Don Shandler: Specializing in the Millennial Generation

November 22, 2010
In his Milton home, retired educator Don Shandler talks about his new book, “Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker.” The book educates companies about adapting to the growing workforce of people born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, dubbed the Millennial Generation. NONE KARA NUZBACK PHOTO

Don Shandler’s high school English teacher told him he would never go to college. Success being the greatest revenge, Shandler went on to earn a doctorate from Ohio State University, enjoy a career in higher education and administration and complete four nonfiction books.

The Millennial Generation’s take on work
A corporation would have to offer me substantial pay, benefits and an effective and efficient work environment. I would have to enjoy working there and feel comfortable in my surroundings. That would make me pursue employment there.
- Megan Cook, 21, veterinary technician, Selbyville Animal Hospital, Selbyville

I work for a privately owned company, and I find that gives me initiative to work hard because I actually know the people I am working for and how business effects them and their lives as well as mine.
- Michael Coffin
, 28, front desk associate, Millsboro Bowling Center, Millsboro

In a large corporate sense, I would need to feel like there was an honest reason to put the effort into being more productive. Making money for the boss is not a reason. I think if a job offered a possibility to make positive change or create a lasting impression, then I would be much more inclined to put in effort to see things succeed.
In a small business sense, like a mom and pops store, it’s really about having a positive, fun atmosphere, especially since there is even less hard financial incentive. If my job is enjoyable, I want to go to work and see the company succeed. Every job I’ve had working for a small company, I’ve ended up leaving when the general atmosphere changes from fun and inviting to sweat shop.
- Kevin Roberts, 27, freelance reporter and disc jockey, Bethany Beach

I find being part of a team is a security blanket, as in you are all in it for the same goal. You have each other to bounce ideas off of and can get very different points of view from the people you talk to.  As far as motivation to be more productive in the work place, salary increase was the first to come to mind. But sometimes, seeing the desired outcome of your work can make you work that much harder.
- Kristin Wilkins, 29, para-educator, Indian River School District, Georgetown

Shandler’s Cannery Village home is quiet with high ceilings; the afternoon light floods in through a bounty of windows. The author’s words are deliberate, but full of energy as he discusses his new book and his future plans for a busy retirement.

“I need to do what the 20-somethings are doing, have some fun and do some social interacting,” said Shandler about life after full-time work. His new book, “Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker,” is about the growing workforce of people born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, dubbed the Millennial Generation.

Inspired by working with multiple generations, observing conflict between age groups and sheer curiosity, Shandler’s book is a guide for companies in the information and technology fields that poses suggestions to energize twenty-somethings in the workplace.

Shandler theorizes Millennial Generation workers have an entirely different set of motivators than prior generations, whose focus was mainly financial stability and job security.

He suggests millennials do not want to separate work, fun and education.

They would rather have a career they enjoy which also involves socializing and opportunities to continue their education.

For a generation that was perhaps overindulged by constant positive reinforcement from parents and teachers, who told them nothing was out of their reach, Shandler said, companies need to tone down negative reinforcement and offer accolade for a job well done. The book also suggests companies offer flexible scheduling, as opposed to a traditional 9-to-5 work day, to increase employee productivity.

Shandler’s professional writing career began in March 1966 when his article, “Masters of Mediocrity: Disillusionment State University,” was published in Mad Magazine. He was 26 at the time, and by age 31 he had completed a doctorate dissertation.

“After that, life was all downhill,” Shandler joked.

Despite the article’s spoof on graduate schools as institutions of conformity and materialism, Shandler used his studies to obtain a job teaching theater at Boston College. Years later, the experience proved useful when launching his training and consulting business, Shandler Associates, because, he said, it gave him an in-depth understanding of human behavior.

The author said he knew theater was not his final career stop. After six years of teaching, Shandler branched out, landing a job in administration at Southern Illinois University. For 12 years as director of continuing education, Shandler said he enjoyed working with a great team of people, making changes and discovering his own entrepreneurial nature.

“It was exhilarating to be able to grow new programs,” he said.

In his 30-year career, Shandler has held professorial and administrative positions at University of Maryland University College, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Marymount University and University of Wilmington, to name a few.

Shandler, who turns 70 on Dec. 1, is in the process of taking an intense online course using WebTycho, an electronic learning platform. Upon completion, he will be certified to teach an online class at University of Maryland beginning January 2011.

As a kayaker and avid beach-goer, Shandler said he loves living in an area that is eight miles to the bay and 12 miles to the beach. Since becoming a permanent resident of Milton in December, Shandler joined the town’s economic development committee.

“I enjoy being part of a town that is hopefully going to grow and move forward,” he said.

Shandler said he is already planning a new book: a creative-nonfiction memoir that chronicles his life. He said he intends to self-publish the book this coming year.

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