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Business & Legal Ethics
• November 05, 2008 | 2:48 PM MST
Slackers They Are Not
Often when I speak on the issue of Millennials entering the workforce, the people to whom I am speaking are the employers of some of the nation’s top law and business schools. Last week, I had the opportunity to present to some fire and police chiefs and walked away absolutely fascinated with the challenges these employers are having as they work to integrate the Millennial generation into their workforces.
Members of the police force reported that one of the real challenges they are experiencing is the natural tendency of Millennials to question authority. One officer explained that following some of their instructions may have life or death consequences. “When I shout, ‘Hit the ground,’ I usually don’t have time to explain why,” one officer said. And yet, in several training sessions, Millennial employees had asked them to do just that.
A fire chief offered some of his own fascinating insights. According to the chief, one of his big challenges is training young fire personnel who he reported have limited “manipulative skills.” He said that with the elimination of industrial arts programs in so many schools, fire departments increasingly need to devote training time to teach their new hires how to use various types of tools and machinery. “They can multi-task on their cell phones and BlackBerrys like crazy,” he said, “But most of them don’t know the difference between a cross cut saw and a band saw, and they have no idea what to do when asked to mop the bunk room.”
In my program, I argued vigorously that the “slacker” reputation that so many Millennial employees have acquired is unfair. Millennials, I maintain, are willing to work. Having grown up in a world in which they have been able to tote their laptops from class to Starbucks to the local pizza place, many Millennials just believe they should be able to work whenever and wherever they want.
Members of the police and fire departments reported, however, that they are amazed at how little over-time Millennials are willing to work. One fire fighter told me that the department has always maintained a list of fire fighters, who indicate a willingness to report for duty on their days off should a fellow fire fighter call in sick. He said that he has noticed the newer employees rarely sign-up for this duty, and for the first time in the more than ten years that he has worked on the force, the department now frequently needs to draft replacements.