written by Vanessa Judelman
“Most of my team are millennials”, stated Cory, a senior manager working in a high tech firm. “To be honest, I am really struggling to meet their needs and expectations,” he continued.
You won’t be surprised to learn that this was not the first time that I have heard a senior leader complain about their younger colleagues.
I asked Cory to tell me more about his challenges. “Well”, he said, “I feel like they are always trying to cut corners, are constantly on their phones, and demonstrate a sense of entitlement. Again, comments that I have been privy to in the past.
Although I have heard a lot of clients complain about the millennial generation, I personally love working with this demographic. In fact, I even made a short documentary film called Beyond The Digital Divide to explore this issue.
I have uncovered two major themes during my research on the millennial generation. First, there are some common and pervasive myths about this generation. Second, they really are not so different from any one else.
Let’s start by addressing the top two myths about millennials:
Myth one: Millennials are lazy.
Most of my millennial clients are actually very hard working. They want to excel, they want to be successful and they are willing to work hard to achieve their goals. So, why is this myth so pervasive? I believe it is how millennials get work done. When they see a problem, they think, “How can I do this better or quicker.”. It is less about short cuts and more about challenging the status quo to develop efficiencies in how they work. Nothing wrong with that in my books!
Myth two: Millennials feel entitled.
This explanation requires a little context. As millennials were growing up, their parents, teachers and coaches were all telling them that they are great. So, when they enter the workforce, they expect to get the same positive reinforcement. To be honest, I see nothing wrong with this expectation. In fact, most leaders can do a better job of giving people positive feedback. I would never suggest a leader give unnecessary reinforcement, for example, “Great job…you showed up for work today!” No way! However, positive feedback is one of the best ways to create an engaged team culture.
Now to address the questions of the day: Are millennials really different from the rest of us? Yes, some of us can remember a time when “the fax” was cool. Many of us remember a pre smart phone workplace. Yet after talking to thousands of people, I know for a fact that we all want very similar things from our work experience. We all crave flexibility, want to do challenging work, prefer processes that are streamlined, want to work in a positive culture, and want to be doing meaningful work. Right?
However, I have noticed one significant generational difference. It is the millennial’s relationship to technology. While many Boomers and Gen Xers are highly tech savvy and addicted to their smart phones, they still have a different relationship to technology. They tend to see technology as a tool. Yet, the millennials I have talked to see technology as an equal partner. I once asked a group of millennials if they would rather lose a lung or their cell phone. Unanimously, they agreed, they would rather lose a lung!
While I do panic if I think my cell phone is lost, I would still choose my lungs over any digital device! Let’s face it, when I have a technology issue at home, I turn to my 10-year old son to solve it for me. Children today are immersed in digital technology essentially from birth. Will this change the way they work? I believe it will. Will it change their basic humanity, desire to learn and grow or willingness to do a good job? I believe it will not. It’s time to respect differences. It’s time to recognize similarities. It’s time to bridge the digital divide.
Vanessa Judelman is the President of Mosaic People Development, a company that helps develop leaders who inspire great results. Whether facilitating, training or coaching, Vanessa has achieved successful change outcomes with organizations such as Campbell’s Soup, Food Banks of Canada, Motorola, Torstar Digital, Workopolis, the United Nations and CIBC.She is noted as an expert in her industry and has been published and quoted in The Globe and Mail and the National Post and is a regular contributor to CKNW Radio. Vanessa is also a guest lecturer in the MBA program at Ted Rogers School of Management.
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