BE­HAV­IOUR

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?

Friday - - Contents -

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.’

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