Thursday, May 19, 2016

Millennial experts? This is an actual profession?

Well, just when you think that the economy isn’t producing enough high-paying jobs, along comes a new career that was completely and utterly unimaginable just a few short years back. I give you the millennial expert.

What, exactly, does a millennial expert do?

Mostly they give companies advice on how to attract and retain younger workers. This largely comes down to making sure that work is “meaningful”, that there’s plenty of feedback to go around, and that schedules are flexible enough to allow time off, say, for someone who wants to “accompany a friend to a snowboarding competition.”

Which doesn’t sound all that different than what everyone has always wanted.

Of course, much of the meaningfulness of work was something we had to supply ourselves. You know, there’s just so much meaningfulness to be had in a company that produces mini-computers, or one that makes software to test other software. Still, we managed in the way folks have always managed to get out of bed on Monday and put one foot in front of the other. We found meaning in supporting ourselves and our families. In the inherent satisfaction of doing a good job. In the companionship of our colleagues. This was about as “noble purpose” as it got, unless you were in one of the naturally meaningful professions, like teaching, medicine, social work, et a few als.

But consultant Lisa McLeod, who’s 52 and who sometimes works with her 23 year old daughter, is all about the noble purpose thing:

The McLeods help companies set a “noble purpose” to strengthen young employees’ connection to their work, the elder Ms. McLeod said. For a concrete company seeking to boost employee engagement, she suggested that managers share stories of how constructing solid residential foundations helps people feel safe at home. She also advises clients to strip out numbers from internal presentations because, she says, millennials find stories more compelling than figures. (Source: WSJ)

McLeod rakes in $25K to give a keynote speech. If her daughter tags along, the ante’s up to $30K. I’ll bet that millennial daughter, who’s 23, finds making $5K a pop to speak millennial-ese a pretty compelling figure. Talk about noble purpose!

I’m now going back through every job I ever had looking for an n.p., and the closest I came is when I worked in the shoe factory, polishing boots that went to U.S. paratroopers and the South Vietnamese Air Force. This was the summer before my consciousness was raised and I started hopping on the bus to DC to protest a bad war. But when I was making those boots, I was serving the purpose of keeping those jumpers and fly boys shod.

While millennials crave noble purpose, they apparently loathe voice mail. Which may explain why, at one of my clients, where they disappear employees when they hit 40, employees don’t have work phones, nor do they generally give out their cell phone numbers. Fine by me, but I will note that, back in the day, calling someone – rather than emailing (this was pre-texting) – conveyed either urgency or the willingness to give the bad news and/or take responsibility live and in real time, rather than slip it into an email. Text, I guess, is the current urgency method – and I use text plenty (not so much with clients, but with friends and family), mostly to chat, share reaction to something in the news or on TV, check on plans, etc. – and it’s great. But some things seem to me to be worth a conversation. And, for the most part, when you’ve left someone a voice mail, you had intended to actually speak with them. (That is, unless you’re deliberately playing phone tag, weasel-y leaving messages early in the morning, at lunch time, late in the day.)

Ah, but what do I know about what the millennials want?

If I did, I could hang out my shingle as a millennial expert, rather than just some schlub who knows how to write clearly about B2B and T2T applications. I’d be joining a cushy market:

Intergenerational consulting barely existed a few years ago, but these are boom times. Source Global Research, which tracks the consulting market, estimates that U.S. organizations spent between $60 million to $70 million on generational consulting last year. More than 400 LinkedIn users globally list themselves as a “millennial expert” or “millennial consultant.”

The ones cited in the WSJ article, by the way, were mostly non-millennials. One fellow was in his early thirties, which means he’s pretty much picked up where the Gen-X-ers left off. But the others are in their forties, fifties, and seventies.

Seventies, you may well be asking? That would be Morley Winograd (73) and Mike Hais (72), whose company Mike & Morley – which sounds more like a radio sports call-in – develop “strategies for engaging young adults.” Hey, Mike and Morley aren’t even boomers. They’re bona fide old guys, members of the Silent Generation, sandwiched in there between the somewhat overhyped Greatest Generation and us much-maligned Baby Boomers.

“We want older generations to understand this young generation, and not make the mistake of ignoring or resisting their influence,” Mr. Winograd says in a promotional video on the duo’s website,

Believe me, I have no intention of “ignoring” the millennials. I’m actually rather fond of the ones I know. And I’m not necessarily going to resist their influence, either. Hey, I’m all over texting. And I’d even throw in a bit of current slang, but I don’t want to appear dated, so will want to check it out with my personal millennials. (Is sick still sick? I’ll be happy AF if it still is.)

I want millennials to be happy at work and at play.And I want them to replace, or at least equal, the Baby Boomers as the generation everyone loves to hate.

But, frankly, I mostly want them to make the world a better place. I want them to make the economy run better, save us from nativist borderline fascism, fix the environment, and come up with all sorts of assistive devices for us incipient old-geezers. If that means more feedback and fewer voice mails, so be it. Is telling this to corporations worth $20K an hour? Not in my book. Sounds like boondoggle to me. But if companies are willing to pay….

Do you think it’s too late for me to become an millennial consultant? Think of how few hours I’d need to work to make my nut.


A tip of the Pink Slip millennial fedora – if fedoras are still the thing – to Pink Slip reader Fred Wright for pointing this article my way. Thanks, Fred, for a perfect suggestion.

1 comment:

Frederick Wright said...

Very cool!! I would have settled for beret though.