The Millennium generations have entered the work place and it will never be the same again. With their rucksacks, big headphones and eyes glued to the smart phones, they are digital natives completely unaware of what life was like before Internet. Now they are setting the pace and standard for working life and generations before have to rethink how to engage with, and lead, the newcomers.
And maybe leading is not even the right word for what the « always on » generation requires. Our new, constantly communicating colleagues, demand something else that most leaders are neither familiar with, nor recognise the need for. Key words are genuine engagement, connection, involvement and feedback. Born between 1980 and 1999 the Millennium generation have been supported, encouraged and carried from crib to college, resulting in a self-awareness and confidence that leaves the rest of us by the wayside. They expect to been listened to- always- and bargaining with parents in everything from bedtimes to holidays became an integrated skill from an early age.
Do not mistake this for laziness or ego-drive just because it does not fit with the standards of the baby boomers of the 1960s. Quite contrary. The Millenniumers are used to embracing diversity, using social media to make new, and stay in touch with old friends and contacts across the globe. Networking takes on a different meaning with no division between private and business spheres. Whereas the children of the 60 and 70s thought Inter-railing in Europe was pushing the envelope, the Millenniumers travel the whole world in three months collecting experiences and life skills as they go. An increasing number of charities has caught on and promise the eager adventurers work at everything from orphanages to animal sanctuaries in places we have hardly heard of before. In pursuit of a better world, and a true belief that their efforts matter, the Millenniumers engage themselves in idealistic causes, which give gap year a new meaning.
In the work place, the Millenniumers know how to make connections that create new approaches and ways of thinking that severely challenges the belief system of the seniors (which is classified as anyone over 45 years). To add to our pain, they don`t take no for an answer and are happy to leave to set up own shop in pursuit of their ideas. Their need to be valued, and eagerness to grow, means that concrete, specific and honest feedback, delivered skilfully, needs to become a regular feature, not twice a year in appraisals. They refuse to be limited in space and thought and view the need for freedom and fun as a natural part of life. Command and control is out. Millenniums believe in talking, not being told, thriving in flatter hierarchies with plenty of opportunity for involvement and influence.
In this environment 21st Century International Skills become key factors, preparing and enabling the upcoming generations for success and organisations for survival. The through lines of these skills are systems thinking, working creatively together, collaboration across diversity, acting with larger community in mind. This means that the emerging generations will (and some have already) adopt a new mindset shifting their focus from ego to eco, from “my needs” to what is needed in the larger system, and lastly to harness the latent potential of diversity.
Millenniumers love collaboration; they seek diversity and master connectivity. These are all central skills much needed to create the innovation culture required in the business world today. They have even become crucial for survival. The questions leaders have to closely examine are how to lead and engage with this new generation of workers to really harness the potential of these capabilities many of us are new to. How can leaders tap into the idealism and willingness to make a difference, and not kill off initiative and ambition? Which edges do leaders themselves have to cross to lead in ways that inspires the Millenniumers?
By changing the focus from directive leadership, often carried out on a 1:1 basis, leaders can engage the creative powers of their teams and organization as humans systems. In order to do so they need to set aside fear and need for control, and lean into the collective intelligence and creativeness of their systems.
Are you ready to do that?