It seems that everybody is beating up on Generation Y, aka the Millennials, who were born in the 1980s to early 1990s. As Huffington Post noted in an article last week, 60 Minutes calls them “narcissistic praise hounds” and Time says they are “cocky about their place in the world.”
I don’t know whom 60 Minutes and Time have been talking to, but it’s certainly not the Millennials who work at the Bradford Group. And, since we are in the process of hiring another Millennial to fill an entry level position, it seems like a good time to talk about the great people we choose to work here, and how they defy the negative stereotypes circulating about Generation Y.
Stereotype: Millennials are entitled and narcissistic.
Bradford Anti-Stereotype: Millennials will do whatever it takes to ensure that we do a great job for our clients, and their high degree of empathy allows them to understand and care about what others think and feel.
The negative stereotype is based on the belief that Millennials have been raised by ‘helicopter parents’ who lavished praise on their children for simply showing up – thus fostering an abiding sense in the children of their innate “specialness.” Well, as far as I can tell, loving parents raised the Millennials at the Bradford Group, but none of them have caught the narcissistic bug. In fact, just the opposite. They are very cognizant of our clients’ needs and quite committed to meeting these needs, even if it means working late or calling reporters all over the country to find the one who wants to hear a client’s story. That is, they put the needs of others before their own, and they are empathetic enough to understand what it is that others need, and why they need it. (This is also known as “good marketing sense.” You can’t sell anything without the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes.)
And far from feeling entitled, the Bradford Millennials believe in and appreciate the merit-based system that permeates our shop. That is, we all believe that effectively putting your brains to work to generate measureable results should be rewarded – and it is. And all team members understand that advancement depends upon continually learning and becoming better at what you do, which is far from an entitlement mentality.
Stereotype: Millennials don’t really want to work and when they do work, they require lots of supervision and constant affirmation.
Bradford Anti-Stereotype: Millennials are hard-working self-starters.
The negative stereotype of Millennials’ laziness is an offshoot of the perception that they do not define themselves by their work, unlike Baby Boomers, but prefer to live more balanced lives – and I’d say that this perception is true of Bradford Millennials, and more power to them, as it is probably a healthier and happier way to live. However, this desire to live life to its fullest seems to energize our folks rather than drain away their capacity to work. They are indefatigable, and furthermore, have the ability to focus intensely on what they are doing, so that their work is very effective.
And, since we are not a micromanaging kind of shop, if you are not a self-starter you simply won’t last long here. All of the Millennials here understand, and very much appreciate, that they are expected to know what to do to meet client goals and to do it without constant prodding. By the same token, everyone also knows that when they need help – whether that is an extra hand or sage advise from the grey hairs around here – that it is their duty to seek it out.
Stereotype: Millennials hate to be bored and want to work in an employee-centered workplace.
Bradford Anti-Stereotype: Actually, we support this approach to a career.
One thing you’ll never be at the Bradford Group is bored. Every day is different and you must be constantly learning, whether it’s about a client’s industry or a new marketing tactic or a myriad of other things. If you don’t stretch your brain every day you’re not doing your job. It’s not easy, but Millennials don’t want easy – they want a challenge, and that’s what they find here.
They also find a place that takes very seriously the creation and maintenance of a strong, employee-focused company culture. Everyone is involved in setting company strategic goals and we trust each other enough to share the financial information needed to know how well the company is doing. Every quarter we have an all-day employee retreat, led by management guru Andy Bailey of Petra, during which we access where we’ve been and where we’re going. We make sure to celebrate our individual and group successes – both through immediate recognition of superior performance, i.e., the “Infinity Award,” and with company-wide gatherings to mark big achievements, such as our meeting quarterly and annual goals. And we’ve been known to gather for a beer or two in the conference room late on Fridays.
Now, admittedly, we may not have a representative sample of the Millennial generation, because we are very, very picky about who gets to join our team. But the Bradford Group is certainly proof that Millennials can be pretty incredible. I only hope that our competitors believe all of the negative Millennial hype, so we have more to choose from.