If you’re surrounded at work by people in their 20s and 30s, dismissing them as spoilt Generation Y brats might not be the smartest thing to do. In fact, if you can’t beat them – why not join them?
Bridge the generation gap with Millennials. Here’s how.
When author/marketing expert Simon Sinek appeared in a video about what he felt was wrong with Millennials at the end of last year, it became an internet hit. Those who were nodding along most vigorously to his attack on Generation Y’s shortcomings tended to be in their 40s or older and who had seen first-hand how some people born after the early 1980s could be pretty annoying to work with.
Sinek said one of the biggest bugbears about Millennials in the workplace was that they had a misguided sense of entitlement. Explaining further, he says, Millennials had been raised with the belief that they were special and that they could have anything they wanted.
Also, they are addicted to the rush of dopamine that comes from positive social media feedback. They’re obsessed with their phones. And whatever they want, they want it now.
When they quickly come to realise that jobs require hard work and years of patience to make a name for themselves, this is all at loggerheads, said Sinek, with the things that their generation was told when they were growing up. His video wasn’t just an aimless, frenzied assault on Millennials, however: Sinek concluded that we should help them find ways to build their confidence and teach them social skills.
And yet perhaps he’s only considered half of the story: What if Millennials are actually onto something? What if jobs really are to be dabbled with for 18 months before moving on to something new? What if their love for all-things-tech can be a boon to the office? And what if the elder statesmen of an organisation don’t always know the best way to get things done?
What is certainly true is that by 2025, Millennials will represent around 75 per cent of the global workforce – so it probably makes sense to at least see what they can offer (in addition to skinny jeans, wild facial hair and an armful of tattoos, of course). Here’s how:
TRY NEW IDEAS
‘People in their 40s and 50s need to listen to Millennials and stop dismissing them,’ says Deena Al Mansoori, Abu Dhabi-based life coach and founder of the Fortitudo Consultancy, who was born in 1983, on the Gen X/Gen Y cusp. ‘It doesn’t mean that older colleagues should accept everything, but they should at least listen and know what Millennials want.’
She reckons it is crucial for older employees to maintain a link with Millennials if they want to stay abreast of new developments, for example. ‘A retired friend recently told me he was very intrigued about Bitcoin,’ offers Deena, ‘and he wanted to learn more
By 2025, Millennials will make about 75 per cent of the global workforce – so it probably makes sense to see what they can offer in addition to skinny jeans, wild facial hair and tattoos
about it. He said he could see that Millennials were pushing for it and he wanted to know why.’
In fact, connecting older and younger employees is essential if an established business is to flourish. ‘If we don’t hear them out on matters of tech, especially, or if we don’t collaborate with them and keep up with what they do, then we won’t have anything in common to contribute to the conversation,’ says Deena. ‘Older people need to get curious.’
Try this: Download a couple of popular apps that Millennials use that are alien to you and commit to spending a few weeks on them trying to see if they can be useful. Waze is a real-time traffic app
that lets you avoid bottle-necks; Snapchat, the ‘this message will self-destruct in 10 seconds’ app might seem pointless but is much-loved for bringing fun to social media; Slack helps teams work together. Ask what people are using and give them a go.
EMULATE THEIR HONESTY
In an article about Millennials on Inc.com, Barb Agostini, a business exec from Canada, said that the best thing she had learned from Millennials is ‘get to the point.’ ‘It shocked me at first,’ said Agostini, ‘but they’re getting things done and not letting things stand in their way.’
Millennials are less inclined to dither and far more likely to speak their mind. ‘They’ve been encouraged to speak up when things aren’t right,’ says Susy Roberts, founder of international people development consultancy Hunter Roberts, ‘And this, as any good business coach will tell you, is simply best practice.’
Try this: Ask if there are different ways of doing things. Businesses can become entrenched in processes and procedures, but if you’re being honest it might just be that there are leaner, simpler routes to getting things done that will benefit everyone.
HARNESS THE POWER OF THE COLLECTIVE BRAIN
Millennials’ love of all things tech means they are more connected than the rest of us – they were also brought up in a world where collaboration was key. ‘When I was at university, we were given a task and sent away to do it,’ says Susy, who was doing her degree before any Millennials were born, ‘and that meant heading straight to the library to work in solitary silence. The onus was on us, and us alone, to come up with the solutions.’ Now, she says, there’s a lot more collaborative working and flexibility when it comes to projects and coursework. ‘The digital world has ensured there’s a lot of interdependency.’
The opportunity for older workers is to embrace new ways of working. As Sukh Ryatt, MD of cloud-based intranet service Oak says: ‘One of the quickest wins to a more productive workforce is embracing the shift to social media-style interactions that Millennials are now instinctively using in their personal lives. Today’s workforce already finds it easy to share, discuss, collaborate, comment and engage with others, from anywhere and at any time, using mechanisms that are second nature to them. Why force them to have those same interactions, albeit in a business context, with tools that restrict them?’
Try this: Don’t dismiss social media as the enemy of the workplace. If your younger colleagues are posting from their desks and the bosses don’t mind, then why not give it a go? It can be a great way to get some instant feedback on something that you’d like answers to, though a private work network would likely be a better place to do this: Microsoft’s Yammer, for example, is a good way to connect people within an organisation.
Millennials are less INCLINED to dither and far more likely to SPEAK their mind. ‘They’ve been brought up in a team ENVIRONMENT and encouraged to speak up when things aren’t right.’