5 myths that convert generational differences into a competitive advantage

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By Crystal Kadakia

It’s 2018 and we are still figuring out millennials. The oldest millennial turns 38 this year and we are still trying to move past stereotypes and the “millennial problem”: how to attract, engage, and retain this seemingly-incomprehensible generation.

Like most of you, I have heard the story told about millennials. Back in the early 2010s, when I started my consulting practice, the only story about millennials were the complaints told by older generations: they are the lazy, entitled, pat-on-the-back every five minutes generation. But I didn’t buy it. As a millennial myself, I couldn’t match quick comments on youth’s coming of age experiences with the benefit of knowing what you know now that you’re older – or forgetting what it was like to grow up. However, I quickly realized that older generations, for all their wisdom, had a lot they didn’t know about what it is like growing up today, simply because too many things have changed.

While we have our differences, like everyone, I experienced the introduction of life with digital technology. I noticed how I went about my day, what skills I used to collaborate, and how I approached people before and after the internet, social media, and my smart phone emerged. The critical moment for me was when I realized how important it was that I’m a millennial. I am a part of the last generation that remembers a time before the internet – and that’s the key driving the gap between all of us. I realized, I am uniquely positioned to help bridge two eras and shape a world where we take the best of what we know about life before digital technology and bring it to today’s constantly-connected world.

I’ve spent the last six years examining the role technology has played in our lives and sharing the insights with audiences around the world. The work I do at Invati Consulting enables leaders to strategically shape the future of workplace culture, while changing the conversation on millennials. Taken from my best-selling book, The Millennial Myth, here’s a brief look at how to get free from five of the biggest myths surrounding millennials so we can drive engagement, collaboration, and productivity through technology at work.

Myth #1: Transforming Lazy into Productivity Redefined

Millennials are lazy. From a traditional perspective, this is evidenced by millennials’ desire to work when and where they want and their struggle to commit to working for a set duration, within set hours, and in a set location. In an older world, putting in structured time meant productive work coming out.

From a modern perspective, it’s not lazy; it’s redefining productivity. The work done in a digital environment is often strategic, creative, innovative, and overall, highly cognitive. High performance might not have anything to do with cranking out eight hours in front of a computer or in back to back meetings. Millennials know that the kind of work we do has fundamentally changed. Neuroscience tells us that the cognitive load we carry has changed. The leaders that don’t experiment with productivity in today’s world using digital technology will fall behind. They will see losses in engagement and increases in burnout.

Myth #2: From Entitled to Entrepreneurial

Millennials are entitled because they have immediate expectations for things like salary, promotions, interesting work and access to leadership. From a traditional perspective, putting in time was a necessary requirement to gain these benefits.

From a modern perspective, growing up with digital technology allowed a wealth of options to pursue one’s full potential and fast, both for yourself and for the organization’s benefit. This approach mimics a more entrepreneurial mindset. Organizations that leverage entrepreneurial spirit ask how they can scale unleashing potential from employees rather than asking why they can’t wait for the opportunity.

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