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Mar 04

Tapping into millennial power

 

Behind Alicia Rainwater stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Before her sat 36 members of a group that also has historical heft: the 105-year-old Rotary Club of Philadelphia.

As it does every Thursday at noon, the group had convened for lunch at the vaunted Union League of Philadelphia, a private club built in 1865 whose dress code prohibits jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers – the uniform of many millennials.

Ironic, given that Rainwater, herself a millennial at 32, was there to provide insight on her generation, born between 1977 and 1995. (Her attire met Union League standards.)

Like just about every business and nonprofit group, the Rotary Club of Philadelphia wants to reach millennials, a potent consumer, employee, and community-service demographic.

Rainwater, a Dallas native, recently moved to the area so her husband, Timothy Hanchin, could take a job as a theology professor at Villanova University. They met at a Starbucks, naturally.

“My husband is a Gen Xer, and he still has a flip phone,” she wisecracked to open her 20-minute talk as a speaker for the Center for Generational Kinetics. With a master’s degree in social work, she also works as a mental-health counselor.

According to Rainwater’s business card, the Austin, Texas-based center’s “passion is unlocking the power of generations through research, strategy, and speaking.”

First, she asked the Rotarians – a baby boom-and-older audience – to share at which age they got their first jobs and what they were paid. Between 15 and 18, most said, making anywhere from $1 an hour to $5.40.

Millennials, on average, got their first jobs five years later in life, a delay “causing so much friction and frustration” among their older-generation colleagues, Rainwater said.

For instance, many baby boomers at 23 were married “with two kids, a dog, and a house without a cosigner” on the mortgage, Rainwater said.

Even though millennials, also known as Generation Y’s, still are finding themselves in their late 20s or early 30s, she said, “it doesn’t mean we’re not going to make good employees or club members. . . . Nobody likes to be stereotyped. When we do that, we turn people off.”

They just have a different approach to the job and a different way of communicating, Rainwater said. Those distinctions are important for bosses and coworkers from other generations – whether Gen Xers, baby boomers, or, before them, traditionalists – to recognize.

What does Rainwater say everyone should know about millennials?

They challenge the status quo. “We are eager to innovate and improve.”

Millennials will turn down jobs elsewhere offering higher pay “if we believe in the organization we are working for.”

Don’t send millennials written notes. “We don’t even read cursive.” Because they are so “bombarded” with social-media messages, they also don’t routinely read emails. “We only read subject lines.”

Forget leaving millennials voicemail messages. They rarely use phones for verbal communicating. “They just text.”

They have a strong sense of entitlement. “Sometimes, we joke millennials want a promotion or want to be a manager in three weeks.” Employers can manage those expectations by providing feedback on how to get there.

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You don’t have to pamper them. “We want to be valued and feel challenged. We don’t need any more participation medals.”

Millennials will join groups whose causes mesh with their passions.

Paying particular attention to that last one was Lisa Leonard, president of the Philadelphia Rotary.

“I hope that millennials will see that Rotary can give them opportunities to use their talents and make a difference, while also growing their personal and professional connections,” said Leonard, who has plans for a millennial way of spreading the message:

A series of happy hour Rotary meetings in Center City, beginning Tuesday at Applebee’s, 215 S. 15th St., from 5:30 to 7 p.m

Source: Tapping into millennial power

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