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Emerging adulthood: The two most important words in hiring and parenting

emerging-adulthood

Here’s an excerpt from my latest column in the Huffington Post:

A couple years ago, the senior staff to one of the top leaders of the Department of Defense asked me for the most important advice I could give them for attracting and retaining Millennials. I gave them two words: emerging adulthood.

Millennials make up 70 percent of their workforce, and most of them are going through a new life stage called emerging adulthood, which begins at 18 and ends around 27 years of age. It comes after adolescence and before early adulthood.

I told them that at least a few of their staff needed to become experts in this new life stage because half of what the older generations complain about Millennials are actually characteristics of this new life stage, rather than negative traits that Millennials will carry throughout their lives. But if they don’t sort out the life stage from the generational characteristics, they’ll watch their commanders drive the Millennials out of the military and never understand why.

I have thousands of conversations each year with people from older generations who are frustrated with the Millennials. A few of the most common complaints:

  • They can’t look me in the eye, because they’re glued to their phones.
  • Loyalty means nothing to them.
  • They don’t know how to be respectful.
  • They’re completely naïve about what organizations have to do to function.
  • If their ideas aren’t implemented, they get bored and mentally check out.
  • They want everything handed to them. But what can you expect from a generation who grew up getting “participation trophies” in their sports?

Half of these are characteristics of emerging adulthood and not characteristics of any one generation, but most people have never heard of it so they don’t know which is which. In my speeches, I often ask the audience to raise their hands if they’ve heard of emerging adulthood. Maybe 2 percent of the hands go up.

This generational ignorance leads to a host of problems at work and home….

Read my entire column here.

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