By Mike Canavan
Sadly, the reason that Ita is having such difficulties understanding the millennial ethos is that she comes from a different era in our society timeline — one with a totally different work ethos and management structure. This epiphany came to me when I was reflecting on the content of her address. Make absolutely no mistake Ita is a sophisticated and savvy woman. But to harness this most unusual demographic (Millennials) it will take all her skill and guile; however, without question it will frequently take her out of her comfort zone. It will demand a totally different approach to the way she was trained and has become accustomed to over her many years in business.
According to Deloitte in their 2016 worldwide study, Millennials, who are already emerging as leaders in technology and other industries will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
Depending on whom you ask, Millennials are born from 1981 to 2000. Each country’s millennials are slightly different, but because of globalisation, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change, millennials worldwide are more similar to one another than to older generations within their nations. This isn’t just rich-kid problems: poor millennials have even higher rates of narcissism, materialism and technology addiction.
According to Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University and editor of the book ‘Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard’ — “Millennials are interacting all day but almost entirely through a screen. You’ve seen them at bars, sitting next to one another and texting. They might look calm, but they’re deeply anxious about missing out on something better (FOMO). Seventy percent of them check their phones every hour, and many experience phantom pocket-vibration syndrome. They’re doing a behaviour to reduce their anxiety,”
That constant search for a hit of dopamine “Someone liked my status update!” reduces creativity. From 1966 through to the 1980’s, when the ‘Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking’ were first administered, creativity scores in children increased.
From there they started to drop, falling sharply in1998. Similarly, from 2000AD, scores on tests of empathy also dropped significantly, likely due to a lack of face-to-face time and higher degrees of narcissism. Not only do millennials lack the kind of empathy that allows them to feel concerned for others, but they also have trouble even intellectually understanding others’ points of view.
Sadly, much of this is due to the extraordinary access to what is perceived as factual information made available widely through social media and Internet search engines such as Google, Facebook, Twitter Instagram, TikTok — to name a few. The notion of going to a library and researching a topic thoroughly, critically and with consideration of many points of view matters little in their life of instant gratification.
It is without question the greatest social revolution since the baby boomers, not because they’re trying to take over the Establishment but because they’re growing up without one. The Industrial Revolution made individuals far more powerful — they could move to a city, start a business, and form organisations.
The new information revolution has empowered individuals by handing them the technology to compete against huge organisations: hackers vs. corporations, bloggers vs. newspapers, terrorists vs. nation-states, YouTube directors vs. studios, app-makers vs. entire industries. Millennials believe in their hearts that they don’t need the current structure built up over many years.
This, to a large degree, is why management is losing control of their businesses. I have sat through dozens and dozens of marketing and advertising creative evaluation sessions that all follow a similar format. The standard fair today is to start an appraisal by the most junior of the client team members. Then moving up the ladder of seniority until finally the marketing director has his/her say. This process was explained to me as fostering team building.
Sadly, in my experience it just leads to the breakdown of defined leadership and authority from senior management. Managements fear of criticism, marginalisation, and complaints from younger team members is redefining the structure of many businesses, and the consequences can be quite profound.
Enter the most feared of all departments in the new corporate paradigm, the ‘Human Resources’. It is where the managers can be counselled on building better team building and inclusion skills — together with a black mark against their employment record.
Could you imagine running an army in this fashion, it borders on farcical.
Many millennials are known as the Me – Me – Me – Generation, a condition their selfish use of technology has only exacerbated.
Millennials have come of age in the era of the quantified self, recording their daily steps on FitBit, their whereabouts every hour of every day on PlaceMe and their genetic data on 23 and Me. They have less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group.
But why did this and enormous upheaval occur?
Much of this was partly because, in the 1970s, people wanted to improve their children’s’ chances of success by instilling self-esteem. It turns out that self-esteem is great for getting a job or hooking up at a bar but not so great for keeping a job or a relationship.
“It was an honest mistake,” says Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University and the editor of Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard. “The early findings showed that, indeed, kids with high self-esteem did better in school and were less likely to be in various kinds of trouble. It’s just that we’ve learned later that self-esteem is a result, not a cause.”
The problem is that when people try to boost self-esteem, they accidentally boost narcissism instead. “Just tell your kids you love them. It’s a better message,” says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, who wrote Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic.
Doron Ofir one of the best-known talent casting agents in America, who auditioned participants for Jersey Shore, American Idol, Millionaire Matchmaker, A Shot at Love and Parties in Paradise among others said in a recent interview with Variety Magazine: “Millennials grew up watching reality-TV shows, most of which are basically documentaries about narcissists. Now they have trained themselves to be reality-TV-ready. Most people never define who they are as a personality type until their 30s. So, for people to be defining who they are at the age of 14 is almost a huge evolutionary jump. Do you follow me on Twitter?” he asked at the end of the interview. “Oh, you should. I’m fun — I hope that one day they provide an Emmy for casting of reality shows because, you know, I’d assume I’m a shoo-in. I would like that gold statue. And then I will take a photo of it, and then I will Instagram it.” Ofir is 41, but he has clearly spent a lot of time around millennials.
