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By ECCO International Associate Chris Jones

Working with people from a different age demographic can be inspiring and enlightening or frustrating and confusing. Or all of the above. Last month I had the opportunity to cast and direct 35 millennials for a college safety program. I was looking forward to spending time with “kids” the same age as my own two grown children.

I found that working with millennials, as their freelance employer, was vastly different from relating to them as guests in my home. The talent agent, producer and I (all Baby Boomers) expressed frustration with millennials who:

  • Returned texts/emails/phone calls late, or not at all
  • Came to the audition ill-prepared, late or not at all
  • Came to the video shoot ill-prepared, late or not at all

Granted, not everyone exhibited the above behaviors. Some were the exact opposite and were early, well-prepared and excellent at their craft. Were the behaviors witnessed a generational trend or an anomaly? Was it me… or was it them?Party bystander scene

Research into the attitudes of millennials reveals the following:

  • 64% say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. If they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  • 74% want flexible work schedules.
  • 88% want “work-life integration” which means blending work and life together.

I could see where the college safety program probably was not meeting any of their work priorities and consequently, what was a high priority to me, was a low priority to the actors I was hiring. My Baby Boomer sensibilities were not in tune with many of my young actors.

The millennial has been raised in an environment in which he or she is encouraged to engage and question authority. This is very different from the hierarchical structure of a video production which typically has a well-defined pecking order.

A Baby Boomer or Generation Xer lives to work whereas a millennial works to live. The motivations can be very different. Millennials are focused on making meaning, not just making money. My actors may not have seen a lot of meaning in a series of college safety videos. Also, unlike a Baby Boomer or Gen Xer who tend to be structured, punctual and linear, a millennial can be unstructured and nonlinear. They are more motivated by autonomy.

You may wonder about the end result of My Millennial Experience. It turned out that (once they showed up) the millennials were easy-going, engaged and very motivated to do the best job possible.

Do you have any generational challenges in the workplace? Contact ECCO International with your insights, issues or ideas.

Source: Forbes, “What Millennials Want In The Workplace (And Why You Should Start Giving It To Them),” Rob Ashgar, Jan. 13, 2014