I’d like to think they sound like a bunch of grumpy, old people whose parents complained about the same thing. But I can’t – not when so many of them are complaining.
I’m talking about the many golf course superintendents I’ve talked to in the last few years who can’t find good seasonal help – as in college-aged kids and young adults – who want to work on golf courses.
When I was in college, I heard some older people complain about the work ethic of the “younger generation,” but not like I hear people complain about the work ethic of millennials, comprised of those born between between 1980 and 1994. I’ve heard several stories from superintendents who hire millennials one day only to have them quit the next day. Really? Is it that bad?
One superintendent told me he had such a difficult time fielding a reliable staff this year that to go through it again – “I was banging my head against the wall,” he said – would make him consider getting out of the business. Most of his headaches came from millennials who couldn’t cut the work on the course or didn’t want to cut it.
Millennials have been labeled as narcissistic and lazy, among other disparaging terms. Surely, this is not true of all them. It’s definitely probably not true for the millennials who are studying agronomics in school to become superintendents. But it’s clear to me that many superintendents are having issues with many of the millennials they hire for seasonal help.
One superintendent told me that he thinks a lot of millennials think that working on a golf course equates to riding on a fairway mower all day and not breaking a sweat. But when they find out that it’s more than that and involves getting dirt under their fingernails, their attitudes for the job head south like snowbirds to Florida in February.
I came across an article posted on Psychology Today from earlier this year that sheds light on the subject through a survey from Monitoring the Future, an organization at the University of Michigan that provides long-term epidemiological studies of American adolescents and adults. The headline of the article is, “Do Millennials Have a Lesser Work Ethic?” The survey, which appears in the article, extends back to 1975 and features the views of three generations – baby boomers, Generation Xers and millennials – in regard to work ethic.
According to the survey, 26 percent of baby boomers, 30 percent of Generation Xers and 38 percent of millennials marked “yes” when asked to answer comment on the statement, “Don’t want to work hard.” When asked to answer comment on the statement, “Willing to work overtime,” 59 percent of baby boomers, 56 percent of Generation Xers and 47 percent of millennials answered “yes.”
I realize that all of the people who took this survey were young at the time, and many will change their views as they mature. But it is what it is and does support superintendents’ claims that many millennials have a questionable work ethic when compared to other generations.
Many superintendents come from hard-working backgrounds. Some grew up on farms, where they honed their work ethics. Others grew up on golf courses and knew what they were getting into when they went into the field as their chosen profession.
One thing is for sure: Most superintendents possess tremendous work ethics. They must, considering the profession’s demands for long hours. But the question needs to be asked: Is it possible that superintendents just can’t find employees today who measure up to their standards?
One thing is clear to me regarding many millennials, though: The fact that they grew up in a generation of instant gratification with technology at the core of their fulfillment makes it easy to understand why they might not find a weed whacker or bunker rake very enticing.