In the 1968 cult classic, Wild in the Streets (www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRLwV2xafpk), the idea of putting the youth in charge was fully embraced. The voting age was lowered to 14 and mandatory retirement was set at 30. All retirees were provided free housing (aka ‘camps’) and provided daily doses of LSD. The motivation for administering psychotropics to retirees was never really explored or developed fully in the movie. However, let’s assume there was a sign-up sheet or perhaps a special line item in the healthcare budget. Regardless, “Don’t trust anyone over 30”…sage advice from the early ‘60s Free Speech Movement (wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech_Movement).
Nearly 50 years later, Twitter and other social media hubs are abuzz with topics like Managing Millennials, #Millennials, What Millennials Want, Millennial Parenting and the list goes on. According to several surveys, Millennials (defined as those between the ages of 18-35, age ranges vary slightly between studies) will comprise 50% of the workforce by 2014 and 75% of the workforce by 2020. Groovy!
Question (Millennial): Groovy, the object-oriented language alternative for Java platform?
Answer (Non-Millennial): No, the ‘60s catch phrase meaning cool popularized by Scooby Doo and others.
In the aforementioned surveys, there were a few key take-aways regarding Millennials.
- They are very social and well connected
- They seek engaged mentors and regular feedback sessions
- Average tenure at a job is two years and look to be promoted often
- Enjoy working from home and have flexible work hours/locations
- Work for a higher purpose including companies that are socially minded
Does any of this look familiar? In a 2012 internal survey across three or four generations of workers, we had similar findings…for everyone. I would suspect that the youth in 1968 had similar aspirations for work and life. Are we really that different after all?
In some respects, yes. Recent surveys do indicate that Millennials have different views on the value of industry certifications, advanced degrees, ‘putting your time in and paying your dues’, access to senior management and ideas like coopetition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coopetition). Boomers, Gen X and Y expressed concerns about the Millennials indicating that they are self-centered, feel entitled and are generally lazy. Honestly, what younger generation hasn’t been labeled this way?
Millennials are digital natives. They bring a unique perspective to a variety of issues and challenges – work and social elements. The old structures of work-life balance, rigid promotion frameworks and compensation plans simply won’t suffice. It’s time to get a new perspective.
Hang on! Before you run off and remove all the walls in the office, install cappuccino machines and paint the office in Google colors, let’s be realistic. Most medium to larger sized companies can’t turn everything on its head overnight. Consider the words of Peter Drucker in a speech he delivered in 1981 to NYU. “How do we organize the new within the old?” “How do you organize your entrepreneurial within the managerial?”
Areas of Focus:
- Skill Sets: What skill sets are needed by the enterprise (or department) for the digital customer / economy? In Procurement, for example, companies are seeking to develop and retain talent with excellent relationship management skills, collaborative DNA and the ability to leverage advanced digital assets to solve problems (e.g., prescriptive and predictive analytics and risk modeling).
- Talent Mgmt: How do we develop a mechanism by which to identify, attract and retain top, young talent? Procurement as a Destination is a simple question to ask. Why would they work for you? What are you offering besides money in the bank and a 401K program?
- Leadership: Do we have the leadership that can motivate and lead multi-generational teams? Successful leaders in the digital economy are those who can work across the lines (or wrinkles) of generations. This is true for the Millennials as well. Consider a 360° perspective on reporting and team structures.
- Turnover: If increased turnover is an inevitable part of business going forward, how does this impact our ability to perform and grow? In some companies, leadership has taken a hard line approach and squeezes the most out of Millennials in two years expecting that they’ll leave anyway. This simply doesn’t work and will have serious impacts on the corporation as word gets around via social networks. Brand management is key.
- Compensation: Aside from the Christmas bonus pool, what incentive structures are in place to support motivation and recognition across generations? Consistently, monetary bonuses are less valued than titles, company outings, special projects and public recognition. Like my old boss used to say, “Titles are free”.
So, we’re a little different…I guess. But, we share more in common than not. Like most good relationships, communication is key. It is incumbent upon leadership and all generations to understand how to work together. It’s not just a two-way street but rather a four-way intersection of boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials. Blur the lines and enjoy the ride… #Peaceout.