In soliciting feedback for our upcoming Dealership Minds Summit next January 13-14, it was suggested we devote a roundtable session to managing Millennials. It would seem to make sense, as the theme of the conference centers on dealerships transitioning to “The Next Generation” of leadership. 

No one seems to know exactly what age group the Millennial Generation covers. Some say it covers those born between 1980 to about 2004. If this is the case, then my son is a Millennial. Other references to this group of young people include Generation Y and Generation We. 

Up until the last few years, I’ve been reluctant to hire people from this group. I remember the first one I hired. He couldn’t seem to hit the deadlines for his assignments. I asked him why. He said, “I can’t work like you, Dave.” 

I also recall a conversation I had with my son when he was about 16 or 17 years old. He said pretty much the same thing: “Dad, I never want to have to work as hard as you.” At the time I thought to myself, “Heck, I don’t want to work this hard either.” But it was all I knew and that was all I did. And for years, that was what I expected from those working with and for me.

I recognized that young people looked at life differently than I did. I have to say, for quite a long time (too long) I didn’t really like the way they looked at things and I really didn’t like them. I’d take a Baby Boomer or even a Generation Xer any day before I would even consider a Millennial. 

I’m not sure when I finally came around or why, but it’s a good thing I did (or at least I’m getting there). According to published reports, in 5 very short years, it is estimated that Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. 

In effect, I had been ignoring a huge part of the workforce; young, talented people who could probably make my life better and bring a lot of new vision and energy to the company.

It’s funny how us “older guys” have come to believe that younger employees are supposed to do all the pleasing. After all these years of pleasing our boss, now it’s time for others to do the same for us, right? 

I’m afraid that somehow the world has changed and many of us haven’t noticed, including me.

Fortunately, we’ve hired some really terrific young people in the past few years and I’ve had to do some changing, which is still a work in progress. They’ve caused me to take a long, hard look at myself, which was long overdue. 

I’ve begun to enjoy and appreciate our group of Millennials. And I’ve come to the conclusion that they deserve every bit as much patience from us/me as they learn their jobs and about this industry as we/I demand from them when I need help with this computer, software, technology stuff, for example. 

Succession planning isn’t a one-way street. It isn’t only us picking them, but we need for them to pick us, too. When we finally make way for this new generation, the goal should be for no one to notice that there’s been a change.