November 15, 2017
By Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager

Jacki HartLook! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…” No, it’s today’s entrepreneurs running madly in all directions, trying to figure out how to engage their teams. If that opening phrase takes you down memory lane to a guy in a red cape, then you probably belong to the older generation and there is room for improvement in your human resources strategy.

If you’re not sure about the “bird and the plane” analogy, then you should read on, because help is on the way. More than ever, business owners and managers are finding it increasingly difficult to engage and retain their younger workforce.
The generation gap seems wider than ever. You are not alone.

The old versus the new

Whether we choose to call them Millennials or not, employees age 35 and younger have different values than employers and managers who are over 35. Millennials are the first career-seekers who were referred to as “latch-key” or “tech-savy” kids. Their world revolves around being accepted, making a difference and contributing to the greater good — and all at relatively breakneck speed compared to the pace at which information and change took place 20 years ago. This helps to explain why Millennials are impatient, which in my opinion, is actually a good thing. They’re also curious, ambitious and want to do their best for you. Once you figure out how to leverage their desire to change your processes from doing things “the old fashioned way,” you’re off to the races. The challenge I hear across every sector of our profession is how to figure that leverage.


Having just read that heading, do you realize many people under the age of 25 (and most under 20) don’t know what it means? You don’t press keys to reboot a smartphone. If your team makes you feel out of date, you likely are. This young, vibrant generation brings lots of creativity and different skills to your workplace and its processes. Bosses need to figure out how to leverage this. While it’s human nature to resist change, I think Charles Darwin said it best: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Businesses are no different. What has changed in our younger workforce over the past 10 years is the culture of what’s considered fulfilling in a job or career. Gone are the days where working the longest hours at the hardest manual labour meant you kept your job and likely got a promotion. Gone too, are the young, eager-beavers who join your company looking for a life-long career.

An honest days work

Each generation to move up into the workforce of the industrialized world has been frowned upon by their elders and labelled as lazy, having weak character and not understanding the true meaning of an honest days work. Sound familiar? I remember my parents and their friends snubbing the work ethic of my generation, believing they were doomed as the last generation to understand the meaning of hard work. As an employer of 20 landscape technicians, up until recently, I often caught myself thinking the same way. “Why don’t they get it?” I would lament to whoever would listen. It’s not until after a few years of wading through dozens of books, articles and blogs on the topic of Millennials, that I feel I’ve finally figured out how we can engage and embrace them in our businesses.

Values of a generation

Here’s a glimpse into part of my “Coles Notes Millennial-ready checklist” to get you started:

Impatience: This younger workforce grew up with instant gratification and information at their fingertips. From Amazon purchases arriving in hours to entire television seasons available on Netflix whenever they feel like it. Even finding a hot date without leaving the house is at reach in the palm of their hand. Your business has to adapt in some way to the speed of light. Hint: If you’ve never experienced Amazon or Netflix, you’re probably going to need help with this generation shift.

Hard work equals meaningful work: If what Millennials do every day isn’t changing lives (including their own), they’re not interested and your company will become a revolving door.

Having a story to tell is more important: If Millennials have nothing interesting or personally gratifying to share on social media, they won’t feel successful or important, and they won’t show up for work.

They need to feel included and appreciated: Feedback, feedback feedback… now, tomorrow, and the next day. A company with a ‘no news is good news’ approach to feedback will be dead in the water. Hint: If you don’t know what onboarding is, let alone have it established in your company culture, you really need to get up to speed.

To get a handle on leveraging the skills and needs of Millennials, sign up for the Peer to Peer workshop on Jan. 8. Details at
Jacki Hart may be contacted at