‘There’s a risk of singling out one generation’

Webinar about millennials by Senate puts training in spotlight

‘There’s a risk of singling out one generation’

The Senate of Canada recently raised some eyebrows when it offered a new training course about working with millennials.

The upper chamber is providing a webinar to help some of its more senior members adjust to younger workers. Its aim is to counter “negative stereotyping in multi-generational teams,” according to a CBC News story.

While the goals may be laudable, offering the training on only one generation sends the wrong message in the workplace, according to one expert.

“All generations carry their own values and ways of working and specificity. There’s a risk of singling out one generation over the other because there are multiple generations at work,” says Marie-Noelle Morency, senior director of marketing and communications at Randstad Canada in Montreal.

In the Senate’s internal website, according to the CBC, the millennial generation may be viewed as “entitled praise-seekers who are easily distracted by technology.”

By pointing the finger at millennials, an employer runs the risk of alienating them, says Morency.

“I commend the fact that you want to work better with a generation but it’s not just about one [generation], it’s about working better in the workplace in general, and making sure that there’s a harmonious workplace. That’s ultimately the goal.”

Education for all

A better idea would be to educate the workforce on what all generations crave while on the job, according to Morency, referencing a recent campaign by Randstad to educate clients on the similarities and differences between age groups.

“The goal was not for me to really dig into: ‘Why are the millennials like this?’ it was more where they come from, what their social, historic background is… their own expectations or needs, and understand how their triggers may be different, their expectations of the workplace, what they value is different.”

Begin with an open mind when embarking on these types of learning, she says, to counteract the biases that all people have.

“When programs are built with a mindset of ‘Let’s understand these differences better so we can cater better to the talent,’ that’s where a program to me would help. If it is to reinforce some negative biases or some preconceived notions about a generation, that wouldn’t be that helpful.”

Besides all of the different pressures these days, financial stress hits particularly hard for younger employees, according to a survey.

Difference between cohorts

While today’s millennials make up the bulk of the workforce, says Morency, they have some very different experiences that older generations went through.

“For example, gen X was really into working hard, and… telework and remote work and flexibility was not that common at the time. A lot of parents had to juggle a lot of hours in traffic, so there was additional pressure in terms of economic stress,” she says.

“They were in a generation where they worked really, really hard and they maybe did not pay as much attention to stuff like flexibility and mental health that the next generation really understood better.”

Younger cohorts today expect to be accommodated for various reasons.

“For example, the millennials will pay more attention to work-life balance, and they’re more aware of the consequences of being overworked, of burnout so they will pay more attention to things like flexibility.

“It’s not that they don’t want to work, it’s that they pay extra attention to work-life balance, so they will pay more attention to mental health programs, flexibility, flexible hours: they work to live more than they live to work, which was more of a characteristic of the previous generation,” she says.

And the youngest group, gen Z, have a clear understanding of corporate social responsibility, says Morency.

“They want to make sure that organizations are aware of their impact on the environment, on the community, they are really aware of the impact of what an organization can play in society in general, so they want to make sure that there is a social responsibility; they’re extra aware of their own environmental footprint, their impact on social.”

Many workplace setups are not appealing to younger workers, making them that much less attractive, found another survey.

Be open and honest

When it comes to dealing with younger workers, one other thing is really key: transparency.

“Both from a salary perspective, from a career-progression perspective [it’s about] ‘What can I expect my career path to be? How can I contribute? What’s my role?’ They really want to make sure that they are an integral part of your organization. They want to have clear access to their leaders to provide some insight, some ideas; they want to have those clear communications channels,” says Morency.

For HR, it’s important to be aware biases may exist and to eliminate them as soon as they crop up.

“If there are negative perceptions, and you can observe in group meetings, [it’s about calling] them out and identifying them, and then debunking those myths about perception. We don’t necessarily have the same perspective, the same point of view but it doesn’t mean that one is less valid than the other.

“It’s more about how can we bring different perspectives to the table,” she says.

Latest stories