A Millennial’s First Day At Your Nonprofit

Imagine that a Millennial is arriving today for the first day on the job at your organization. It’s their first full-time job. If given only a sentence to provide them advice for the rest of their professional career, what would you tell them? The answer largely depends on your generation.

Despite jokes about living in their parents’ basement, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. There are 80 million Millennials in the U.S. and they range in age up to 39. The Millennial generation stops at those born after 1995. Those younger are in Generation Z.

Jason Dorsey, co-founder and Millennials and Gen Z researcher at The Center for Generational Kinetics, discussed generational perception and divides in the workplace during his presentation “Crossing the Generational Divide: Unlocking the Power of Generations to Grow Your Business” at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Not-For-Profit Conference in National Harbor, Md.

Much of Dorsey’s talk centered around differing personal experiences and expectations respective generations bring to the work place. For instance, Millennials might be more educated than their predecessors, but are also — on average — five years older than previous generations were when landing their first full-time job. Inter-generational issues in the workplace can thus surface based on managers, who had started careers and families by age 24, expecting some more of themselves out of 24-year-old hires.

Two of the biggest trends affecting the younger workplace today are parenting and technology, according to Dorsey. Parenting informs individuals’ work ethic, workplace preferences, and value placed on stability. Millennials have tended to be parented more leniently than generations prior.

Millennials are often thought of in the work place as “tech savvy” but are actually just tech dependent, Dorsey added. Millennials’ top two preferred means of communication are text and email, the latter of which is used like texts because many only read subject lines. The trouble with technology is not each individual’s use of it, but the fact that every generation has different familiarity and expectations that are invisible to coworkers, according to Dorsey, creating inter-office complications. Employees recently out of college, for instance, do not see the cloud as anything new. It’s something that is expected.

Dorsey made several suggestions toward bridging the generational divide. One, give Millennials a few business cards on their first day. Many Millennials decide on the first day of work whether they can imagine themselves being there long term so first impressions are important. Secondly, provide specific examples of the performance you expect. Millennials might sometimes lack the real-world experience to hit the ground running without some guidance.

    Other observations and tips share during the session included:

  • There might be a perception that Millennials are broke, but Millennials will outspend every other generation this year, Dorsey said. The lifetime value of Millennials exceeds those of generations past with the added benefit that Millennials tend to attract friends as organizational supporters;
  • Millennials are often in delayed adulthood, with research indicating that many Millennials don’t believe that adulthood starts until age 30. Millennials are, on average, older in entering the workforce, first getting married, and having their first child than any previously recorded generation; and,
  • They’ve split. Millennials self-select into two distinct generations by the time they turn 30, Dorsey said, adding that research hasn’t indicated why this is. One generation relates more to the stereotypical arrested development, spendthrift archetype while the other is more traditional in their values. The latter is more offended by stereotypical Millennials than any other age group, according to Dorsey.