3 Reasons You Need Millennials On Your Team
Via LinkedIn : The other day I was listening to a group of Baby Boomer and Gen X leaders complaining about their 20-something colleagues. “They don’t have a work ethic,” they moaned. “Such a sense of entitlement!” “No respect!” “They expect a promotion after five days on the job!” You get the idea.
Finally, somebody turned to me and asked me to – in effect – pile on: “Don’t you agree?,” he asked. “Actually,” I said, “that hasn’t been my experience at all. Most of the people I know in their 20s and early 30s – my kids and their friends, the young professionals I meet through work – are great.” A stunned silence ensued.
Too many of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s take it as an article of faith that all these negative characteristics are endemic to millennials. It reminds me of the lyrics of a song from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”:
Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way – what’s the matter with kids today?
Which makes me feel as though some of this rampant millennial-bashing is simply universal generational stereotyping, the why, in my day…kind of stuff that happens between every older and younger generation. Whatever the cause, I’ve come to believe that it’s more than simply untrue and unfair – it’s really destructive.
As a leader, it’s harmful to have limited and negative assumptions about young workers. Whenever you assume negative traits for a whole class of people, you are immediately at risk of losing them – losing the valuable contributions they could make to your team and to your bottom line.
In many ways, the smart, ambitious young people who work for you are exactly like any other smart ambitious people. Young Professionals want to be trusted, included, challenged, and supported. How is that different from any good employee?
There are ways in which millennials (like any group) are unique. But that’s good, for the most part: it brings the potential for richness and diversity of thought and approach. You can only access that potential if you come to these folks reasonably open – that is, not having rigid limiting beliefs about who they are. So what is unique about millennials – and why do I think they’re key to your success?
Millennials are technology and social media natives: I’m pretty tech/social media savvy for a boomer – but it will always be a second language for me. My daughter, on the other hand, has been on facebook since she was a child. Her automatic response, when she got pregnant a few years ago, was to find social media groups of like-minded moms and moms-to-be; they became one of her main sources of learning, support, and community. Your millennial employees understand this new world better than you ever will. You need them to navigate it.
Millennials are cynical about public pronouncements: My son pretty much disbelieves anything he hears in the media, simply on principle. He, and his compatriots, have heard so much lying and evasiveness on television and in the news throughout their lives – from politicians, advertisers, captains of industry, reality show contestants – that they are loath to buy something just because someone is being passionate about selling it. Because of this, they get tagged as being disrespectful and insubordinate. I suggest you look at it, instead, as them keeping you honest about any differences between what you say and what you do: with millennials, if you don’t deliver on your promises, you’ve lost them. You can’t get by on just being the boss. You have to be good. Which brings us to the third good thing about millennials…
Millennials respect excellence: My kids and their compatriots really hate shoddiness and superficiality, perhaps because they’ve seen so much of it. They love good things. My daughter, who’s just started medical school, decided to become a doctor as the result of spending time in Ecuador alongside rural doctors, deeply inspired by their absolute and sincere commitment and bravery. If you can get your millennials to trust you (by trusting and being honest with them), they’ll tell you if they think something is not up to par – and they’ll quite often be right. And if they tell you they think something is great…they really mean it, and they’ll be passionate about making it happen.
At the end of the day – these folks are the future. So if you want to build for the future, you better figure out how to get on the same page with your millennials, and build it together.
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