Engage: The Xbox Generation

As I’ve shared previously in “From the Xbox to the Box Alarm” and “Dig In!” — I’m continually conducting my own observational research of the people who are already, or soon will be our replacements in the fire service: GenY.

My personal research of what I’ve dubbed the “Xbox Generation” is supported and enhanced by more formal research conducted by folks a lot smarter than me (not that it takes a lot to qualify for that! LOL). As I often do when faced with a challenge, I look outside the fire service for resources from other disciplines to gain a fresh perspective and see how I can apply their solutions to the industry I love. For as two of my favorite authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath say, “Find a bright spot and clone it.” These resources may include books, magazines and other media outlets — especially if they mention the importance of storytelling as a means of conveying our message!

One such resource I regularly rely on to get a clue about these Millenials and their unique attitudes and attributes is a periodic eNewsletter titled “Engage: GenY” from MediaPost Publications. The short articles offer a variety of perspectives from a variety of contributors and you don’t have to read far to find titles that quickly grab your attention and correlate to our efforts to learn more about these young people infiltrating our fire service.

Titles like “Millennials Take Calculated Risks, But Still Engage In Risky Behavior” remind me of something I share in my “Xbox” presentation on understanding, motivating, leading and training today’s firefighters. Using an image of the Xbox game cover from “Grand Theft Auto” as a back drop and making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the TV show and movie of the same name: “Jack*ss” — I question if we shouldn’t be just a little concerned that the high-risk behaviors presented in these three different forms of media are influencing the young adults we’re recruiting into today’s fire service. These shining examples of what-not-to-do fly in the face of our more conservative risk vs. reward considerations.

In “It’s about Respect,” the author states that “They believe deeply in themselves and in being individuals with their own sense  of style, opinions and values.” How does this match up against the fire service’s goal of sharing and instilling common values across our organizations while trying its best to respect the rights and opinions of everyone serving? It doesn’t take long to figure out where and how conflict can occur between these competing factors.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost as Engage: GenY offers positive reinforcement of the potential powerhouse that this generation represents too. In “Unlocking The Potential Of Millennials At Work” — the author bolsters the concepts I share in my “Xbox” conversations, that no one is better at recruiting their peers than this generation; that they are flexible and collaborative, and that they want to learn.

I don’t know about you, but I smell opportunity. The opportunity to be the real coaches, mentors and positive role models we’ve always wanted to be but didn’t have the right audience to receive our messages.

While this generation presents us “more experienced” fire service leaders with quite a challenge, the reality is that the challenge to adapt and overcome is more ours than it is theirs. As I state in my Xbox feature article: “The reality is that there is no other generation from a parallel universe about to swoop down and save the fire service. They are it. Get over it. Get on with it.”

The one remaining question is: What are you going to do about it?

Editor’s Note: If GenY is not your only or your primary target audience for your recruiting, public education or public relations efforts, MediaPost Publications offers tailored “Engage” eNewsletters for several other key demographics including Affluents, Boomers, Hispanics, Kids 6-11, Men, Moms and Teens. Their “Engage: Causes” eNewsletter can offer general insight as how best to get your marketing message to the right audience for your fire department or other non-profit organization.