Helen Green

Millennials – Changing the World

This article is about millennials and the profound effect which they are having on the world of work, both as employees and consumers. In truth, it could equally have been called ‘changing the world, one generation at a time’ because early indications are that Generation Z in their turn are going to have an even more profound effect.

Be that as it may, we are going to devote this article to Millennials; firstly because they are already forcing leaders to rethink and re-evaluate business offerings and working practices and secondly because Generation Z are already proving to be such a force in their own right that they are deserving of a separate article.

Let’s start with the obvious question; Are millennials really such a force for change or is this just another occurrence of the generation gap; with younger people being seen as different as they seek to find their place in the world?

The straight answer is that having grown up as the first truly internet generation, millennials have a worldview which is profoundly different from any generation which went before. So much so that a recent Gallup report said that ‘Millennials are changing the very will of the world.

That same report identified six key areas in which millennials differ from other generations. According to Gallup, leaders who are looking to accommodate millennials in the workforce would do well to change their business culture now in order to embrace these six areas. First up on the Gallup list is the move from paycheck to purpose. That doesn’t mean that pay has become unimportant but it does mean that remuneration is now secondary to having a job with an organisation which delivers mission and meaning. This is emphasised by number six on the Gallup list which highlights the way in which millennials see their jobs as being an intrinsic part of their life. They no longer compartmentalise, seeing the work life balance in a very different way from previous generations.

This viewpoint ties in with the second profound change on the list, namely the change from job satisfaction to development. As a result there is a renewed emphasis on employee engagement and on helping individuals to make the most of their talents. This is emphasised by number five on the Gallup list which is that millennials don’t want to fix their weaknesses, they want to develop their strengths. Millennials are not content with learning the minimum, being the minimum, doing the minimum in order to get by. They have embraced the idea that true equality means helping everybody to live up to their potential and see the role of leaders as creating the conditions for development.

Numbers three and four on the list set aside the idea of bosses and annual reviews, replacing them with ongoing conversations with coaches. Feedback is now seen as being a real-time occupation and this again ties in with the idea of helping personal development.

Of course these exchanges are very much written with employees in mind, but they equally apply to the business/customer relationship. Millennials as consumers are looking for organisations to deliver meaning, to have a personal relationship with their customers which goes beyond the simple buy/sell proposition.

Where does that leave leadership in the millennial age? Well actually, leaders are simply being asked to step up and deliver the five practices of great leaders. When leaders are prepared to model the way, to inspire, to enable and encourage then they are already leading for the millennial age.