“Put your smartphone down, when I’m speaking to you!”

Did you assume the hypothetical person with the phone was… a young person? Perhaps even… a Millennial?

Also known as a member of Gen Y, born (roughly 1981-95), stereotyped as self-absorbed young professionals, preferring to edit Instagram photos than pick up the phone to clients?

(That really IS a stereotype, by the way.)

To answer the question… the person absorbed in using their smartphone could have been of any age.

From a Millennial to a Gen Zer (the generation born roughly 1996 to 2000), to Gen Xers, Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, too.

Almost EVERY generation by this point, whether in or out of the office, has discovered the benefits of, and formed a certain level of dependency on, their smart device of choice.

Why? Chiefly because of the convenience such devices provide, but even more because of the connection, and the empowering feeling of having a say in shaping that connection.

Which brings me to the point of this post… Purpose. More specifically: Millennials’ demand for and near-religious devotion to it, whether in or out of the workplace.

So great is their need to find purpose in their work, accuse their critics, that Gen Y will walk away from perfectly well-paid, stable jobs, leaving expensive vacancies for HR to re-fill after spending only a relatively short period of time with a company.

Yet… if we are honest… EVERY generation of workers appreciates meaningful employment, and for their efforts to have a purpose beyond profit. Why? Because this is a very human need, no matter how old or young we may be.

It’s just that… unlike Gen Y, older generations were born in more authoritarian and less-technologically-empowered times. Eras where you earned your dues over time, and a J.O.B. was perfectly acceptable – even if all it did was pay the rent and put food on the table, and wasn’t going to win you a Pulitzer prize or reinvent the toothbrush.

Millennials, on the other hand, were brought up with a very different picture of the world and their role in it.

Gen Y were taught by parents and teachers that they would change the world, and were groomed to expect to be agents of innovation. So, given their relative youth and ambition, not to mention, their ease in creatively collaborating with peers, finding ‘purpose’ in their work is a ‘luxury’ they believe they can afford, while staying in a job without ‘purpose’ appears a far greater threat to their future longterm.

This can certainly be a headache for HR departments, tasked with filling job positions that might have been retained by recruits of older generations, not to mention, spending time and money retraining replacements.

But it’s just as much an important warning sign to a company itself, that perhaps it’s not as aligned with its original vision as it needs to be.

Or perhaps that it needs a different ‘Why’ in Simon Sinek’s words, beyond merely turning a profit.

After all, Millennials are not just potential employees, but customers and consumers, too. Their perspectives on what is important, their values and their unique approach to work and life, can neither be ignored nor dismissed.

Meanwhile, retention headache or not, we can all stand to benefit from their desire to make time, creativity, education and effort count towards a meaningful initiative.

Because finding purpose, just like the ease and connectivity offered by smartphones, is something that ultimately appeals to every generation.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/