We Boomers, the population cohort born between 1946 and 1964, are in our prime in 2015. We’re now populating many C-level and upper management roles in U.S. businesses. We’re an ambitious, hard-working, competitive group and, after many years of climbing the corporate ladder, it’s good to be in charge.
But are we really in charge? A fair number of people on our work team are those pesky Millennials. This group, born between 1981 and 2000, don’t seem to have the same values or work styles that we have developed throughout our careers. They are demanding, non-conformist, socially conscious and capable of incredible multi-tasking, but their needs can be exasperating and their style confusing.
We need to work together effectively; neither group is going away.
So what’s a Boomer to do? How do we maximize the performance of our teams of Millennials and Boomers?
Why care about Millennials?
Reaching out to understand your company’s Millennials is crucial to the overall health of your business. These employees are your own internal experts on aligning your company’s product, services, brand and practices with Millennial values.
According to an October 2014 study by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S., representing one-third of our total population.
The study points out several other reasons why Millennials are unique:
“This is the first generation to have had access to the Internet during their formative years. Millennials also stand out because they are the most diverse and educated generation to date: 42% identify with a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white, around twice the share of the Baby Boomer generation when they were the same age. About 61% of adult Millennials have attended college, whereas only 46% of the Baby Boomers did so.”
In a recent market segmentation meeting my CEO and I attended with our PR firm, it was the youngest person in the meeting, just out of college, who provided the greatest insight on the habits of our Millennial target persona. As a result of that insight, we accelerated integration of Facebook log-in into our product.
Collaborating with Millennials in the Workplace
Okay, Boomer, you’re sold on the importance of Millennials, but how to work effectively with them? Here are a few areas you can address in your company to foster an effective, collaborative cross-generational work environment.
Provide Context Millennials will work incredibly hard if they understand why the work is important. You should take the time to put the project in context – how the outcomes of the project will impact company goals.
Social Awareness Millennials have embraced social good as a core value. So do the right thing and make support of important causes a core part of your company culture. There’s a world of possibilities from employee paid volunteer hours to creating greener products to subsidizing alternative commuting.
Mentoring If there’s one thing Boomers have in spades, it’s experience. Help a Millennial in your workplace get up the learning curve in how things really work in the world. You’re an expert in the subtle stuff they don’t teach in grad school and you can’t look up on Quora. You might be surprised at the amount you learn in the process.
Technology Environment Millennials are “digital natives” as the first generation to have grown up in an Internet-centric world. Rather than relying on old-school email for company communications, our company relies on our own collaboration software to foster a hybrid productivity environment that is familiar enough for Boomers (e.g., support “files”) and while being modern enough for Millennials (e.g., support “cloud data”, mobile-first approach, etc.). We’ve all found a way to work together on a common collaboration platform and share conversations and content together.
Millennials are the present and the future of your company, both as employees and customers. Acknowledging and addressing generational differences in the workplace is the first step to understanding each other better and building a more effective collaborative workplace.
What are you doing in your company?