Are you tired of discussing millennials in the workforce?
For at least a recent handful of years, the business community has been obsessed with generational differences specifically targeting millennials as our future leaders and how we must build common ground to collaborate.
Initially, I too was intrigued with all the hype — in part because I saw myself as a 20-something, fresh out of school, working with all these ancient people.
The reality is, I’m now 40-something and labeled as a Generation X-er, having missed the Baby Boom and too fast for the Gen-Y’s. All that said, in my opinion, these are just labels, and labels often create a one size fits all box that doesn’t apply to everyone within that classification.
The general view of millennials is that these kids are all about instant gratification. Many of them still live at home with their parents. They’re burdened with large amounts of student debt. Their preference for communication is 160 characters or less while utilizing mysterious acronyms and weird icons called emojis. Their way of networking and building relationships is through social media for the whole world to see. Politically, they are very progressive and love them some Bernie Sanders.
While some of these views may be true at times, what I’ve learned from working alongside a group of millennials is that they want a lot of the same things the generations before them desire: opportunity, feedback, praise, success and the list goes on. The key difference is that they grew up in an era of instant access to information. In fact, their minds have learned to filter through tremendous volumes of information (what some of my senior partners might call “distractions”) and focus on what’s needed and useful in order to produce results.
I think much of the attention on this generation stems from fearing what you do not understand. These young adults like to have fun, be challenged, and be acknowledged for their efforts.
I struggle to identify a generation before them that didn’t enjoy these same things. Rather, I think these folks are more comfortable speaking their minds, and changing their environment if it doesn’t align with their values.
They’ve reinforced the importance of having a clearly articulated mission (purpose for existence), vision (time-bound destination) and values (tenants by which we hold ourselves accountable). And yes, they do this while listening to music, watching a YouTube video, googling and completing their work assignments.
I’ve been inspired by the millennials I’ve had the pleasure to work with and enjoy the pressure they’ve put on an aging mind. Simon Sinek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” video showcases that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
For me, no better generation models this than the millennials. They’ve reinforced to me that understanding the reason behind actions is often more important than simply completing the action itself. That doesn’t mean they disregard results. It means, they generally do not buy into producing specific results until they fully understand the need for said results, and are in full agreement.
As parents, isn’t this what we want from our own children? “Don’t just do something because someone tells you to do it. Think before you act! Speak up if you don’t understand.” Rather than focus on how the millennials differ from those of us from earlier eras, how about we think about why they do things the way they do them, and ask them to explain when we don’t understand? I’m fairly confident that they would welcome the discussion. Who knows, you might just learn something. #millennialmind #40-somethingbody
George Forsythe, CPA, is Managing Partner at WellsColeman in Richmond and a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.