logo

What sort of entry-level workers are we getting from the millennial generation?

By: Don Loepp

February 24, 2014

Is it tough to manage today's entry-level employees? Plenty of plastics company managers seem to think so.

I just listened to Eric Chester, an author and expert on developing the core work ethic of teens and young adults. He gave a enthusiastic and well received keynote address at the Plastics News Executive Forum.

His topic seemed to hit the mark with the audience of mostly baby-boomer plastics company managers: "What you need to know about the emerging workforce."

Part of the message (and I admit I'm boiling this down quite a bit): today's millennial generation has grown up with a sense of entitlement that makes them tough to employ.

It was an entertaining and informative presentation, to be sure. And while I think categorization of generations tends to lead to over-generalization really quickly, I will concede that Chester had some good points. For one, he argues that employers — including manufacturers like plastics companies — don't really have a skills gap. Because when he asks employers what sorts of attributes they want from workers, they almost always talk about ethical qualities like honesty and integrity, not specific skills.

Skills can be trained. Ethics are harder to instill.

Still, I can't let this discussion go without sharing a few of my own thoughts about the millennial generation.

My credentials as an expert: I have three daughters in their 20s, and I've been around them and their friends for a long time. I've also been an assistant high school soccer coach, working with both young men and women, and I've watched them graduate from high school and move into the work force and college.

I have to say I'm a big fan of the millennials. I know many who are hard working, and I definitely would not question the ethics of an entire generation. Many are working hard to get an education and become independent. It's not easy — have you seen the cost of college lately?

I suspect that every generation, going back centuries, not just decades, has had a tough time relating to the next. It wasn't that long ago that experts were advising businesses how to deal with Generation X. And don't forget for a minute that baby boomers had a really tough time relating to their parents and grandparents.

I think good managers can deal with workers from any generation.

For readers who want more information about Eric Chester, I suggested checking out his website and subscribing to his blog. He updates it frequently, and there are a lot of thought-provoking discussions.

I look forward to getting feedback on this column. Watch this space, and keep up with more news from the Plastics News Executive Forum on our website and on Twitter, using the hashtag #PNForum.