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60 minutes had an interesting piece recently on what they are calling the millenials (watch video), the next generation of americans about to enter the work force. The overriding theme of the piece was that this next generation, overall, cares most about themselves and are very sensitive. As Marian Salzman, an ad agency executive at J. Walter Thompson, said:

“You can’t be harsh. You cannot tell them you’re disappointed in them. You can’t really ask them to live and breathe the company. Because they’re living and breathing themselves and that keeps them very busy.”

The end result is that corporate america is scared witless about this next generation in the workforce and I think they should be. But the theme of the 60 minutes piece seems to be that this will be bad for the american economy. I’m not so sure about that…but even if it’s true, might this new generation lend to happier and more fulfilled lives? And might this new generation be forcing corporate america to take a second look at how they treat their workers? Look at the new breed of companies like google, starbucks, zappo’s. They are the anti-walmarts and might even be forcing walmart to improve their employee benefits which they have said to be doing lately.

I watched the 60 minutes piece with one of my walkers who is a part of the millenials. He put his head into his hands on repeated occasions through the piece and at the end, not surprisingly, he was blown away. He felt the piece had embodied his generation better than anything he’s ever seen. His reaction seemed to imply, as the piece might to some, that this next generation will be soft. Will they be soft or maybe just work less but more effectively? Countries in Europe who work 1/3 less than we do had economies that thrived as much as ours did in the boom of the clinton years. And they were home on fridays and work actually promoted social lives a little bit more than hawaiian t-shirt fridays.

There will always need to be pen pushers or laborious jobs but maybe the next generation of companies will be in environments where you are rewarded and appreciated for whatever job you hold. It might also be a generation that moves even more towards small business and as a small business owner I think this would be a great thing. Might our economy suffer with less of a corporate dominated culture?

Possibly but when corporate greed is associated with everything from environmental to social and even political illegitimacy, it sounds like a better alternative to me. Smaller companies where you can concentrate on your customers, employees and product more without worrying about your public stock or downsizing to keep investors happy can only lend to happier workers and customers.

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