I do not believe in labeling, but I am unapologetically a big fan of Millennials, so this article from the Today Show was intriguing to me:
It is my experience that Millennials are hard working, dedicated and committed to making a difference. WHAT?!?!?!? Yes, that is what I said. I can already see many of you scoffing and deriding these comments, but stay with me.
The article bares out what I have experienced and learned about Millennials. They are in fact hard working but they like to do complete tasks utilizing a flexible work schedule achieving work/life balance. If you trust and give them opportunity they will complete the task by the deadline because they are dedicated, but they will complete the task and meet the deadline best working on their own time. We need to adapt our thinking to how work is traditionally completed. I work in a traditional 9-5 environment, and was unnerved the first time I saw an email at 12:03 am from one of my millennial employees. At first I was angry. But why? I had to ask myself what was there to be angry about. What was wrong with the work getting done outside of traditional core business hours? Nothing, of course. Was the work shoddy or poorly done? No, in fact it was quite well done. I then became horrified that perhaps I was such a terrible leader and ogre of a manager that I unknowingly set the expectation this was the kind of hours required to work in my office. Clearly I had run up the ladder of inference several times knowing only that work had been completed at 12:03 am and had affixed meaning, assumptions and conclusions to it. I needed to talk to the employee.
Upon speaking to the employee I quickly learned how this person functioned. She was not proving something to me, not claiming overtime to pay for student loans or avocado toast, nor was it about my poor leadership forcing her to stay. She was genuinely so involved in the project she got lost in the time. She was an actively engaged employee appreciative of a task that she felt could make a difference, and grateful for the opportunity to contribute on her own terms. It was at this point I realized and understood the generation that was “invading” the workforce. They are a product of the environment from which they grew up, and when they bring their norms, that we taught, to the workplace somehow this upsets us.
Let us remember a few things:
- Who provided those cell phones and demanded that they be able to be reached at all times? Hmmm…we did. We wanted to be able to reach out and touch someone at will setting their norm, but now in the workplace we balk at their “need” to stay connected.
- Who insisted they could be anything they wanted to be and encouraged trying all kinds of different activities? Hmmm….we did. We wanted them to try soccer, not your thing?…ok, then try band,…doesn’t scratch your itch? how about an engineering competition? etc, etc. but now in the workplace we balk at their want to try and have different experiences.
- Who filled their days with activities and functions thus creating an environment for completing tasks at unorthodox hours. Hmmm….we did. We shuttled them from softball practice to supplemental math tutoring to dinner and then to a social event leaving late evening hours to complete tasks like homework. but now in the workplace we balk at their want to complete tasks outside of the hours we view as normal.
What we need to remember is that we have created a workforce of hard working, committed employees who want to make a difference, motivated more by sense of purpose than money. It is our responsibility to adapt our leadership to get the most from these Millennials as they seek to be happy and engaged employees.