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May 2015

marklowequote

You may have noticed a focus on millennials at recent AAMVA forums. Who are they? What do they want? How do they work? How do we manage them? These are all questions we’ve been asking. The 2015 AAMVA Law Institute and Workshop featured a panel of four millennials who braved our collective scrutiny to share their perspectives.

I admit I was mystified when I first encountered this topic. I had no clear concept of who or what a millennial was, and had never considered my own “generationality”—I just knew I wasn’t a boomer. (Born in 1966, I missed the cut by two years.)

So, with a lack of knowledge but armed with access to the Internet, I went searching. What I found suggests our focus on millennials may be misguided—not because millennials aren’t an important part of our workforce and community, but because we need to adopt a “post-generational” strategy that bridges multiple generations.

We currently have four generations in our workforce:

  • traditionalist—born before 1946;
  • baby boomer—born between 1946 and 1964;
  • Gen X—born between 1965 and 1976; and
  • millennial—born between 1977 and 1997.

 

2015, however, is a pivotal year. 2015 not only marks the point at which boomers cede the workplace majority to millennials (Gen X remains a minority to both), but it also marks the senior year of high school for the last full class of millennials. The class of 2016 will graduate a new generation into the workforce, Gen 2020, which includes people born after 1997.

My immediate family covers not two but three generations. My wife and I are Gen X, but my four children are split evenly between millennials and Gen 2020. My extended family spans all five generations, which leads to the key point: over the next five years, so will our workforce.

Will we need to convene a panel of Gen 2020s five years from now? I advocate that we won’t, and (at the risk of sounding “peace, love, AAMVA”) suggest our focus shouldn’t be on our differences across generations, but what binds us. The tools we use and the ways we share and receive information have changed—and will continue to change—but the basic, human elements of an effective, engaged workforce have not and remain consistent across generations.

As an article in the Harvard Business Review aptly stated:  “All employees want to feel valued, empowered and engaged at work. This is a fundamental need, not a generational issue. And, though Gen Xers and millennials openly discuss and even demand more flexibility in their jobs, boomers and traditionalists . . . want it too, even if they are less vocal about it. You can think of the millennials as pushing for change that all generations want to see happen.” (See “Mentoring Millennials.”) I respectfully suggest organizations that address these fundamental needs will find generational differences to be relevant details but not insurmountable obstacles.

It’s also dangerous to assume all members of a generation have identical attributes or, conversely, members of other generations don’t share attributes. Individual behaviors, values and attitudes are influenced by many factors, and especially in a time of hyper-connectivity, can trend across generations.

As an example, I took an online quiz titled “How Millennial Are You?” Despite being 31 years older than the youngest millennials, I scored 79 out of 100 points, six points higher than the average millennial. Turns out I have met the millennial, and it is I. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Mark Lowe

AAMVA Chair of the Board