Learning to Love Working With Millennials
Each new generation has qualities that confound its predecessors.
Baby Boomers? Hippies. Generation X? Slackers. Generation Y? Narcissists.
Along come the millennials, often derided as difficult to work with and suffering from a severe case of entitlement. Has this demographic given me my turn to generation-complain?
As a Baby Boomer myself (and may I emphasize I'm a "late" Boomer), I now work with and report to millennials. Thanks to their strong embrace of all things technological, millennials are in charge of significant portfolios. Whether they are reporting to you or you're reporting into them, they're making their presence felt.
At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this generation; even calling them "this generation" aged me dramatically. After all, these are the kids who were given ribbons for coming in seventh place.
I approached my first millennial business interactions with great trepidation and an extra application of youth-inducing face cream. Over the course of the last year, I'm happy to report I have been pleasantly surprised and not once did I utter the phrase, "Well, back in my day…" Candid and thoughtful, my conversations with millennials are full of fresh perspective; though I know there is an age gap, it's not something that overtakes our respective collaborative offerings.
To dispel the negative myths about the millennial generation, I canvassed colleagues across North America and found some equally provocative perspectives.
Getting it done! "One of the pleasures of working with millennials is the "no frills' approach to work," says Karen Swim, PR and marketing communications pro. "You give them a job, and it gets done. Yet, they're not eager-beaver overachievers whose identity is all work. Their work/life perspective has made me a stronger professional."
They are the mixmasters. "Millennials don't flinch; they leap on a challenge," says digital strategist Ciaran Blumenfeld of Orange County, Calif. "If it can't be done, and they see a reason for it to be done, they get creative. Millennials are the mixmasters--more apt to shrug off naysayers and try something new. I just love this creative "can do spirit' and only hope I can keep up as I age!"
They "get" it. Co-founder of Kidzvuz.com, Nancy Friedman of New York is continually interfacing with millennials. "Our site is all about kids making and sharing videos about the things they love. When I work with more "old school' PR executives, I sometimes have to explain why a kid would make a video at all, and why a brand would like to have that kind of user-generated content. Millennials just "get it' right away, which opens up a lot more opportunity for brainstorming bigger ideas, rather than getting caught up in the small stuff."
They've learned from the past. "Millennials are very determined to succeed but not like their predecessors," says Robert Dasilva, managing director for exchange trading and activation at Mindshare, Toronto. "They are not afraid to ask for what they want, and if it's not given to them they move on--which is likely a residual response from seeing their own parents' generation let go from jobs and careers with one company. It's also important to remember that millennials require development plans from their employers to keep them focused on upward mobility."
They respect responsibility. Rob Granatstein, senior producer at Canada.com, has a team of millennial editors. "For what we do on the Web, millennials understand the medium; they've grown up living on the Internet and know what works and what doesn't. As for putting them in charge of important portfolios, our leadership structure allows solid oversight and checks when necessary. Everyone loves to be empowered, and our editors understand the responsibility."
What have you done to enhance your working relationship with millennials?
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