One of the questions we hear often, with recruiting and in HR training seminars is “How do we work with the Millennial generation?” As with any point of communication in the workplace, solutions should be mutually beneficial, motivating and make sound business sense. So perhaps the best way to start is by looking at complaints we here from both sides.
We have gathered the top three here:
- My supervisor just doesn’t respect my opinion.
- All that management is worried about is making more money.
- I need to work for someone I trust!
- This younger generation is simply disrespectful, it’s hard to keep them off of their phones
- These Millenials need a trophy and a pat on the back for doing their job
- Of course, we are here to make money, without it none of us would have a job!
To be fair, I am not completely confident that one side is any more “right” than the other. I will say, as a 40-something I am encouraged by the younger generation. They are smart. Heck, they are the first full generation that prenatal vitamins were the norm! They not only understand the value of technology, they grew up with it. What we have noticed and encourage our clients to do, is to be straight with them from the very beginning. Millennials were raised in the era of Enron and the banking crisis. While I don’t think that the intent of an entire generation is to be disrespectful, I might agree they don’t necessarily take (our) word at face value. Not only are they smart, they are resourceful. While they may not have learned to take feedback as constructively as former generations, by letting them in on expectations up front we can avoid the majority of generational miscommunication. With regard to business etiquette; If you expect cell phones to be turned off during meetings, tell them. If you expect no gum chewing during meetings. Say so up front. In short, build into your on-boarding professional etiquette for your organization and teach it as part of onboarding.
The Millennial generation:
“Not only are they smart, they are resourceful”
Conversely, a word to our Millennial counterpart; the prior generation workforce want to know that you have our back. Leading change in a sometimes volatile environment takes a toll, and learning to work together is a two-way street. Generation X and Boomers have been through a recession or two, and we have experience. We’d like to share it. Perhaps put your phone down, and listen. In several studies, findings have found that not only can the human brain NOT multitask but by trying to divert attention to more than one activity at a time inhibits creativity. Being constantly tied to electronic devices increases our ability of taking in information exponentially. By neglecting necessary time to ponder, reflect and dare I say listen; the ability to solve problems and learn new strategy is diminished. Computers are a valuable tool. People are an invaluable resource.
My advice to any generation in the workforce is treat others the way that they want to be treated. As strange as that sounds unless it breaches your moral code – the value of active listening outweighs the inconvenience. With nearly 4 generations actively engaged in the work force, soft skills are becoming more and more valuable.
Regardless of your generation, the ability to collaborate and cultivate relationships is the future of business. So, whether you are a millennial or an old fart (like me) the ability to encourage productive discussion, respect and value limits and difference of opinions coupled with the ability to engage individuals is indeed a rare commodity.
And it is valuable.
– Paula Bradison
Alaska Executive Search CEO & President