“How old are you? Seriously, what’s your age?”
Pretty straightforward isn’t it? If that’s how I introduced myself, how would you react? I bet you’d be “offended” or put off because you would wonder why that had any bearing whatsoever on our meeting. The next thought in your head would be wondering why in the world I would start a conversation in such a rude way. You’d wonder if I was judging you or making assumptions about you as a person just because of a number. That’s assuming that you’d even answer me.
Seems pretty outlandish doesn’t it? However, we continue to do this as HR professionals and think nothing of it. In fact, we have conference sessions, books and blogs about how to “deal” with these young whipper snappers disrupting OUR workforce !! (Insert the “Get off my lawn” with the obligatory fist shaking motion here . . .)
Every HR conference has a “Working with Millenials” speech that you can get credit for. Sadly, the room will be packed because we’re so mystified by such a difficult challenge. Ironically, the presenter most likely won’t be a millenial. It will be someone older complaining about how different these folks are from us. Sad. Just freaking sad.
How did the profession that espouses diversity and inclusion become the profession that delineates employees based on their age? Who said this was a good idea? And, why in the world would you pay anyone as a speaker on consultant to come in and teach you how to “DEAL” with people who are different than you? One other quick fact, the next generation after the millenials is already entering the workplace. I can’t wait until the next phase of generation separation starts happening !!
I hope you can tell this ticks me off. It’s disappointing on so many levels and it has to stop. Here’s how . . . embrace the folks who will replace us !!
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have HR students from Ohio University visit me as part of a field trip. They visited four employers from different types of industries to learn about the companies and how HR was practiced. I was geeked to have them come learn about LaRosa’s, Inc. You see, I am a proud OU Bobcat alumni !! I mentioned that I graduated from college before the internet existed. There were audible gasps.
We had a phenomenal time together !! They were eager, engaged and hilarious. We spent the whole afternoon together, and I let them ask me anything they wanted to know. They asked pointed questions about how I viewed/practiced HR and what workplaces were “really” like.
Not once did the students hold my age against me as a barrier. I didn’t treat them any differently than any person I encounter on a daily basis. It never came up. Nor, should it.
I encouraged the students to take a serious look at the cultures of the companies they were visiting as a benchmark for what workplaces are like. I told them a truth that I know which is people will stay or leave a company because of it’s culture. I also wanted them to ask their future prospective employers to describe how they view HR and the role it plays in their organizations. I told them to listen to the response because it would reflect the company’s culture and would be the best measure of whether they should join that company or not.
We closed the day in a very cool, and humbling, way. I was able to give them a copy of my book and when I signed the copies I put “OU ’86” under my name. One of the students said “Like 1986 ?? Whoa !!” I laughed. I loved that they thought I was ancient.
The future of HR is bright because of students like these !! I take any opportunity I can to meet with and speak to students because I believe that they need to hear from business people who won’t treat them differently. Instead, you engage them as talented, wonderful future employees.
This week, stop the generation separation. I mean it. We’re better than that. Let’s make our present as bright as our future !!