(#3 in Millennial Series)
Funny how when things don’t fit a certain mold or expectation, our first reaction can often be one of judgment or resistance. I started out life saying that I wouldn’t say things that my parents said – but as I’ve aged and raised my own kids, I find myself saying some of those same things! I guess it’s in my DNA! I have always enjoyed innovation and things that are cutting edge and, yet, I can find myself getting stuck in my thinking and filter new ideas through old lenses. It’s easy to get in the mode that would say, “that’s not how we have always done it.”
So as new generations arise, like Millennials, it’s common to hear and read the critiques, strong opinions and/or judgments about Millennials. If you happen to be a member of one of the older, more seasoned, and experienced generations (like yours truly), you may have even formed your own perceptions about Millennials. Maybe from your own experiences in working with them, observing them, or simply based on what you have heard or read. No matter.
The reality is that Millennials are an integral part of our world. Millennials are currently the largest living generation on the planet today and in two years, are projected to be half of the US workforce. Today, the youngest Millennials are 21 years of age while the oldest are 36. This may surprise you, as it has me to a degree, but Millennials are a major part of the fabric of our businesses and our society – right now!
I have three Millennials living in my house (Okay, some Millennials end up living with their parents, on occasion!), and this gives me a first-hand view of 3 members of this sizeable generation. Newsflash – they don’t do things the way I do them! In many cases they do things BETTER and I regularly learn from them! Millennials add a lot of value and for us sophisticated Boomers and hip Gen Xers, we need to consider their mindsets and approach to work and appreciate what they bring to the table.
- A New Work Ethic – Many will be surprised this made the list as “Millennial” and “work ethic” are rarely shared positively in the same sentence. Yet, I have come to appreciate a new work ethic that reinforces what I have always valued but rarely demonstrated. Millennials have a different view of work. It is more of a “blended view” that allows them to maintain better work/life balance and give priority to their values while also getting work done.
Over the years, I was often the first one in and the last one to leave the office. So of course, I thought everyone should work the way I did. Millennials have a different view, as noted in Pushba Gowda’s article, “Five Ways Millennials Are Driving Workplace Change.” She writes, “Unlike their parents’ generation, they don’t see a hard line between the Monday-Friday, 9-5 grind and personal time. They (Millennials) see life as a rich blend of experience that enables them to move between work and personal life with ease. They are ambitious and hard-working, willing to work hard to achieve a goal.”
One candidate I interviewed recently, a 30-year-old Millennial, shared that he has big career goals and was ready to make a move to take on a bigger role. But he shared that he has two small children and wants to be home with them before bedtime and be a part of their lives. He said he can work after they go to bed and given the technology we have available, he said he would not have an issue hitting his performance objectives.
2. Tech Savviness – One of our clients shared with me this past summer about a Millennial he hired to join his team. He was not sure how she was going to do as this was her first “real” job after she finished college. He said she took over their sales tracking and reporting and leveraged some better online tools and a process that streamlined the data for them and saved him over an hour a day of work. One of my previous Millennial colleagues told me the story of an intern at an Atlanta-based global supplier and the work she did with their inventory management program and, through her tech skills, saved their team $3M.
Aside from being gifted in the social media world, Millennials are accustomed to technology and are readily adaptable to new tools and software solutions. They have grown up in a high tech world with smart phones, internet, laptops, and social media. They expect to have and use technology in their careers and want companies to provide technology that makes work better and processes more fluid and easier to manage. Technology enhances the workplace and capabilities for Millennials. It provides for new approaches and efficiencies to getting work done, breeds creativity and removes many limitations, and opens the possibilities for how work gets done. Office walls, cubes and conference rooms no longer confine where work is accomplished.
3. The WHY Factor – It’s been said that due to Millennials’ hunger for development, they are more comfortable asking questions and seeking answers. The question they can most often ask is WHY – “Why we exist as an organization,” “Why this project needs to have THIS outcome,” or “Why this feedback is important,” managers and leaders need to be more consistent with including the “Why.” Note – Millennials are not being arrogant – they simply want to understand and learn. And sometimes just asking the “why” question opens up conversations that reveal worn out approaches that can be improved upon and better ways to doing business.
Millennials are not afraid to ask why things are done a certain way. Processes, procedures and discussing the elephant in the room are things millennials are not afraid to question. Du, in part to technology, they often find better, more efficient ways to do work. It has been written that millennials can work “smarter, not harder” by virtue of finding new ways to get things done. You never know until the Millennial asks the question!
4. Radically Diverse – One of the greatest attributes is that Millennials are part of diverse generation. Consider the following:
- 56% are white / 43% are non-white
- 69% support legalizing marijuana – up from 34% 8 years ago
- 68% favor same-sex marriage – up from 44% in 2004
- 58% say rising share of children raised by single parents is not good
- 56% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases
- 50% say more interracial marriage is good for society
- 81% are on Facebook – their median friend count is 250
The Millennial generation is pretty unattached to organized religion or politics, but they are connected through social media. They are socially liberal. And though they worry about the economy, they are optimistic. The findings are part of a Pew Research Center survey released in late 2012.
The Millennial viewpoint is more diverse than previous generations – socially, politically, economically, etc. Diversity is not just ethnicity and gender, but also in diversity of thought. This generation is so diverse that diversity is truly an after thought – not something they have to “work” at. Diversity is truly a fabric of the Millennial perspective and they look to join companies where diversity and inclusion are standard practice. Diversity that is ingrained in the culture of a company and not brought about because of special programs and initiatives.
Millennials bring a lot to the table. They have their issues and weaknesses like we all do. But it’s great to be in a position of humility to appreciate and recognize the value of each person around you – whether at home, school or work and an openness to experience the benefits of all the generations around you, Millennials included!