Generation Y; The Boomerangs; The Peter Pan Generation
If you’re a middle to senior manager – and why wouldn’t you be if you’ve slaved for years under experienced bosses to lean the their business tricks) – chances are you’re just one of the many hopelessly perplexed ladies and gents out there trying to figure out why your young underlings, most likely born between 1980 and 2000 (yep, the Millennials) simply refuse to fall neatly into any of the clearly defined boxes that you had learnt about in HR seminars and over schnapps. You begin the day wondering whether you’ve just hired a crew of self-obsessed, entitled, lazy narcissists and end it wondering if you could ever have got through the day without this bunch of expressive, passionate, and liberal out-of-the-box thinkers. But mostly, you wonder. About this new species of worker: The Millennials.
The thing is, they’re all there is in the market. And that’s not such bad news. Because they’re actually quite good, once you work out how to work “with” them. And here’s a bit of the how and why.
- Millennials are Multi-taskers: Let’s just accept the reality that Millennials evolved while we weren’t watching and actually have ten hands and five brains. Not all of which may always be up to good, but most of which do accomplish a lot more simultaneously than we can even get our heads around. It’s just one of those divinely ordained certainties you have to accept. The fact is, Millennials are whizzes at juggling many responsibilities at once, and not dropping the ball on any of them. The corollary – how can there not be one – is that their hyper-active brains (all five of them) are easily distracted. And they’re prone to suddenly drop tools and start texting or browsing for a while. So here’s the sly Dilbert trick: be up-front about your expectations and set goals, daily and weekly. But most of all, give them variety, lots of variety, in work. This generation does not do the same tasks over and over; they’re the ones who invented robots for that. Millennials are goal oriented, and a clear path to what is expected of them helps them stay with the program.
- Millennials are “wired” and social media fanatics: Not in the John Le-Carre Tom Clancy sort of way. Millennials are just super savvy about social media. What we’ve “taken to” or acquired perforce, the Millennials were pretty much born with. Its second nature to them. They know everything there is to know about social media; this is the realm they get their information. And if you’re developing products and services for them or marketing to them, it’s highly likely that your expensive market research consultant knows less than a smidgen of what the Millennials will tell you at the drop of a clichéd hat. Of course, the challenge for you will be to keep your company as social media relevant as you can, because the one thing Millennials – short attention spans notwithstanding – hate is a company that has next to no cyber presence. The company must have a schedule and a program for conversations that hook and engage your followers.
- Millennials are Tech Savvy: Did I just say they’re social media savvy? Well, that doesn’t come without their being tech savvy as well! The number of gadgets and technologies your garden variety Millennial is managing successfully during a given hour would have needed scores of men in white lab-coats and horn-rimmed specs days to process. So please make sure your company is always on or ahead of, not behind the technology curve. Tech gets their juices flowing, and they’re likely to join and stay long with a company that keeps on investing in the “next thing”. Because that’s where their peers will be too.
- Millennials want Instant Gratification: I spoke about the Millennials’ propensity to get easily distracted. Well, they also get easily dissatisfied. These kids (let’s call them that now and make it easy for all of us) have grown up in a culture of praise and have to feed their egos all the time – a little like a Tamaguchi pet, really, but let’s not go there, yet – for them to function effectively. Does it sound needy? Of course it does, because that’s what it is. But this sense of self-importance can easily be harnessed if they are shown clearly how they’re contributing to the program. Because Millennials absolutely love being part of the “big picture”; and not in a bad way either. They have ways of stepping back and making valid and useful game-changing contributions because that’s what they grew up with: computer games that have levels but also “big picture” strategies. Their brains – much as we hate to admit it – are just so much better adapted to zooming in and out of the “game”. But fie on you if you forget to recognize their contribution publically. Recognition is their drug of choice, and keeps them working hard and well.
- Millennials are Collaborators: Yes, sir (and madam). Millennials love “collaborating”. It’s the designer version of the “recognition” drug, and the kicks are just as high. Millennials are great at team-work and at making friends with colleagues. If they’re on a big project, they like building work-based relationships. A bit like ants. Much as they like receiving praise, they’re not always stingy with it when they see a colleague contributing equally well or better, because they recognize that the “project” won’t be successful unless everyone is pulling their weight. Their desire for honest and open relationships with management and co-workers is driven by an aversion to nasty surprises and a preference for – you guessed it – recognition. Collaborative projects absolutely depend on a free market of ideas. This is where Millennials flourish. No silos, no cubicles, lots of drawing boards, and lots of colored pens. Their brains are in over-drive, and they need to splash it all over the board at all times. A company that encourages this behavior but then has the vision to channel this flood into a well-managed river has a winning combination of imagination and energy on its hand.
- All Work and no Play? Millennials are very very conscious about Work-Life balance. You’d be surprised to find that these “work hard and play hard” Millennials are not quite as willing as the previous generations to sacrifice their personal life to advance their careers. They want to be working at companies that recognize this desire for balance and to offer them the flexibility to frequently pursue other activities that they feel are necessary to their holistic development. As a manager, therefore, you’d be well advised to organize sponsored events outside of your office, such benefits, charities and volunteer work your company supports. And flex-time working has become a major “must have” with them. As long you communicate in no uncertain terms that you expect them to deliver on a task by a certain deadline, you’re best advised to leave their “swipe in – swipe out” to them. Quite often than not, your Millennial employee’s productivity spikes when he out of the office and in the coffee shop downstairs.
The ideal solution, of course, would be for your office to become a virtual coffee shop: lots of online connectivity, no strict attendance times, plenty of casual interaction, unhindered exchange of ideas, and dollops of recognition for jobs well done – or anything vaguely approaching this model. Your employees just won’t want to leave. And that’s what you really want with this brilliant multi-brained kids, don’t you?
Khurram Jamil Butt aka KJB
Content Manager, MarkiTech
Keywords – Technology, social media, Millennials