the world as fragmented units, but as a whole unit. Millennials do not see nations, sexual orientation, or races; they see people.

Millennials’ passionate concern for the environment is reflected in the organizations they seek out for employment. While 60% of millennials state that environmental responsibility is a filter used to select employment, 63% stat that environmental responsibility is an ongoing assessment that factors into retention.

Millennials are driving the organic food sector and local farmers markets. Assuming that pesticides, fertilizers, and preservatives are in our food, should millennials be judged for "overspending" on food to ensure long-term physical and mental health?

Investing / Saving
Millennials have the highest student loan debt of any demographic ever recorded, yet that is where the debt ends. Millennials are the most frugal demographic since the Great Depression generation. Their debt loads are low, while their investing/saving ratios far out exceed the BXers at the same stage.

However, their justification for investing/saving is not motivated by retirement. Millennials set aside financial resources for holistic experiences throughout their lives. They are NOT seeking to end life with an accumulation bag of money; they ARE seeking to end life with a lifetime of holistic experiences.

No longer is innovation reserved for the first world nations seeking profit and comfort. Millennials have injected their holistic perspective into innovation. They are intentionally reducing hardship for marginalized people in developing nations through innovative methods of communication, medicine, and education.

Millennials are the highest educated demographic ever recorded. Recognizing that 58% have bachelor’s degrees nearly doubles GenXers and triple Boomers. However, as BXers remain steadfast in their opinion that higher education is not for all, millennials are using their education to effectively elevate and advocate for all people.

No longer is the objective to receive an education to advance to a higher rung on the ladder of success. The educational objective for millennials is to improve as many lives as possible with the knowledge gained from their academic achievements. Further, due to millennial attendance, trade school enrollment is booming.

Millennials seem determined to use their minds and/or hands to elevate the whole.

If there is no opportunity for self-growth, millennials move from job to job until they find that opportunity. The survey also reveals that self-growth is developed around the fulfillment of purpose. Millennials define fulfillment of purpose as having the opportunity to elevate the whole.

Holistic Success
Millennials do not view a holistic lifestyle as a flippant fad of irresponsibility. From their perspective, an intentional holistic lifestyle seeks sustainable growth for all components of life.

There is NOT a success divide between BXers and millennials — there is an identity divide. Based on the analysis of the survey, 2 distinct identities have emerged.

1. BXer Identity = Accumulation
Success is measured through accumulation.

2. Millennial Identity = Holistic
Success is measured through holistic wellbeing.

The BXer identity has produced undeniable growth and stability, but has also yielded pockets of debilitating conflict that threatens sustainable growth.

The millennial identity is an intentional response that seeks growth by elevating the whole, which they define as healthy growth.

Snapshot of Understanding: Entrepreneurship

The Millennial ONLY Survey reveals a historically low 2% of millennials prefer entrepreneurship over the umbrella of an established organization. That is a stunning revelation since 17% of BXers select and prioritize entrepreneurship.

Heading for Growth Island

The largest demographic on the planet with the highest annual purchasing power ever recorded, and benefactors of the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of humanity, is leaving Conflict Island and headed to Growth Island.

Irrespective of size or scale, the migration of millennials is having a monumental impact on organizational structures throughout the world. Those that fail to wisely manage the migration conflict will not survive, but those who put down judgment and recognize that relevant creativity and innovation are essential components for sustainable growth will thrive.

Do not be a fool and pridefully bury your company or organization on Conflict Island with an "entitlement" perspective of millennials. Fortify your growth by building a bridge to Growth Island! However, ladders cannot reach Growth Island, and token bridges to "nowhere" only product expensive outcomes of failure. If you are seeking to fortify sustainable growth and secure long-term profitability for your company, build the bridge to Growth Island now!

Like this Article?

Subscribe to ISE magazine and start receiving your FREE monthly copy today!

The article contains excerpts from Bridges over Ladders: Secure growth & fortify profit w/millennial employees & customers, © 2019 Kent J. Wessing, PhD.

Upcoming articles in this series focus on A model2grow, A strategy2profit, and Need2do-NOW.

About the Author: Kent Wessinger, PhD, is the CEO of the create2elevate research lab, an MBA entrepreneurship faculty member at Galen University in Belize, director of millennial research for Red Rock Strategic Partners, and keynote speaker at 30+ conferences each year. His credentials include a PhD from Prescott College in Sustainability Education with a research emphasis in economic sustainability within structures suffering from workforce migration. To learn more about create2elevat, and the book Bridges Over Ladders, © 2019 Kent J. Wessing, PhD., please visit or email [email protected].

About the Author

Human Network Contributor

If you're interested in contributing an article, please email Sharon Vollman, Editorial Director, [email protected], or Lisa Weimer, Managing Editor, ISE Magazine, [email protected].