Category Archives: Millennials

Are There Really Generational Differences in the Workplace?

graphic for generational differences blog post

We keep reading about soft skill generational differences among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials and whether these real and perceived differences should be accommodated by employers. The truth is that each generation arrives in the workplace strongly influenced by whatever technology drivers are current for them as well as the influence of pop culture.

As a career strategist and former Fortune 500 hiring manager, I personally never bought into the idea of a business or company accommodating a particular generation’s work ethic (“soft skills”, however, are a different animal) over those of other generations. To me, that’s the tail wagging the dog. It contributes to vertical silo social/organization structures rather than horizontal structures.

Instead, what I have found to be more effective for accommodating the workforce generational difference and the bottom line is a combination of several factors, primarily aligning/re-aligning people across generations based on their particular work styles and perspectives.

Deloitte created a system called Business Chemistry that identifies four primary work styles (Drivers, Guardians, Pioneers, and Integrators), and related strategies for accomplishing shared goals. Existing personality tests aren’t tailored to the workplace and rely too much on personal introspection. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other personality assessments put people in one category or another, but the brain isn’t wired like that and even the Myers-Briggs Foundation cautions against integrating results with hiring decisions. The Business Chemistry process, which is based on neural chemistry, pulls diverse work styles together – regardless of generation. These four primary work styles are found across all generations, not just within one age group.

According to the research, organizations that emphasize cognitive diversity rather than generational or even racial diversity can harvest the catalytic benefits such organizing work styles offer. In it’s search for effective value-driven diversity in the workplace, could neuro-diversity base on cognitive assortment be The Answer?

Want to know if you’re a Driver, Guardian, Pioneer, or Integrator? Email me and I’ll send you the Business Chemistry self-assessment worksheet as found in the Harvard Business Review March/April 2017 edition.

So, what about those soft skills?

Here’s a scary statistic: Only 23% of employers measure quality of hire, a metric that has been shown to be critical to understanding the effectiveness of an organization’s hiring process (source: SHRM Research, 2016). When employers complain about bad hires, it’s sounding more like the echo of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you don’t at least look for soft skills proficiency, well…you get what you pay for.

The higher up one advances in the organization, the greater the need for soft skills execution (see my previous post for more of soft skills). While some assessments can provide a window into a candidate’s soft skills inventory and application, most companies will have to select those soft skills that do the best job reinforcing their particular business process. HR and hiring managers will have to work together to determine which soft skills to look for and assess.

Work environments must establish an atmosphere that provides opportunities for people to succeed with hard and soft skills. While a person’s core personality core can’t be changed, they can learn strategies for engagement and influence to better manage the daily interactions with peers and upper management.

YOUR TURN: what are you strategies and tactics for addressing generational work style differences in the workplace? Are they working, or are you looking for something else? 

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Donn LeVie Jr. is  a former Fortune 500 hiring manager (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corp), award-winning author (Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 – Second Edition and Strategic Career Engagement), keynote speaker/seminar leader, and strategist. Over a 30-year career, he has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, interviewed hundreds of candidates, and hired countless technical, marketing, and communications professionals in the earth and space sciences, software development support, and microprocessor design support. 

Today Donn speaks on career engagement strategies; positioning and influence strategies; and personal breakthrough strategies as well as providing 8-week Elite Small Group Mentoring/Strategist programs. Follow him on Twitter or contact him directly at

Millennial Job Interview FAIL: TBH, It’s the Fault of the Pre-Frontal Cortex…I Can’t Even…


If you’ve seen the YouTube video, “Sh!t Millennials Say…in the Workplace” ( you know you laughed at the banal facial and verbal expressions (betraying misfires in social cognitive factors) because we’ve all seen them and heard them in the workplace. We’ve been told in recent publications that the whole Millennial characterization craze is simply another episode of how different generations approach work, and it’s alot of noise about nothing. In fact, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute reviewed 18 years worth of data from 115,000 employees and discovered that “individual characteristics, such as personality traits, job autonomy, and manager relationships accounted for 98 to 99 percent of the differences across employees, whereas generation accounts for just 0 to 2 percent.” (

Not buying it….completely anyway.

