By: Curtis Bateman, Senior Consultant at Red Tree Leadership and Development
Recently, I was talking with a long-time business acquaintance—a hard-working, results-focused, successful executive—about the Millennial generation. In the course of our conversation, I gave him a copy of the book Managing the Millennials, a research-based study of managers who were successful (and those who were less successful) when it came to managing Millennial employes. The next time I saw my friend, his comments surprised me! He said, “I read the book you gave me. It just made me mad. If those Millennials were working for me, I would fire them all! Companies cannot just cave into their demands. Companies stay in business by producing results!”
My friend’s response to the book was based on the fact that Millennials have a set of values different from those of older generations. This leads to different behaviors and expectations in the workplace. It is no surprise that Millennials’ behavior supports their values in the same way that the behavior of older generations is in support of their values, and less surprising that this clash of what’s important sometimes causes a schism between the two.
This friend’s response is not at all uncommon or different from the many responses we get from older executives. These sentiments come from hard working, successful employees who have learned the rules of the business world and worked their way up within the established system. Essentially they’re saying, “This younger generation has to learn that they have to do it our way. There aren’t any short cuts.” Fall in line, learn the rules, and pay your dues.
Buried in my friend’s comments and the familiar things we hear from executives is an unchangeable truth—organizations last and succeed because they produce results. Once we mutually agree on this truth we have to ask ourselves if we want to hold on to the belief that the way we do it as an organization or manager is the best or only way to succeed.
But here’s something important to think about: Millennials are not asking for a “get-out-of-jail-free” card when it comes to producing results. But they do want an opportunity to shape how results are created and they do want to find ways to work that are consistent with their values. We understand that when it comes to generations, these are fairly general statements. Of course you will find in every generation those who are more inclined to be accountable for results than others. There is no expectation that organizations should “dumb down” accountability or lessen the results that are expected. On the contrary!
In today’s multi-generational business world, organizations need to be careful about where they push for conformity from their younger employees. Conformity depresses creativity and despite statements about just getting Millennials to “live by the rules”, conformity isn’t really what executives want. It is precisely the companies that learn how to integrate Millennials into their organizations that will flourish. Managers are simply the fulcrum in the equation; they make all the difference as they gain specific management skills and learn to draw out the very best from their young employees.
Millennials are not exempt from the equation, they also need to develop workplace skills. What used to work at school, in college, or on the soccer team is not enough for a successful start in the work place. For managers and Millennials to pull in the same direction, organizations need to equip managers to develop new employees. And Millennials need to learn that some skills only come with time and experience.
To learn how managers and Millennials can build skills for success in the workplace, visit: www.redtreeleadership.com/millennials
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