How Baby Boomers Can Turn Millennials into the PR Leaders of Tomorrow

News flash for Baby Boomer and Gen X managers/employers: there is hope for working with and effectively managing Millennials!  I recently attended the Publicity Club of New England’s Master’s Institute panel  entitled “Motivating Next Generation Leaders” which featured some great insight and highly animated discussion about the intergenerational dynamics of Baby Boomers (DOB pre-1964), Generation X’ers (DOB 1965-1980), and Millennials (formerly known as Generation Y,  DOB 1980’s-2000’s) amongst the panelists and attendees alike.

The panel, moderated by Helen Shik, Senior Vice President,  MSLGROUP, featured experts in Millennial research, author Lauren Stiller Rikleen (You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Team) and Susan Sandler Brennan, Executive Director of University Career Service at Bentley University, and Lisa Astor, Vice President at PAN Communications.


Interesting distinctions were made between the differences in generational perspective regarding work ethic, life/work balance, loyalty in the workplace, speed of advancement, and technology with the common thread throughout these issues being Baby Boomer/Gen X’ers feeling of EARNING (benefits, flex schedule, promotion as a result of years of work and long hours) vs. Millennials’ instilled EXPECTATION of EQUALITY in the workplace.  Ms. Rikleen discussed how Millennials are often stereotyped as entitled, when in reality they were raised by their Boomer/Gen X’er parents to be self-confident and direct, and therefore are just fulfilling that prophecy that was placed on them by…guess who?!

Now the Boomer/Gen X managers and co-workers of the world need to work with them, which isn’t easy because they’ve “paid their dues”, earned what they have now by working long hours and slowly moving up ladders.  Rikleen states that it’s not that Millennials don’t want to work hard, but they want to build off of what their predecessors did, not do it “again”, which is why they feel that they should be treated as equals in the workplace right out of the gate (well if you can leave early for your kid’s soccer, why can’t I leave early to go hang out with my friends?) And Boomers and Gen X’ers don’t take too kindly to that!  But guess what, they need to, otherwise, they will be looking at consistent turnover and a continually transient workforce because their Millennial employees will move on to other workplace environments that will be kindly to all of that, and more.

So what’s a Boomer/Gen X manager to do?  Here are some great takeaways to help you manage your Millennial PR rock stars and to motivate them to become your industry’s next generation of leaders:

  1. Transparency: Millennials were raised to have a desire for feedback and oftentimes do not know or are confused about workplace expectations and standards because no one really talks about it.  It is important for Boomer/Gen X managers to have regular, open communication with their Millennials so they understand the corporate culture, goals, expectations, and policy and have the opportunity to ask questions about policy and procedures if they are unclear.  All too often PR agencies do not have clear, written workplace policy and procedures in place so it is important to have them and discuss them on the outset with employees so everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and goals.

Additionally, Boomer/Gen X managers need to be coached as to how deliver positive and negative feedback effectively and Millennial employees need to learn how to receive this feedback.  Honest conversation is necessary to prevent resentment between generations and the ultimate breeding of each other’s contempt.

  1. Develop multi-generational workplace teams: Having these types of teams, or task forces, will help with identifying and dealing with workplace issues because all generational perspectives are represented and have an equal voice when developing uniform workplace policy and solutions.
  1. Rethink training and professional development: Due to the fast-paced, informal nature of PR, formal workplace training tends take a major backseat in these organizations but Millennials desire and thrive with this type of formalized training.  Structured trainings can help Millennials excel within the workplace as well as help establish realistic expectations of promotion and advancement within.
  1. Celebrate the fresh workplace perspectives of Millennials: They are moving the needle for workplace flexibility and the adoption of the “startup” workplace mentality in ways that no generation was able to do before, and at a rapid pace.  Thank goodness that we did raise them to care about work/life balance and their ability to utilize technology in ways we never thought possible to help with workplace efficiency and effectiveness.

Ms. Rikleen’s book is aptly titled. We did raise them so now we let’s work with and not against them. Success will ultimately be yours and theirs!

This post was contributed by Alyssa Hammond, Senior Associate Director, Career Education & Marketing, Bentley University

Twitter: @BentleyCareer