For the better!
This month I’m going to take sides in the generational debate. I am really tired of hearing how lazy and entitled the millennial generation is. I get the opportunity to work with brilliant young professionals every day and I believe that the struggle lies in the fact that we are trying hard to make them work inside a broken work culture – not that they just don’t want to put in the work. Rather than forcing them to simply mold themselves to the status quo, I think we should be listening to and learning from these amazing professionals, and molding ourselves and our companies as well. Rather than staying stagnant, the millennials can help show us how to excel in a changing world.
Here are 6 ways that the workplace is changing with millennials in our midst:
- They want to have an impact. This emerging generation of professionals have grown up watching the effects of war, energy abuse, and social injustice, and want to see something done about it. They are taking a stand and want to make a difference. Before they choose a company to align with (because in this new work culture you don’t work for companies, you work with them) these talented individuals will make sure that you are doing your part to make the world a better place – not just line your bank account.
- They won’t blindly follow orders. This highly educated group is forcing change in the way managers do their jobs. The millennial generation doesn’t produce under a command and control approach. They want to be included in the conversation, mentored, coached and empowered to make decisions within their span of influence. They may or may not confront you if they disagree with your style of management – they might just stop producing or leave altogether. It’s important to lead them, not command them – and keep the lines of communication open. Immediate feedback and transparency are paramount. Make sure they understand you are all working together, and for a common goal, where their feedback and input is appreciated and valued.
- They ask, “Why?” When us baby boomers were growing up we were taught to “speak when spoken to,” and heard the words, “because I said so, that’s why.” The millennial generation is a curious, intuitive and intelligent group, and is not content with the flat directive. They want to know the downstream effect of what they are doing. How does it impact the organization? Is there a better way? While this may seem like a challenge to authority from those currently holding the management roles, we need to realize that these are the right questions if we want our business to evolve and succeed, and appreciate that they care enough about the organization to want to make it the best it can be.
- They are natural multitaskers. The speed and accuracy of the millennial mind is simply amazing. They grew up with smart phones, texting, Facebook and Instagram all vying for their attention. Their ability to switch context and carry on multiple conversations without losing the details on either side is something most of us aren’t used to, and often gives the impression of not paying attention or not being diligent enough about the process at hand. From what I have seen however, neither of these is true. They have adapted to this type of environment, and can seamlessly slide from one task to the next, and back again, without missing a beat. We can channel that creative intellect to make our processes more efficient and our working hours more effective.
- They believe there are 24 work hours every day. Call it the freelance economy. Young professionals don’t see why knowledge workers need to report to an office at 9 AM and stay there until 5 PM. They focus more on getting the job done and pursuing the correct outcome than they do on “face time” and making an impression. Working more hours does not necessarily correlate to doing a better job, a fact which is often hard for us to face when we come from a background where you made sure you were at the office before your boss, and never left until he did. Millennials, however, are not interested in the type of culture where body presence is more important than successful completion of the job. This new thought process is forcing us to rethink flexibility and autonomy. If we are going to measure outcomes then why do we care when or where the work takes place?
- They understand the power of the “network.” This collective group of professionals knows that individuals are powerless without their community. It takes a village to make a difference, and with the vast amount of technology at their fingertips enabling us to keep in touch with people like never before, the village has turned into the metropolis. Millennials are showing us that you are as strong as your connections and that there is wisdom in crowds. With the right network you have a constant stream of new ideas, expertise in areas you wouldn’t know about, opportunities, and chances for success.
Instead of being exclusive, controlling and secretive as a community perhaps we should try being open, inclusive and transparent. If we can adopt some of these new, desirable characteristics, we can harness the energy, imagination, and enthusiasm of the millennial generation in a way that can only serve to make the workplace better. I think that our next generation of leaders will be wildly successful if we will let them.
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