Class of 2016 – The Same But Different

Paul Hebert Change, College Recruiting, Communication, Culture, Current Affairs, Diversity, Employee Communications, Employee Relations, Generations, HR, Paul Hebert

My grandparents had a party line at their house.  I remember picking up the phone and hearing other’s talking.  I also remember my Great Aunt getting on the phone just so she could eaves drop on the conversations the neighbors were having.  The neighbors knew she was on the line.  They didn’t care.

Sounds a lot like twitter no?

We are human and no matter how old (or young) we are, we like the same things.  How those things are delivered can be different.  And in today’s world it is very different.

My youngest just left for college last weekend.  For my wife it was sad.  For me it was a time to contemplate whether I could talk my wife into having a “naked room” ala Terry Bradshaw in “Failure to Launch.” (Kidding – if you know me you know that isn’t happening… if you know my wife you really know it isn’t happening.)

But because I’m sending off a 2016 college graduate (fingers crossed) the most recent Beloit College Mindset list caught my attention.

The List

For those of you in Rio Linda, The Mindset List was created at Beloit College in 1998 to reflect the world view of entering first year students and provide a witty way of saying to faculty colleagues “watch your references”. It started with the members of the class of 2002, born in 1980.  I love to look at the list to provide context for the conversations I have with my own kids.  Just the other day I had to remind a 19 year old friend of my son who Freddy Mercury was – and Queen.  That to me is like having to remind someone their age who Rick Ross is.

The List and Why You Should Care

I don’t believe generations are that different, no matter what highly-paid consultants say.  We all operate on similar software – how we manifest the outputs from that software however, is very different.  The list is a good example of this.

I took this year’s list is and highlighted selected items (there are 75) and offered some suggestions on how we can help them become more comfortable in our world (and show you how they aren’t that different from you and I.)

Beloit List

Implications At Work

They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of ‘‘electronic narcotics.’’ Truth. Time between stimulus and response is much faster for this generation. Just like you – when you start to wonder why your microwave takes soooooo long to warm up leftover coffee. You’re the same… but their time scale is shorter. How’s that annual review looking now?

The Biblical sources of terms such as ‘‘forbidden fruit,’’ ‘’the writing on the wall,’’ ‘’good Samaritan,’’ and ‘‘the promised land’’ are unknown to most of them.

Watch how you package ideas and concepts.  Just like my father who constantly said “more of ‘x’ than Carter’s got little liver pills” – you’re references will either engage or disengage. Use them wisely.

Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.

This one just makes me sad. History is important. Do the older generations a solid and make them watch these movies. Nothing to do with HR – it’s just the right thing to do.

They have never seen an airplane ‘‘ticket.’’

Can you say “fax?”  Yeah… they don’t need them (heck none of us do.)

For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.

Gender is a pretty foreign concept to them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it has any bearing on your selection, interviewing or promotion plans.  It shouldn’t and it doesn’t.

Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.

See above.

Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.

Like Frankie said, “Relax.”  (they’ll get that reference only because it’s ironic and hip… or was…) Dress codes will have to adapt.

A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.

This one surprised me. Take it for what it’s worth but meetings may be louder and hallway conversations won’t be in whispers (they’ll probably be on DM in twitter or some other new-fangled SoMoLo thingy).

They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.

And they think they are too. We all seek recognition and the opportunity to shine. The difference again is the time scale.  hey need it faster, more often.

Having made the acquaintance of Furby at an early age, they have expected their toy friends to do ever more unpredictable things.

Shake things up. Give them assignments to break the monotony. Change it up. Plan for cross-training and special projects.

Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for ‘‘save,’’ a telephone for ‘‘phone,’’ and a snail-mail envelope for ‘‘mail’’ have oddly decorated their tablets and smartphone screens.

Are they stupid or are the visual clues you’ve provide completely foreign to them? Think about Egyptian hieroglyphics… can you read them? Bet a 3,000 year old Egyptian could. Are you stupid? Nope – and neither are they. Adjust.

Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.

This one is interesting because it speaks to the need for diversity but the negative the Class of 2016 may feel if they are dropped into a group of Boomers/Xers?  Will they wither or will they rise? Will they participate or go silent? Something to think about.

If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.

Are you making all you data available in the cloud?  Yep… they will want it that way. Just like you want emails instead of faxes – they want links. See, they aren’t that different… just different enough.
Before they buy an assigned textbook, they will check to see whether it’s available for rent or purchase as an e-book. How much of your company’s assets are digitized for instant access and digital transport? Think about it.
They watch television everywhere but on a television. See above and now would be the time to look at your smart phone policy.

Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.

Again… they live in a world of bits and bytes. You need to prepare for it.

What the next generation wants is the same as what we want.  They just want it delivered differently.

Start now to create an environment that benefits the class of 2016 – and you’ll create an environment that benefits you now too.

Bonus points if you can name the character in the picture at the top of the post.

Paul Hebert

Paul Hebert is Vice President of Individual Performance Strategy at Creative Group Inc, writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. He is dedicated to creating true emotional connections often overlooked in our automated, tech-enabled world. Using proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation, incentives, and engagement.