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If you thought millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, were a new phenomenon then think again.
1999, a time of hope, of reflection, and of businesses panicking over whether the ‘millennium bug’ would stop all computers working on the stroke of midnight. Perhaps never before and never since have so many organisations put so much effort into understanding and developing their computer systems. IT suppliers were overwhelmed, business continuity plans were revised to take account of system failure and then everyone held their breath.
Whilst all this was going on another more potent change was underway as the first of the millennial generation entered the workforce. Yes, that’s right! If you thought millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, were a new phenomenon then think again. Millennials are already firmly ensconced in the workforce. So much so that a Future Workplace study revealed that 83% of managerial positions in the USA are currently occupied by millennials.
That begs the question; if millennials already take up so much of the workforce, why is it that study after study is looking at the challenges of integrating millennials into the workforce? The answer is quite simple; millennials are the first of the internet generations. As such they are not prepared to simply slot into the workplace in the same way as their predecessors did. In a way millennials are the first to dip their toes into the waters of the 4th industrial revolution. Forget ‘do as I say without question,’ forget strict hierarchies and the notion that people are simply cogs in the business wheel. Millennials, to some extent, and Generation Z which follows on see their place in the workforce with very different eyes.
This has led some to dub millennials as the ‘me first’ generation and it is true that they are looking for personal meaning and connection. But they are also entrepreneurial and open to collaboration, a perfect partner therefore for organisations which are looking to break free from hierarchy and deliver innovative solutions.
Understanding this is the key to engaging with millennials. You can’t pigeonhole them but you can look to deliver a more open culture, one which delivers autonomy and meaning. Yes that may require you to do away with silos and promote collaboration and a more project-based way of working. Yes that may require you to open up to more flexible working patterns, enabling a cross-over between what has traditionally been seen as work and home time. And yes changes of that nature may mean that areas such as risk management, learning and even the culture may need to be revisited. But you were going to have to do all of that anyway in order to deliver an organisation fit for interaction and innovation.
Thanks to planning, anticipation and hard work the ‘millennial bug’ had a minimal effect with many organisations emerging into the year 2000 in far better IT shape than had been the case even a year earlier. With the same level of focus businesses too can not only adapt to include millennials but in doing so emerge stronger and fitter for the future. And never forget; if you thought millennials were different, just wait and see what Generation Z is bringing to the workplace; that’s a whole new proposition again!