MILLENNIALS IN THE WORKPLACE
Younger and older generations learn to bridge gaps
challenge will be who adapts to whom’
By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff
Jenna Haertle, a personal lines service agent,
left, talks with Dan Wolfgram, executive vice president for
personal lines and Marketing on Friday at R&R Insurance in
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Working with several
employees of the millennial generation has had many more
ups than downs, said Dan Wolfgram of R&R Insurance. As
the executive vice president of personal line, marketing
and communications for the family owned Waukesha
insurance company, Wolfgram said millennials are quick
to adapt and learn.
“They have the ability to multi-task,” he said. “They
are not looking to do a traditional job.”
Others who have worked with millennials have said there
is a deeper chasm between baby boomers and the youngest
Getting to know millennials
Carol White, president of the Greater Brookfield Chamber
of Commerce, said she doesn’t think the older
generations understand the millennials — who are
generally thought of as being born in the 1980s and
She said it’s important for the different generations to
understand each other, especially with baby boomers
staying in the workforce longer.
“It’s being willing to sit down and have a conversation
where we sit down and take out preconceived notions, our
beliefs, park them and have an open dialogue,” she said.
Paul Decker, Waukesha County chairman and cofounder and
executive director of the Maverick Lab, said he hears
different challenges from older generations working with
millennials, such as different work expectations. But
millennials bring many skills to the workplace, such as
being technology savvy and optimistic.
“They definitely believe, for the
most part, there are ways to get things done that are
different than what has been done traditionally,” he
When a millennial considers the
digital world, Decker said, to them it’s a natural part
of the larger world and is not an adjunct. They are also
conscious of not letting work take over their lives.
“Life-work balance is real
important. They’ll work hard but they have to know there
is a good end game,” Decker said.
It’s Decker’s observation that most
of the people who are savvy and have had some kind of
education or training after high school are looking for
employers who can build their skills in order for them
to eventually be able to move on to the next thing.
“The challenge will be who adapts to
whom,” Decker said.
Learning to communicate
Millennials even tend to communicate
differently, Decker said, adding that younger workers
often strive to improve their communication capabilities
and to learn how to network outside of the Internet.
Wolfgram said he’s watched
millennials learn how to tweak their communication style
to be in sync with the clients, whether that is with
emailing, texting or calling.
Brett Guendel, a millennial
financial advisor for Waddell & Reed, said working at a
company with different generations of clients and
employees has resulted in him using a variety of
Guendel recently took on the role of
chair for the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce
Summit Young Professionals group, which had become
defunct. White reached out to Guendel to take on that
role after he actively attended networking groups.
Many millennials don’t like
attending the more structured networking events, whether
that’s because they find it intimidating or they don’t
want to meet people in the older age groups. Guendel
said he would like to hold monthly meetings with them,
alternating between a social event at a bar or sporting
event, and an educational program. Perhaps twice a year,
he’d also like for the different age groups to all
attend one get-together.
When it comes to communicating with
clients, Jenna Haertle, a personal lines service agent
for R&R Insurance, said she prefers email or whatever is
the fastest way to get work done.
Communicating with the previous
generations has not been problematic for Haertle,
although she said some topics like social media may need
She said she has learned how to be
“Patience is a virtue. Sometimes I
forget people have a hard time navigating technology,”
she said. Working with millennials may also require a
different approach. White said for those entrenched in
the “old way” responding to a question of why a task is
done a certain way by saying, “it’s always been that
way,” will not fly with the millennials.
White said millennials grew up
knowing how to operate a computer and to be mobile with
their learning while previous generations were raised
that you go to the office each day to do work and then
“Their mindset is we can do work
everywhere; why do we have to be in the office,” White
said of millennials.
Guendel agreed that millennials want
the option to work partly from home, whether that’s a
whole day or certain hours of the day. A popular concept
with the younger workforce is flex hours, which requires
them to be in the office during key times, but then as
long as they get the rest of their work done they can
work whenever they want.
For the older workers, staying an
extra hour or two may be looked highly upon, but for
many millennials sacrificing time with family and
friends is not worth it, Guendel said.
Millennials are accustomed to
working in groups versus independently, White said, and
are skilled in garnering information by pulling from
every source possible to get an answer.
Decker said they also want the
correct answer. If a manager gives them inaccurate
information and the millennial does an online search to
discover that it’s wrong, that manager will lose
credibility with the millennial.
White said her chamber previously
held a workplace seminar on working with other
generations and how to understand them, and is looking
at holding a similar seminar in the future.
Decker cautions employers about
remaining set in their ways.
“I would warn employers than they if
they are not willing to do a bit of adapting to this
group,” he said, “they may be hiring some people in this
age group but they won’t be hiring the best.”