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.
Myth #3: From Hand-holding to Agility
Millennials require hand-holding. There’s a perception that they are the trophy generation and desire praise for even the smallest things. From a modern perspective, it’s not about meaningless feedback, it’s about agility.
Today’s world not only changes fast but is overloaded with information. It’s easy for talent to feel fear of being obsolete or unable to keep up. Modern talent believes frequent, meaningful feedback helps course-correct quickly and maintain high performance. Leaders that spend time empowering employees to pay attention to relevant, meaningful data, reap rewards of employee growth, productivity and engagement that aligns to the business goals.
Myth #4: From Disloyal to Purpose-Driven
Millennials are inherently disloyal. If they aren’t given a promotion or a raise, they leave companies within three years, if not less.
From a modern perspective, it’s not disloyal; it’s seeking purpose. Growing up during a global recession created mistrust. Millennials look for employers that are earning back employee loyalty and serving the community, not just profits. We can serve more and more communities through the power of social media and the internet. CEOs need to look beyond profit to values and a mission that make themselves and employees feel proud about their everyday contribution. After all, as millennials say, “YOLO – you only live once.”
Myth #5: From Authority Issues to Redefining Respect
Millennials have authority issues because they treat bosses like friends and make requests from anyone, regardless of where they sit in the hierarchy.
From a modern, new generation perspective, growing up under the anonymity and transparency of the internet, respect is not given solely because of categories like age, level, or role—it is given for what a person authentically contributes every day. Leaders that go beyond the counting numbers of diversity and move towards creating a community of inclusion can drive innovation in unprecedented ways.
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All of these new perspectives have one fundamental factor in common: they were all forged in the dynamic, fast-moving, boundary-breaking world of the digital age. The tools millennials and others grew up using in school and in their social lives—computers, the internet, social media, mobile devices—have translated to expectations in the workplace. And, these are all changes we are all experiencing, regardless of generation. It’s that simple.
This is just scratching the surface of what understanding these myths can do for you. Pick up your copy of The Millennial Myth and reach out to me to learn more.