Business Q & A

5 questions with Tru Pettigrew

Tru Pettigrew
Tru Pettigrew Courtesy photo

Tru Pettigrew said he learned a lot about the millennial generation while working in the marketing world.

Beginning in 2012, Pettigrew, 48, decided to put his knowledge and experience to the test by starting Tru Access, which bills itself as a “millennial insights and empowerment firm.”

An author and self-described inspirational speaker, Pettigrew works to help bridge the divide between millennials and other generations in the workplace and beyond.

Pettigrew is scheduled to speak at Wichita State University’s Devlin Hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The talk is open to the public.

Q: It seems like there has always been a generational divide, no matter which generations are being compared. What’s different about the divide between millennials, Generation X and baby boomers today?

A: The advent of technology has had a lot to do with the widening of the generation gap between (millennials) and generations past. Yes, there’s always a generation gap, but this is the very first generation of true digital natives. They’ve grown up with technology always available to them. The technology alone has created a value system that has influenced behaviors.

Yes, millennials are now at a point in their life-stage development where they are more narcissistic, but it’s more pronounced now with social media and other forms of technology.

Q: There’s a perception that baby boomers think millennials are lazy. Are they? Why do baby boomers think this?

A: Baby boomers view being lazy as not working hard at whatever it is you’ve been asked to do. Now, millennials want to be connected to their passion – they’re not putting happiness off until later in life like other generations have. We’ve seen what baby boomers have created as a generation. They’ve put in work.

The thing is, if you help a millennial get in alignment with something they are passionate about, man, they will work around the clock for you. I wouldn’t consider that lazy. To a boomer, it shouldn’t matter if it makes you happy or not, you should be working hard now. It’s all in the perspective.

Q: What can be done to bridge these gaps?

A: Each generation gap is basically influenced by three things: Parenting style, geography and social dynamics. What I see – and I see this every day – is there is an expectation gap. In simple terms, each generation needs to understand before it can be understood. Millennials – the largest, most diverse and most educated generation in history – have great expectations. The millennial mindset is like, “Hey, I’m sorry you had to walk to school uphill both ways, but I don’t want to do that and why would you want me to do that?” People have a natural inclination to project our expectations onto others, but people from different generations have grown up under very different circumstances.

Q: There’s a lot made of the so-called need for millennials to have instant gratification, which might bother those from other generations. Is there anything to that?

A: That mindset is a real expectation of millennials. They want to get things fast. It’s because they have grown up during a time when you can get an exclusive pair of Japanese denim pants at your doorstep overnight at the push of a button. The goal is now for us, as older-generation members, to help millennials understand that it’s important to temper and manage those expectations.

First, though, we have to understand why those expectations are there.

Q: How did you get the idea for Tru Access?

A: My background is in corporate advertising and marketing, so I was always responsible for helping my clients connect with youth, young adult and multi-cultural audiences. Over the years, I saw this segment – which we now call millennials – go off to school and start entering the workforce. I started noticing about seven or eight years ago a need and an opportunity to help this group navigate the waters and realize their own dreams. There was also an opportunity to help organizations understand how to connect with this generation in the workplace.

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath

Generation guidelines

Baby boomer: Born between 1946 and 1964

Generation X: Born between 1965 and roughly1984

Millennial: Born between roughly 1982 and 2004

Editor’s note: Guidelines are loosely defined