Those Lousy Millennials
The ‘Millennial Generation’ gets a lot of press, and not a lot of it good. They are portrayed as lazy, unrealistic, narcissistic, and uncommitted. Like a lot of stereotypes this is based upon partial truths, but those truths are given from the perspective of a traditional workforce.
Your Future Leaders
Whether you ascribe to, or can even relate to, their values isn’t really important. From a business perspective you cannot afford to ignore them. This incoming workforce represents your future leadership. The talent that your organization needs to succeed exists within this pool of individuals, if you cannot provide an environment that attracts and retains the best of them then someone else will. This is something you cannot allow to happen.
But if they really are lazy, unrealistic, narcissistic, and uncommitted how can you possibly afford to integrate them into your organization? The primary success factor in developing a social business is building an underlying culture that supports it. In this case, you need to ensure that you have a plan for developing an environment that understands the needs and values of this workforce and leverages those effectively to benefit both parties.
This is a simplistic overview, but take just some of those negative traits we mentioned earlier. Those traits are given from the perspective of someone looking at the employer/employee relationship in a traditional way. Change that relationship model however and things can look very different:
They aren’t really lazy, they just aren’t motivated by the same things, there’s a big difference. Find the right motivators. A culture that expresses its values clearly and gives employees a work environment that demonstrates that beyond a simple paycheck will find a lot of success with the Millennials. Salary is never listed first in importance on any survey done with this generation regarding what they value most. Workshifting, flexibility, and ability to contribute beyond their station are virtually always higher.
They have a desire to have a voice in the things happening around them. This creates a couple of issues in a traditional environment. First, it means that they will frequently want to cross those traditional boundaries between hierarchies and departments if they feel they have something of value to add. Second, they don’t yet have a lot of business experience. This can create some friction in a traditional organization. Their ideas may have merit but threaten managers because someone is going outside their ‘designated area’, or their ideas may sound immature because they haven’t taken into account the realities of business that only experience can expose. Yet the traits of social business like open, collaborative, and effective knowledge distribution all support this breaking down of traditional communication barriers that Millennials want. As for the experience side of things, develop a mentor/partnering program within the company that the highest performers can qualify into. This gives them access to the higher levels, the voice that they wanted, and an experienced person to help filter and shape that voice to maximize their opportunities. In exchange you separate the wheat from the chaff and groom your future leadership. The other thing to keep in mind is that you *want* some of those ‘unrealistic’ ideas, innovation is often a result of being blind to existing perceived barriers. Don’t ignore them out of hand simply because they don’t fit into what you do today.
This description of ‘Generation Me’ derives from a couple of places. One is the notion that this generation was coddled more than others, that ‘helicopter parents’ hovered over their every move and that you could receive a trophy just for participating in an event regardless of your performance. The other is their organic comfort with social media and the megaphone and sense of validation that provides for talking about your personal activities and thoughts. That can be problematic but it can also be leveraged. Their comfort with these digital tools that facilitate communications, sharing and collaboration are exactly what you need to increase adoption across your organization as you leverage tools for social business. The creation of a meritocracy based culture tends to instill a competitiveness for public recognition that monetary incentives do not.
This is a partial truth. They are committed, they just aren’t as committed to *you*. Their commitment leans more towards ‘life fulfillment’, not by defining themselves through their work as previous generations did. They are comfortable with the notion of ‘work at a lot of jobs until you find what you like to do’. This lack of employer loyalty can be troublesome, and certainly needs to be accounted for, particularly where induction costs are concerned. However, offering opportunities in your own organization for easy lateral movement that allows them to experience a variety of disciplines will minimize the churn rate while maximizing their value to you. Their breadth of experience through that exposure is exactly the type of training a future leader needs.
Different Isn’t Bad
Hopefully you can see that while this workforce may be ‘different’, they are aligned well with many of the very traits you are trying to achieve by being a social business. All of these ‘negative’ traits are only negative when viewed through a very specific lens. If done properly however you can take advantage of those differences, create a stronger organization, and attract the best talent for your future.
Matt Ridings – @techguerilla
Photo Credit: Diego Diaz