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Millennials, the World is Ready For You Now

October 5, 2015 / Uncategorized

Group of young people sitting at a cafe, top view ThinkstockPhotos-476274874By Harlan Spiva, corporate wellness consultant, BB&T

This post is part of a series about the Virgin Disruptors event, Create New Ways to Work, presented by Virgin Pulse.

A recent Virgin Pulse study on Millennial employees found that 77 percent of respondents said culture was just as important as salary and benefits. What’s more, 86 percent of respondents said benefits for employee well-being (not just healthcare and retirement) were important in choosing or continuing employment. Half said technology keeps them productive, and 80 percent wanted flexible hours.

Are they being difficult or just practical? It sounds like the best way to manage Millennial employees is the best way to manage all generations.

I’m Not a Millennial

Born in 1965, I just made it into Generation X. Working in health, wellness, and employee well-being, I have been a mobile worker since the ’80s.

Since then, shifting workforces across multiple time zones haven’t aligned with the standard eight-hour workday. I’ve had a progression of pagers, cellular phones, “portable” computers, and data storage devices. I’ve hunted for open phone lines, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi. Analog became digital in PDAs, cameras, music players, and GPS devices. What I used to carry in a 15-passenger van, I can now put in a suitcase.

The comments of more traditional office-based coworkers and managers over the years sounded similar to the stereotypes of Millennial employees today. Kudos to Millennials for demanding it so loudly that other generations are taking notice. Disruption is a good thing. To remain strong, we must adapt.

All Too Familiar Tune

Workers once begged for access to a long-distance phone line or the Internet. Elders were convinced we’d waste time talking with distant friends or visiting nefarious websites. The first emails we sent were printed, replied to in writing, copied, faxed, and filed by (the support staff of) older workers. Each new digital tool was considered a toy by those not ready for change.

Fortunately, there have always been innovators of all ages ready to consider new thought.

Older generations complained about the attitudes and work ethic of mine in much the same way as they do Millennials. Young workers have amazing potential. They shouldn’t have to pay their dues just like their elders, sacrifice well-being, and do the bulk of the work for little credit. That’s abusive, and it should’ve been stopped ages ago. Millennials aren’t putting up with it. They know their ideas have value and seek support.

Debt’s a Powerful Motivator

My generation was promised higher education plus sacrifice equals a stable job. Wrong. Academia is still making that promise – and at a high price. No longer is it just medical school that leaves graduates with debt equal to a sports car or house. Hence, they’re making more mature decisions earlier than previous generations. An entry-level job doing menial tasks for little pay? Not happening.

Millennials, thank you. Continue to speak your mind and stand your ground. There are mavericks out here with grey hair, but young minds, that will support you. We’ll not only be mentors, but we’ll appreciate reverse mentoring as well.

Recently, my 9-year-old (Digital Native) son told me that Wi-Fi is like water. The next generation is coming. I’ll watch with interest from #emeritus status when Millennials try to understand them.


Harlan Spiva
is a corporate wellness consultant for BB&T. He has worked as a clinician, strategist, health educator, and marketer. Harlan’s mission is to humanize data science so that we want to do the input, are interested in the output, and can use it to become our best selves. After many adventures, he settled back in the San Francisco Bay Area, and became a husband and father. His current work focuses on consulting corporate clients in the creation and evolution of programs to enhance health, wellness, and well-being. Follow him on Twitter: @hspiva.


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