By Evan Coulter
Recently, I was asked to judge the science fair at my kids’ school. I worked with a team of adults, listening to presentations and assessing the various projects. It was a whole new world to me; I don’t remember ever doing a science fair project as a student.
The projects ranged from the perfunctory (the student looked up a list of science fair projects and did one); to “My mom and dad did my project for me and I don’t understand it” to experiments that showed the student really looked at their project as an opportunity to learn things using the Scientific Method.
I was impressed by the students in the third group. You could tell they were curious for more knowledge. I admired them in their scientific quest!
I think some generations get a bad rap. You might know what I am talking about: Millenials are “entitled” or “Generation Z is growing up with too much electronic stimulation and can’t interact with adults.” We’ve all heard these pronouncements (or even said them or thought them). But from where I sit, sweeping judgements on younger generations don’t help anyone.
For instance, the Millennials I know are more in tune with their self worth. That doesn’t mean they can be CEO after six months on the job. But they might turn down a boring, little-valued job because they feel they are worth more. I think that’s a positive thing.
And the kids I saw at the Science Fair? They are growing up immersed in technology from the crib. That can be a positive (computers and mobile devices will never slow them down) but they might struggle to find a path for their lives through the forest of technology.
That’s where we come in. As leaders a few years older (ahem) than the Millennials and perhaps parenting Generation Z, we need to understand their needs. When I entered the workforce, money was one of the largest motivating factors in workplace fulfillment. A recent study I read found that today, satisfaction, praise and recognition matter more to younger workers than money.
As business leaders, we have to figure out how to respond to younger workers so they are engaged and interested in learning more. Just like those science fair kids, a lot of the people working on our teams are hungry to learn more. We need to help them do that, and create satisfying careers for all.
The future is in good hands!
Evan is Vice President of Business Operations at UCEC.