by Pollie Massey - CEO of OMS Consulting, Inc
The road to a diverse organization that has an inclusive environment can vary greatly among organizations. What is constant, however, is that the journey of increasing diversity and developing an inclusive culture requires the input of each generation within the workforce: baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and, coming soon, Generation Z, also known as digital natives.
With the exception of the majority of technology startups, many organizations have baby boomers and members of Generation X at the helm, which leaves millennials to fill out the entry level and mid-level staff positions. As a recent PEW Research Center study showed, one in three American workers today are millennials (born between 1980-2004). Furthermore, millennials will make up an estimated 50% of the workforce by 2020.
Millennials have been widely criticized for getting participation trophies, not staying at jobs long enough, and being overly dependent on technology — yet they have continued to change the world by creating new products, solving problems, and connecting more people every day. The communication tool of choice for them is social media. Yes, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube keep millennials tethered to their devices, but this has also given millennials something else: It has given them multiple platforms on which they can learn to build a community with a distinct mission, creed and culture.
In my D&I consultancy, I see millennials show up open-minded, practical, solution-oriented, self-reliant and resourceful. Having the opportunity to work directly with these future world changers firsthand (and parenting a millennial) has taught me many valuable lessons as a leader who trains leaders. Most importantly, it is not working to force millennials into behaving a certain way. For those who want to find common ground with this generation, try to understand “their way” and perhaps include their positive practices.
Here are three ways millennials can help guide your team and buildleadership influence that serves your marketplace across generations.
Leadership: I have no doubt that the millennials will change the world — and neither should you. Authors of Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation William Strauss and Neil Howe are widely credited with naming the millennials. They predicted the attributes of teamwork and optimism would poise these future leaders for greatness. Organizations cannot afford to not coach, sponsor, mentor and champion the millennials, as they will become the new leaders with or without our blessing. The generation after millennials will likewise gain from their reciprocal leadership style. For the Millennial Generation, leadership is more than facts; it is relationships.
Innovation: Millenials can be impatient. Many great leaders’ intolerance for stagnation becomes fuel for innovation. As a leader, our consciousness and ability to be present can balance the urgency to get things done against the reality of time. The penchant for instant gratification can also deliver fast responses, perpetual change. I believe millennials want to win — but not at the expense of their customer. Expect them to reimagine everything: budgets, transportation, food, employee health, content excellence (vs. advertising excellence).
Corporate And Social Responsibility: Millennials expect brands to give back — to be authentic and transparent. As leaders, they will make it a part of their company’s core mission to support causes that matter the most to their associates, customers and community.
The smartest companies collaborate and benefit from the millennials’ perspective (soon they will answering to them, so they might as well nurture them now!). Today’s organizations will need to build bridges, not walls, that prepare, motivate and influence future leaders — working with them, not against them. Leadership development is not fast or easy. Understanding a multigenerational, multiethnic and gender-diverse workforce is essential for those called to lead larger, bigger, better and differently.