Invasion of the Millennials
Warning – this article contains “triggers” like accountability and self-sufficiency that might upset some readers.
The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming! Us poor Gen Xers are about to be overwhelmed by another giant generation. Just as we finally pry the reluctant-to-retire Boomers’ cold, dead hands from their mouses, the Millennials are clobbering us with collaboration. And we are horribly out-numbered.
While tempted to rework a Boomer adage to “don’t trust anyone under 30,” I will instead raise some issues we must consider before the hordes are upon us.
1. Are you ready to either train them or hold their hands? This generation is used to just texting someone to get the answer they want. They don’t seem to think of researching the answer themselves or that a regional manager might have better things to do then answer their question. And those crazy Boomers seem to want to accommodate this! I can only attribute it to flashbacks. Let’s step away from the hallucinogens for a minute.
If an eager Millennial in the mailroom has a question and texts the CEO to get an answer, is this the best use of the CEOs time? No! But can one blame the mailroom clerk? Also no! After all, their parents have been responding to their every text message since they were old enough to send them. We’re going to have to train them. Let them know who to go to for answers and don’t assume they know who NOT to go to. And then don’t just answer their question, teach them how to find the information themselves (or you’ll be sucked into answering all their questions forever).
2. No they can’t multitask. No one can. The human mind does not work that way. You can’t text and drive – you are quickly switching back and forth between the two (and doing both pretty badly). They can’t update their Facebook page and pay attention in a meeting. They are switching between the two activities just like the rest of us. I’m not saying you have to crush their multitasking – do what you want. I am saying you need to hold them accountable for their results. If the work is shoddy, don’t give them a trophy. They have enough trophies for just showing up as it is. Hold everyone to the same standard.
3. You may have to train for things you’ve taken for granted with older workers. Crazy things like making eye contact with your fellow human beings. Or handling conflict. Or writing in English. (OOO is not sufficient for an out of the office message.)
4. Ready for high maintenance? Us Gen Xers are an independent bunch – after all, our Boomer parents were out finding themselves while we brought ourselves home from school, got jobs and moved out.
The Millennials? Not so much. Before they make a move, they’ve texted Mom, Dad, 50 friends and posted a question on Facebook. So we’ll have to consider the role of collaboration in the workplace. Sometimes it’s great and we can learn from them. Other times you just need to follow the leader. And yes, I still think you need leaders. I’ll take one expert over 1,000 amateurs. Quantity of input doesn’t always equal quality of decision. If you disagree, call me the next time you need surgery.
We’re going to have to do more handholding than we’re used to. We didn’t get it when we were young and when we got to the workplace, we didn’t want it. We wanted freedom. They want feedback.
5. Role of technology – I admit they are way more technologically savvy than I am. Hey, there are Boomers who are more technologically savvy than I am! But this doesn’t mean they know the best technology for work. This doesn’t even mean they know what work needs to be done. Be explicit in their training – what does success look like in their job? Consider how you can make the most of their tech savvy.
6. Get ready. The Zombie Apocalypse, I mean the Millennial Invasion is coming. We Xers are going to wake up one day and be surrounded. We have to consider our on-boarding processes now – the same old training isn’t going to work for a generation reared by phone. They will have to learn to work within a hierarchy (that they are not at the top of) and we will have to learn to incorporate collaboration. And if all else fails, we can just call their parents.