Monday, December 1, 2008

Working with Millennials

If you manage a hospital, an aged care facility or a medical centre where should you be looking for lessons on how to manage your future staff resource? Try McDonalds. Why not talk to the military? The AFL or the major managment consulting firms. Why? Because these organisations are key recruiters of young millenials. What are millenials? This is the generic term used to describe those moving into the workplace. They will be your future management team.

Here is a newsflash. Baby Boomers are a dying breed. Now I don't mean that in the sense they are becoming extinct. Well actually, they are, even though the end is still a long way off yet. I mean it in this way. There are approximately 300,000 Baby Boomers remaining in the workforce in Australia and New Zealand. They will have all exited the workplace by 2030.

On the other hand, millenials, those born in the past twenty five years represent 50% of the population and will be the workforce of the future. Those from Gen X are currently moving into the management ranks as we speak. Those from Gen Y, now aged in their early to mid-20's already have their eye on the top spots and following only a decade or so behind them are those currently in primary school.

Ok, so you're a Baby Boomer, you're currently in the workplace and aged 50+. Your in survival mode. You are hanging on for grim death to every rung of your hard-earned, hard-fought for, career ladder. You can almost smell the roses of retirement. This is not really your problem is it?

Wrong. it is your problem. The bright young things moving into management are not going to wait for you to retire. They are going to force you to learn how to work with them or they will run all over you; leaving one question only to be answered. Why is that person still working here?

You need to develop the ability to form relationships with the younger managers and workers. How? Lesson #1. The up and coming managers crave feedback, constant feedback. Not superficial feedback, not platitudes, they don't lack self confidence. They can see right through bullshit. They have high expectations of themselves and of others. They want to know that what they are doing is of value and is a valued contribution. They want to know how they contribute. They do not want to be preached to or instructed. They want to learn, from good teachers, able to guide them through a process of discovery. Are you able to do this?

They are tech savvy, having grown up online. Their network of friends and contacts are online, in communities and social media spaces. These networks are trusted; it is where the next breed of managers go for referrals. They get their information online. They obtain feedback and info from multiple sources. Their confidence comes from the size of the contact group. Are you online? Are you on frontpage? Do you have a professional profile on LinkedIn? Are you following or being followed on Twitter? Do you have a blog? Do you even understand what I am talking about here?

Media have portrayed millenials as being self-absorbed and in a hurry to get places. To a degree many of these portrayals are based on fact. We cannot change the characteristics of the next generations. Let's not waste time trying to achieve the impossible. Instead let's learn to work with them. Instead of telling them what we believe they should be, let's ask them what they would like to be. Then we can put in place processes to achieve that while also achieving the needs of the organisation and of yourself.

My advice to those aged 50+ and still in the workplace. Develop the ability to become a coach, a facilitator, a mentor and a teacher. You have knowledge and experience. Delivered in an appropriate manner, there are 3 million people coming into the workplace over the next twenty years and they all need what you have. Do this and you will retire happy, satisfied and value beyond your wildest dreams.

Like to know how to develop the ability to lead and teach? Join our Managers as Coaches program for 2009. Go to to download an info kit.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
Skype: john_coxon
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Bret Bernhoft said...

I agree with your points whole heartedly. I am a Generational Consultant out of Portland Oregon in the States and we are dealing with the same issues you are in Aussieland. With advice like yours I know we can all have faith that there is an understanding of what must take place in order to succeed.

JC said...

Hi Bret
Thanks for stopping by and good to hear from you. What sort of work are you involved with as a Generational Consultant?

As you point out, aspects of intergenerational change in the workplace are the same regardless of country or continent. I believe the issue is poor management - but then hasn't that been an issue for every generational change?

When we have managers with well developed communication skills and able to use common sense then the potential for conflict is reduced. Likewise when we take the time to actually engage employees and ask them how they would like to contribute - then we have great teamwork.

Keep in touch,
John C