Gullible Millennials Will Trust Whatever You Tell Them About Your Organization

I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell, and he recently said some things to say at a data analytics conference in Seattle.

Gladwell had a number of points, but the one that interested me most was him discussing the trust levels between younger people today versus older people in the Baby Boomer range.

Here is what he had to say:

Data can tell us about the immediate environment of people’s attitudes, but not much about the environment in which they were formed,” he said. “So which is right? Do people not trust others, as the polls say — or are they lying to the surveys?”

The context helps, Gladwell said.

That context is a massive shift in American society over the past few decades: a huge reduction in violent crime. For example, New York City had over 2,000 murders in 1990. Last year it was 300. In the same time frame, the overall violent crime index has gone down from 2,500 per 100,000 people to 500.

That means that there is an entire generation of people growing uptoday not just with Internet and mobile phones … but also growing up who have never known on a personal, visceral level what crime is,” Gladwell said.

Baby Boomers, who had very personal experiences of crime, were given powerful evidence that they should not trust. The following generations are reverting to what psychologists call “default truth.” In other words, they assume that when someone says something, it’s true … until they see evidence to the contrary.

“I think Millennials are very trusting,” Gladwell said. “And when they say they’re not … they’re bullshitting.”

Why Millennials are so gullible

Why should you care about this?

Employment branding is marketing. In HR we get so concerned about making sure what we say is the honest to God truth and nothing but the truth.

We can’t tell a candidate we “rock” when we really don’t “rock.” Guess what? You can. Guess what else?  They’ll believe it.

Why? Because the younger people today are a trusting lot. They’re already a bit naive based on their age and lack of experiences. Add this to what Gladwell says above and they are ripe to be picked off.

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Is that fair? No, probably not. But hey, as my good friend Kris Dunn loves to quote from Jerry Maguire, “This is show friends, this is show business.”

Tell the story you want.People will listen. And, skip the comments.

I know this strategy is fraught with issues. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. The difference between great employers and average employers just isn’t that great in a candidate’s eyes.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “Gullible Millennials Will Trust Whatever You Tell Them About Your Organization

  1. I am unclear. Are you advocating outright lying, ramping up the bull shit factor, or the Obi Wan Kenobi “It was the truth, from a certain point of view”? I take umbrage with this statement: “The truth is, it doesn’t matter.” Because it does matter! From candidate experience to company brand there is a huge difference between a fluff story filled with lies, a “certain point of view” and the truth. The column of truth has a whole in it but as a Staffing Expert, you can be honest within the way YOU see it. No one buy a BMW from a guy who drive up to the dealership in a Corvette. No one will join your company if you don’t believe in the story it (and you) are telling.

  2. The study you present points towards baby boomers being the gullible generation, ‘they were given powerful evidence that they should not trust’ and did not trust. A knee jerk reaction to one persuasive source of information. I would argue that the ‘following generations’ who have grown up with access to a wider range of information, such as ‘internet and mobile phones’ know better. Not trusting one source of information until verified by multiple sources, the opposite of being gullible. Surely it is better to have employee’s with the ability to make decisions based on a wider range of information sources than to have suckers who over react to misinformation?

    I don’t think this baby boomer brand of HR is good for any organisation and the study quoted is proven to be worthless by inadvertently undermining the basis of western legal systems, reducing the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to a mere ‘default truth’.

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