The Boss Fight, 2013 Style

In videogaming, a Boss Fight is a challenge at the end of a stage or level. A generation of game players has grown up fighting a boss enemy often far stronger and larger in size than them.   Now, economic conditions point to a real Boss Fight looming for so-called Gen Y or Millennials ages 22 and 29 who grew up playing these games, at 80 million the largest generation in the country’s history.

Study after study has depicted Millennials as entitled and coddled narcissists who endlessly post to social networks. Stereotyping labels have also targeted Gen X, Baby Boomers, and earlier generations.

This group’s sheer size makes them a workforce to contend with. Recruiters can do a better job of attracting top millennial talent by understanding the economic and sociological forces that have shaped this generation’s workplace attitudes. 

They have issues. The economic downturn has left many Millennials unemployed or underemployed, and they have grown up seeing Boomer parents tossed aside after dedicating themselves to employers. Hamstrung from paying back student loans and blocked from moving into management roles as many Boomers delay retirement due to the economy, they are three times as likely as Gen Xers and six times as likely as Boomers to have had to move back home with their parents after starting their careers.

Millennials, thrust into an uncertain economy, identify with independent work styles. Almost two thirds categorize themselves as entrepreneurs, with 90 percent defining an entrepreneurship as a mindset that includes being self-starter who can “spot opportunity,” according to a recent oDesk study. Eighty-nine percent want the freedom to choose where or when they work and 82 percent find the idea of only having one job for life unappealing.

Article Continues Below

Understanding this point of view is crucial for recruiters tasked with attracting and hiring Millennials. There are streams of recent books to prepare employers for this new workforce, and now a new book is helping Millennials understand their employers. Ask the Boss is a guide to applying an entrepreneurial outlook in a challenging working environment. “A dream job is made, not born,” says Ask the Boss author and workplace communications expert W. Stanton Smith  “All jobs are a door opening to something else, and there’s no job you’re too good not to take.”

Millennials need to understand that unlike in the videogame realm, their boss is not an obstacle to vanquish. “Treat your boss as an expert with something of value to give” advises Smith. When they receive an assignment, they should accept the responsibility that they’re going to have to come up with an answer that the boss doesn’t have. If they do some thinking for him and for the company, it’s an opportunity to grow in the process.

Talent management is a two-way street. Recruiters can hire well and avoid bristling at behaviors that may actually enhance productivity by recognizing the Millennial mindset. New hires can apply their independent tendencies to improve performance and jumpstart their careers. One thing we all can count on: in the not-too-distant future, Millennials will dominate the workplace and find themselves grumbling about the generation gap with an incoming young workforce.

As President of Persona Labs, Jim Wexler is revolutionizing Human Capital Management ​with games that predict talent. Persona Labs’ talent assessments have benefited millions of job applicants in over 10,000 organizations.

An original pioneer of games for business, Jim brought the concept of game-based recruiting and learning Simulations to Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson and MetLife.   Jim has been featured in BusinessWeek, Forbes, The New York Times and CBS News. He has a degree in Semiotics from Brown University.