I don’t like labels. I sincerely believe that each generation differs from another, both with weaknesses and strengths. There is no better or worse. There is a constant change and evolving world, so there is adapting people into this tremendous changes.
However I realize there is too much claims or even accusations for the new generation. Sadly, I even sense the word “Millennial” or “Generation Y” implies a sense of negative portrayal. The world create a stereotype for young generation with a marketing sawy jargon. They missed a huge point. This is not about a generation. This about constantly changing world, values, technologies and media landscape. People do not change, but the world does. So I find this kind of segmentation a bit narrow minded.
The phrase Generation Y first launched in Ad Age magazine in 1993 to describe the children of that day. Then it spreaded all over the world and used to describe people born from early 1980s to early 2000s. This is the new generation coming after Generation X – people born between early 1960s and 1980s. Alternative names also proposed by different people and institutions: The Me Generation, GenY, Generation We, Global Generation, Next Generation, Net Generation. At the end the winner was “Millennials”. The Gen Y is replaced with a new name “Millennials”. Both Ad Age and Time magazines agreed the usage of this name since they believe it is a better description.
Honestly, I believe the global marketing landscape also expanded such usage. These young people are the largest generation with greatest combined purchasing power, stated by Forbes. Since marketing people are in love with segmentations, they always needed shinny buzzwords.
It is also a hot topic in workplace. I want to focus here in this post. Such labelling is the easiest way to work with, deal with and collaborate with a new generation. An easy way out and laziness of elder generations – Label the young people and justify yourself with those given perspectives – It is all about them right? No! This is not the right way to live with or work with millennials.
I want to share some prejudices and common claims about this generation. I believe these are not constructive at all:
Entitlement. “They think they have the right to anything.”
Narcissism. “They have excess interest in oneself as human being.”
Over confidence. “They think the world is spinning around them.”
Lack of loyalty. “They are detached from institutions.”
Impatience. “They want everything to be done immediately.”
To me, this is not the right way to deal with the generation gap. In the workplace, we have to push ourselves to better understand and act according to the needs and values of millennials. We have to see the unique attributes, valuable characteristics and strengths of this generation. In short I say be objective, be constructive and focus on positives.
In short Millennials have great strengths. They believe in development. They believe making difference. They want to be a part of a meaningful purpose. They are tech savy. They are really enthusiastic about work & life. They are good team players. They count diversity.
I have been leading people and various teams for about 10 years. As a Gen Y leader myself, I put great effort to observe strengths and weaknesses of different generations. In 2009 I leaded a team in Philip Morris, and 80% of the team are people Gen X. It was a great experience for me to coach, train and collaborate with those folks. During those years, I found the opportunity to manage different teams consisting both Gen X and Gen Y people. Those were the years I figured out how leaders should perform in workplace in order to advance different people. Their motivations, aspirations, goals and needs were completely different. And I went a journey both in to myself and in to themselves in order to get the best out of it.
For about 4 years, I am leading in a digital creative agency. Creativity and technology unites in our workplace. This is completely the most natural playground for millennials generation. Agencies value creativity, added value, diversity, flexibility and enthusiasm. These are the same values millennials seek for.
How to work with or lead Millennials?
I want to share some basic points that I believe helpful while working with or leading people of this generation. Here are some concrete tips.
Action: Millennials are not wallflowers. They want to be part of the action. They don’t want to observe, they want to participate, and they want their views to carry weight. So, take them to the stage.
Fun: Millennials expect work to be at least occasionally with humor and fun. So, ensure a funny workplace.
Freedom of choice: They may not avoid at the assignment itself but instead may challenge the methodology. They want to do it in a new way. The way they believe. So, give them a space.
Collaboration: They believe diversity. They believe every part should be connected. They value teamwork and feel more comfortable in a team. So utilize it. But sometimes they struggle to build and develop those relationships. So, encourage them.
Authenticity: They understand the sincerity. Be yourself. Be authentic.
Impatience: They growed up with any easy and quick access to media and information. Yes, they are impatient. But they seek to get new skills immediately. So, challenge them with new challenges, tasks. Give them multitasking opportunities.
High Expectations: They have high expectations from themselves, from life, from workplace. They want to be wealthy by doing things they wanted to do. Yes, a big challenge. So, make realistic but compelling plans for them and assist.
If you are managing a team/organization of millennials then you have to be ready for a lot of other things :) If you consider and deal with these complexity, they will be the greatest assets and most valuable corner stones of your organization.
Here are some further tips from my personal experiences:
They seek coaching and mentorship: They see training and coaching as fundamental for their development, and their career. They truly believe in personal development! I am not talking about traditional in-class training programs. They see training more often building on the job activities, taking further responsibilities, etc.
They seek constant feedback: They expect from direct reports, seniors and management people to spare quality time and give feedbacks constantly. Besides these, millenials, more than any employee type, needs continuous affirmation of how succesful or good they are in their job, or actions. They want/need to hear that.
They need to share a lot of things: You will hear so much about their dad issues, boyfriend/girlfriend fights, personal struggles, and countless stuff. Be patient. You probably did not mention any of these to your peers, or bosses. But millennials do. So listen to them! Listen with all your attention and sincerity.
I hope these will help to have a better understanding of millennials. This post was mainly for each generations. However, in the next blog post, I will address some tips & advices directly to millennials. Stay tuned.
PS: Since I was born in 1982, you may also call me a “millennial”. It is my pleasure! :)