Remember “relationship marketing“?  That’s still a viable approach to courting clients and customers because, if I like you, I’m inclined to do business with you. However, the term “cognitive-focused marketing strategies” is being touted as the next level of market research because of how different generations process information. For example, marketers should target messages for the still-developing millennial brain – specifically, the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and moderating social behavior. That may explain why many decisions by younger millennials have to first be run through their social network for approval/acceptance/validation. That’s decision making by consensus, not critical thinking – something companies want in new hires.

But the “moderating social behavior” function of the pre-frontal cortex often misfires, thus creating fodder for such aforementioned YouTube videos on millennials in the workplace. While I mostly chalk up Millennial workplace characterizations to generational differences and try to set aside stereotypes, I sometimes pause to reconsider that position when clients relate stories of job interviews with millennials. Such as….

  • While interviewing a young Millennial applicant for a writer position, the interviewer asked, “What writing accomplishment do you consider your greatest success?” The applicant responded with, “Writing masters theses and doctoral dissertations for students…” The applicant was completely unaware of the ethical issue with such an endeavor. Oh…did I mention that she was interviewing for a position with a global anti-fraud organization that is BIG on ethics and compliance?
  • Candidate asked the interviewer is she could use some of the hand lotion that was on the interviewer’s desk. “Sure,” the interviewer replied. The candidate then pumped out a palm full of hand lotion, hiked up her skirt, and applied the lotion to the inside of her thighs. How do you continued an interview after that?
  • A young attractive Millennial was hired for a front desk/receptionist position. After several weeks on the job, she requested a move to a different position because “the front desk activity interferes with my online shopping.”

What’s worrisome is that such awkward or inappropriate social behavior often is not recognized as such by these individuals. Inappropriate responses to social situations are legitimate causes of concern to hiring managers and employers who may feel that such candidates, if hired, may inflict injury to the company brand or reputation, or at worse, be a lawsuit waiting to happen.


While Millennials are eager to contribute to meaningful project work, they are just as eager to be rewarded for those contributions. Millennials often seek that reward by job hopping, which is then perceived as an absence of loyalty to an employer. Employer loyalty isn’t what it once was, but what offers more significant upward mobility for any employee is the development and application of new and needed skills lead to meaningful contributions to project work.

But “meaningful contribution” is something above and beyond daily task completions and duties/responsibilties. Your reward for those “contributions” is your paycheck (most of the time).  It’s not a one- or two-time event, because even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. Doesn’t mean we can crown him “The Acorn Hunter.”  Meaningful contribution from the company perspective (the company, after all, is who provides the paycheck and sets the rules) can be thought of as a track record of demonstrated accomplishment that significantly contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization; it is a history of solving problems and providing resolutions to issues that impact the revenue or mission goals of the organization consistently over time.

The Society for Human Resource Management ( performed a study in 2016 that showed Millennials over Boomers preferring job-specific training (95% to 83%), career development (88% to 76%), and career advancement opportunities (89% to 73%). Those results are not surprising given they represent the demographic endpoints of the workforce. In those respects, Millennials are like other generations in the workforce; But if I’m a Boomer (and I am), I’m looking forward to golfing at Doral, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, or cruising down the Danube River on any weekday afternoon.


The workplace environment is a community of multi-generational workers, not segregated tribes of Millennials, Gen Y people, or Boomers. A company’s hiring, training, and operations policy must balance the needs of a heterogeneous workforce with the financial or missional goals of the organization. Any top-to-bottom corporate-wide re-architecting to accommodate the needs of a particular generation is “wagging the dog” and such an action would not find favor on Wall Street (or shareholders).

Millennials entering the workforce or changing jobs must understand that getting hired isn’t about them; it’s about what the hiring manager needs; it’s about speaking that hiring manager’s language and not in memes, acronyms, emojis, or GIFs; it’s communicating and promoting the future benefits of your expertise and less so the features of your past experience.

So long as the hiring process involves interactions with people, hiring decisions will be strongly influenced by (1) the candidate’s use of impression management language in cover letters, résumés, and interviews; and history of accomplishments (when available); and (2) the hiring manager’s bias (aka “positive prejudice”), “gut reaction” (intuition) about a candidate’s potential for future success, and who best fits in with an existing smooth-running team.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.


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