Millennials and Milestones

I am celebrating my third anniversary as a Generational Diversity consultant! I am a Baby Boomer who is a huge ally of and advocate for Millennials. This is career number three for me, following careers in community development and higher education.


Those careers afforded me quite the toolbox for activating Millennials’ “passion buttons,” so when I heard that Millennials were having trouble engaging in the workplace, I set out to see how I could help.


My mission is to help Millennials and Boomers break down communication barriers so they can connect — leading to higher profitability and talent retention for businesses and organizations. After taking stock of what I’ve learned in the past three years, I’d like to share these lessons:



Millennials are the great workplace disrupters, and they have been on the scene for over a decade. I’m surprised leadership resistance to generational change has not subsided. Fear of flexible schedules, remote work opportunities, relaxed dress-codes, and high-tech integration are key issues holding old guards back. The fallout of this resistance is found in employee attrition. It seems we’re still misunderstanding each other.


The #1 reason employees leave their company is culture. Company culture often trumps salary in the decision to remain with an employer or not. Millennials thrive in a positive culture, where purpose-driven, meaningful work is front and center.


Strong Company culture is built on trust. Employees need to see leaders who practice their state purpose and values, that employees are trusted to work flexibly and autonomously, and that leaders will provide steady and growth-centered feedback. Many, if not most, Millennials came into the workplace straight from college and have been getting immediate feedback in the form of grades for their entire existence. So to go from that to silence is unnerving. (Don’t worry — this feedback doesn’t always have to be in the form of compliments.)


The best way to to retain an employee is by not trying to retain them. People — and especially Millennials — have a way of knowing when employers are trying too hard. Don’t do things just so they’ll stay. Focus instead on keeping their best interest at heart, and you will be rewarded with trust and commitment. Surveys show that 90% of our millennials desire leadership positions, and seeing pathways to leadership factors into their decision to remain with a company.


With five generations on the scene — Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z — sharing a work place is fraught with misunderstanding and friction. Breaking down communication barriers begins with understanding the coexistence in which each generation has come to perceive work. Community Conversations* can turn work challenges into work wins through finding intergenerational solutions.        



The single most effective way to convert generational differences into intergenerational strengths is through mutual mentorship. A younger tech-savvy team member is partnered with an older experienced team member. While the younger partner mentors their generational counterpart in emerging tech innovations, the experience-rich partner mentors the younger through their emerging career. The outcomes can be life-changing.


We are on the precipice of a “silver tsunami.” In the next few years, most of our baby boomers will retire — including key company leaders. Too many companies are operating without viable succession plans. That means companies need to revisit pathways to leadership. (And if there aren’t any — start building some!)


Gen Z is the newest generation arriving at the workplace. They are not the great disrupters their Millennial cousins were, yet they bring much needed Diversity to adapt and thrive in today’s complex world.


Perhaps Millennials’ offspring will usher in the end of generational labels. They’ll be so adept at working in diverse-rich settings that they transcend the whole concept of generations. They may remain current and timeless, the ever-blooming Perennials.**



These are just a few things I’ve learned over the last three years. Here’s to the next three — and the workplace wins we’ll achieve together!


Next up: Elaboration on key concepts mentioned in this post.


*By the way, I’m the person who can help facilitate your organization’s Community Conversation. Check out my website for more information and connect with me there!


** Thanks, Lindsey Pollak, for coining this term. I like it!





Mary Cooney