So how do you work or manage them (millennials) to get the best out of your workforce.
The best advice that I have been able to find after extensive research suggests notwithstanding the obvious and inane this advice might appear, it seems as far as I can gather to be the best that is available in the market at this time:
Millennials grew up in the shadow of social networking. Many, if not most, never knew a world without it. Because of this, millennials are more inclined to want to work in groups. Based on an ‘IBM workforce study’ conducted in 2015, almost 60% of millennials felt that they made better decisions when receiving input from many different peer sources. Smaller groups will give millennials the social interaction they desire while still making it possible to work on a number of tasks at the same time.
It is strongly believed millennials in the workforce need constant validation. Ray Carvey, executive vice president for Harvard Business Press, explains what is actually happening:
“Feedback is very important to them. A lot of what millennials will someday need to know to do their job hasn’t been invented yet. So, there’s an undercurrent of continuous development, continuous learning.”
Rather than needing validation, millennials need training and feedback. In fact, millennials rank training at the top of their list of “must-haves”. Technology in the workplace is constantly changing. Workers who contend with this reality need training to do their job and feedback to let them know that they are doing it well amidst all that change.
Implement weekly or monthly training sessions to make the millennial worker feel comfortable in their job. Take those opportunities to provide feedback regarding their performance and the use of changing technologies. This will make them feel that they are doing well.
Yes, millennials need lots of feedback. They also need their managers to deliver this feedback in a way that resonates with them. Deliver the feedback by building on their strengths while at the same time acknowledging areas in which they can improve.
Millennials want to use technology in every facet of their job. And since they’ve grown up with it at their fingertips, they’re comfortable enough to use technology effectively and efficiently.
For managers, that means giving millennials the opportunity to make changes to existing operations. Ask them how they would incorporate novel technologies into the workplace and then consider implementing those technologies.
But don’t let the drive to incorporate technology distract them, or you, from the main purpose: serving the customer. Sometimes more technology isn’t always better for the business, for older workers, or for the customer. Motivate millennials with what excites them Millennials tend to get excited about progress, creativity, and social connection. If you, as a manager, can tap into those motivations, your employees will be more engaged.
To help millennials feel like they are making progress in their job, consider creating rewards for specific responsibilities. Those rewards will be specific to your business but could take the form of head patron happiness or chief of the front-desk. Giving your employees these “stepping-stone” rewards will make them feel like they’re making progress.
Tap into the millennials’ need for creativity by encouraging them to think about innovation. Discuss these topics in your weekly staff meeting and then consider implementing the best solutions.
It’s also important to nurture the millennials’ motivation for social connection. Be sure to emphasise the ways in which your business is giving back to the community and allow your employees to participate in these efforts. Whether it’s through charitable giving, volunteer work, or special community-wide events, your business and your employees will become more engaged.
Millennial workers like to feel connected to a larger purpose. Your company vision can be the bridge between what they do on a daily basis and the big picture toward which your company works.
Jeremy Kingsley, leadership expert and author of “Inspired People Produce Results”, explains how a company’s vision makes a difference to millennial workers:
“If you can explain the whole picture, it connects the meaning to the person. [The company’s vision] makes employees feel valued, which in turn boosts productivity.”
He went on to say: “Unlike the generations before them, millennial workers aren’t just satisfied to punch in, do their work, and punch out. Millennials want their work to have meaning and to produce impact. Showing the millennial how their daily work impacts the company’s vision on a global scale can give them the “big-picture” connection the need”.
“In every organisation, there are inevitably generational differences and tensions that will need to be addressed. (Segmenting employee engagement results by age group may help define these.)
However, much like the sweeping societal changes driven by this first generation of digital natives, organisations, too, are faced with adapting to new behaviours and ways of working”.
“Not only will businesses gain a competitive advantage by building a culture for their workforce to thrive in, but it presents a valuable learning opportunity. Millennials are now in the majority, and most likely make up the majority of your customers, too”.
Recognise also that every generation is different, and change is a constant. The next generation will no doubt have even more surprises in store.
So Ita — if indeed you wish to make a mark and tame the savage beast, (that is Arnty), there will certainly need to be a change in your management style and general day-to-day operational understanding of your work force. The good old days have passed. The real question that should be asked is can you be bothered? Make absolutely no mistake it will not be an easy road to hoe.