You are staring at your millennial child as though they just dropped from the sky. You don’t get them. They don’t get you.
It’s the first week of the millennial employee’s job. Things are going OK. They talk a lot, snack a lot, and generally hang around. Somehow the project gets done, you have not seen it happen, there were no extra hours put in, but here it is on your desk — finished. And now they are telling you — and not asking — that they are taking the afternoon off.
In the classroom, assignments are, by some unknown force, complete — likely via a social media platform late in the night. It seems that each project now is a team project by default and the tribe figures this out in some great unconstructed collective.
Welcome to the amazing world of the millennials: Young adults who have never been without a smartphone or computer at hand and who are deeply connected to the outside world around them; the children of parents who had enough money to pretty much give them everything. These amazing individuals are learning, working, and communicating differently — and will change the face of business.
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Most people crave a sense of belonging. This starts with a supportive family environment that adapts to change quickly without faulting one generation over the other. From this nucleus, there are many avenues to explore in individual growth. What has changed is that where a child once identified with their family and hometown, and then followed some linear path to success, is now also part of a larger network of friends, acquaintances, and potential classmates or clients that is non-linear in structure.
That child or adult also has a sense of belonging in the world through social media. They can find others with similar interests or accomplishments; language or culture; struggle or fame; and connect through the internet.
The rhetoric of ‘I worked my way up,’ does not mirror the modern world’s window. There is no hierarchical staircase, rather a lens to the world that lets people see the possible.
For example, a high school student decides he or she wants to work at the World Bank. The student can see the job postings, chat with the people in the organization, read posted exit interviews, do an analysis of where they fit, and then decide on the training or education needed. And in the same evening, can sign up for the education and book a flight to headquarters. There is often a stack of potential employees on any employer’s desk, but they know enough about the company to self-invite and are not intimidated to drop by for a latte and a conversation.
Business structures based on the left-brain authoritarian model do not fit the current right-brain employee who is focused on his or her own needs and feeds on creative interaction.
That is why we see happy employees at what may be lower-paying jobs who have the flexibility to be with family and do other activities that represent their values. It is also why their productivity is higher.
I am not advocating just taking the first job that allows for these freedoms.
True freedom reflects living one’s core values and beliefs, contributing to society, and financial independence. These three streams are critical to the whole and include education, commitment, change, adaptability, and transformation. Not only must the employer recognize that right-brain thought is more fluid than rigid, but millennials must recognize that accountability will always be a requirement in any community.
Stephen Hawking said that “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
For business owners, that translates into accepting creative collaborative learning that allows for employees to be part of the development of the business — not just work for it. It is no longer productive to demand someone ‘reflect the company vision’ when they have not had a voice in developing it.
Unlike generations before them, millennials have evolved to self-actualization early in life.
They know who they are and what is important to them. Excellent employees in the right community or work environment value family time, personal growth, and health. And understand that business is successful with them and not as potentially successful without them. By nature of their loose structure, there is a greater opportunity for everyone to win, for gender and pay equality, and for greater transparency.
The millennial was raised in the constant of technology and information. They quickly adapt to change. Familiar with tribes or large non-family units, they are comfortable in transparent working teams. More interested in the art of discovery, they are inclusive, and have gender equality and pay equity expectations. Aligned with their needs and values, they include partners, children, and pets in their journey, and carve out the time to develop these important relationships.
They are fearless in their approach and will challenge the status quo.
They are amazing — and exactly who I would want on my collaborative team!