Do you have "Millennials" as part of your network? You should...

Recently I caught up with some colleagues who are part of the very much talked about "Millennial" demographic; I consider them friends and part of my network so our range of topics were broad... everything from up coming proposals, to the trials and tribulations in the work place. As a late stage baby boomer, insight into their world is familiar enough, as I've been there and done that; but at the same time, they offer insight with regard to leadership, development and success in our ever-evolving world.

They say 80 Million plus "Millennials" are entering the work force in North America alone and represent the largest group to enter the work-force since the baby boomers; as a result of shear numbers, they are a force to be dealt with as you manage your business. A few points regarding the Millennials to ground us all and do remember this is from the perspective of a Non-Millennial - 

  • The "Millennial" demographic is defined as anyone born after the early 1980's through to the late 1990's.
  • Also known as the Y Generation.
  • They tend to be well educated.
  • Very technologically savvy.
  • Like to operate in a team environment.
  • Very sensitive to a work / life balance.
  • Have aggressive expectations regarding careers, career development and career advancement (from and entry level position to Director in five years).
  • Have a very high sense of self worth and ability... to the point of being perceived as arrogant and particularity self entitled.
  • If not happy with a current situation they are very comfortable with making changes by "moving on to something else".
  • The younger the "Millennial", the more profound these points are.

As a leader or a manager of "Millennials" I suspect you are nodding your head and saying to yourself, "Yes, that it about right. Look at what I have to deal with"... where I suspect if you are a "Millennial", you are saying something along these lines, " Yup that sounds about right... deal with it" - (Be Honest). 

More and more leaders and people managers are struggling to manage a growing percentage of this demographic on their teams, as well as a growing number of employees struggle with the working environment they find themselves in - There is a growing frustration with leadership, people management, building stable teams, as well as creating a environment for sustainable success. And this situation is destined to become more and more real as new economies continue to emerge, organizations struggle to achieve the bottom line and the need to have extremely effective teams just to survive... let alone thrive.

As my Millennial friends offer me their thoughts, it became very clear that they found themselves struggling with a few core themes and by extension struggling with their business pursuits. I am not suggesting these are all the struggles going on with "Millennials", but I have heard before:

  • Career and skill development, as well as the next steps in advancement.
  • Leadership motivation and inspiration.

Some quick thoughts on what I heard around the table (with wine in hand I should add)...

As career development and skill development goes, let me offer a perspective that I know my "Millennial" friends and colleagues do not like to hear; it is a "truism" that can not be disregarded, no matter how much you want to believe it to the contrary - Skill development needed for career development and advancement takes time... 10,000 hours for mastery they say. Although becoming a little trite, it is a fair benchmark with knowing when you will be good at what you do. So if career discussions is being discussed in months, and not years, there is truly a disconnect with expectations. And this makes for a very nice segue into the next point...

Although "Millennials" are looking for candid conversations regarding skill development, opportunity, performance and career advancement, what they are truly looking for from their leaders is "inspiration and motivation". They will look for this as individuals, and for the team in the broader sense (remember, by nature, they are team oriented, so they will speak for the team as a way of speaking for themselves). If you are a people leader, particularly if "Millennials" are involved, you need to ensure inspiration and motivation is part of your Leadership DNA - This is a full stop requirement when you lead "Millennials"; not simply a nice to have.

One last comment when it comes to leadership... it is a not a "directional sport" where leadership is just from the top... remember there is an expectation for everyone to manage up, down and side ways. The leader sets the tone for this, but in the end it is a "participation sport".

I appreciate the insights of my "Millennial" friends and they make up a key component of my professional network... they offer me a much needed perspective when looking at the situations and problems of the day. I highly recommend you get them into your network.

In the same breath, I hope they are saying, "I am glad I have an 'old guy' as part of my network" (or something to this affect)... which sometimes may be hard, as it is not part of their DNA.

Something to be worked on for sure.