How to Truly Connect With Millennials, and What It Will Do For Your Business
The term “Millennial” is being brandished about these days like a bit of juicy gossip at a high society luncheon. If any one group has gotten this generation so utterly wrong, it is the mainstream media. Stories seem to vacillate from coddled crybabies who need a safe space to toddler CEOs seeking billion-dollar unicorn status.
Even the New York Times jumped on the Millennial-bashing bandwagon with an article in March of 2016 entitled “What Happens When Millennials Run The Workplace?” It was nothing more than a caricature of an office being run like a frat house where traversing the halls on hoverboards seemed to be their core business model.
All I can say is; “Dear Mainstream Media, PLEASE STOP! You’re embarrassing yourselves.”
Making a connection with Millennials starts with understanding them first. As the media starts another round of Millennial bashing, instead let’s dig in and get rid of the stereotypes.
Start By Taking Millennials’ Contributions Seriously
Boomers, remember when you were 25 and your boss hung on every word that came out of your mouth? You can’t remember because it never happened.
No one wanted to hear anything from us back when we were in our twenties. Boomers were expected to sit down, shut up and listen. As middle-aged adults, even when someone is only 3 years older than us, the ubiquitous phrase “you’re a BABY…” slips into the conversation.
Why were we devalued simply because of age?
Part of the reason for this was our generation had to work our way up through the ranks, gaining experience along the way. Boomers AND Generation X know this well. Experience took time. Lots and lots of time to earn your place in the company.
But something shifted from 1977 to 1984. The next generation we call X, as well as Millennials, were exposed to computers at a very early age. At first, we saw them as toys—video games, Speak & Spell, Teddy Ruxpin, etc…and eventually the Apple Macintosh entered our homes. That gave anyone born after 1977 the hard skills to work in the 21st Century.
While you may believe Millennials were influenced by technology, that is only part of the puzzle…they also grew up working in teams, using groups and individual skill sets to get things accomplished. Online and video gaming taught GenX AND Millennials that leadership was rotational according to what was needed in the moment. Like commandos in the field, games taught them to be highly strategic, knowing the mission parameters and expected outcomes during gameplay.
Gaming also teaches something else that no one is talking about; Digital Natives cannot wait for a decision to go up through the chain of command. Speed requires communication bottlenecks be destroyed in favor of front-line decision-making. This requires no authority figures that control workflow, but instead a peer-to-peer work environment that thrives on real-time decision-making.
The last piece of the puzzle is parenting. Millennials grew up in households where their parents were not authority figures to be feared and obeyed but trusted mentors, advisors and career counselors, as well as friends—my father is rolling in his grave over that last one.
Ask a Millennial if they see their parents as a friend or mentor and most will say yes without hesitation. Not all, but most.
This is why Millennials may see the CEO as approachable. Of course, they know you are important, but they also see you as someone they can have a casual chat with or someday become a CEO as well. Easy peasy. And if you are unaware of what is happening in the real world of business and technology, they can see you as a Noob, bringing company productivity to a standstill. And you wouldn’t know it, which frustrates them.
In other words, your 30 years of experience may be what is holding the company back in the Digital Age.
It is time to see Millennials as contributors instead of young entry-level workers who need to stay on the 16-year trajectory you and I were raised with. That ideology simply doesn’t exist anymore. The corner office is a 20th Century status symbol, my friends.
Speed and contribution to a team is the 21st Century model…even if your team members are scattered throughout the country in three different time zones.
I hope that helps. Understand this; Millennials, Gamers, Digital Natives, whatever you wish to call them, do not know why they are different. Instead of treating them the way we were treated at the same age, try opening up and make peace. You’ll be astounded what is happening inside that young mind.
If you haven’t asked your Millennial team members for their input, or defined what is expected of them, don’t be surprised that they leave.
And next time the media calls Millennials ‘Generation Snowflake,’ remind them that UFC champions Conor McGregor, Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones are all Millennials.
Thank you to Alan Cohen for this guest blog spot. An honor.
Guest Author Bio
Liquid Leadership Worldwide
Cross Generational Leadership Programs that Create High Performance Workforce Cultures.
TEDX Speaker and international bestselling business author Brad Szollose (pronounced zolis), is a former C-Level executive of a publicly traded Dot Com agency and the award-winning author of Liquid Leadership.
As a Web Pioneer, Brad co-founded K2 Design, Inc., the first dot-com agency to go public on NASDAQ in an IPO. His dynamic management model inspired a new generation of worker and won K2 the ‘Arthur Andersen Enterprise Award for Best Practices for Fostering Innovation’ among employees.
Today the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on Millennials, and he has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Inc., Advertising Age, The International Business Times, Le Journal du Dimanche and The Hindu Business Line to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CBS and other media outlets.
As a dynamic keynote speaker and trainer, Brad continues this work today, training a new generation of business leaders—transforming their organizations by tapping into the treasure of a cross-generational workforce.