Why do we blame the Millennials?

In less than a decade the Millennials will comprise 75% of our workplaces globally’, according to generation experts Bridgeworks.

Born between 1980 and 1995, we have a generation that rivals the dominant Baby Boomer generation in numbers. Over the next few years we will wave good-bye to thousands of years of knowledge from workplaces as Baby Boomers are packing up their desks, travelling, playing golf and embarking on new adventures.

‘It is estimated that globally 10,000 baby boomers are leaving the workforce everyday’.

There is a major disconnect between generations, but is the blame misdirected?

Every week I hear business owners make statements about Millennials:

  • ‘They will learn in time’
  • ‘Nothing beats experience’
  • ‘Eventually they will understand the workforce’
  • ‘They need to do some hard work and prove themselves’

We need to change the way we perceive and manage Millennials. We need to look at the way we interact, develop and work side by side with these up and coming future leaders.

Maybe we should show some vulnerability and learn from them? The Industrial Age is long gone, but it affects lives through eight-hour days and regimented work weeks. The digital age is here and change is rapid; it could be time to embrace change and embrace the next generation of leaders.

Are we being agile enough when it comes to managing our people?

Millennials have grown up with technology, social media is second nature and they have a thirst for learning! Remote working is normal – in fact according to Bridgeworks, in the US 70% of Millennials think working from an office is unnecessary. They want to be part of something meaningful and want to believe in a company’s vision, mission and values. Millennials may have a misguided sense of expectation on occasion, but don’t tar them all with the same brush.

The best-selling author Patrick Lencioni states the three most important traits of high performing managers are humility, hunger and smarts.

I have worked with individuals across all generations that excel in these three areas. I would argue successful management traits are not generation specific; they can be found and nurtured in all employees.

Reverse mentoring is something that can bridge the perceived generational gap, if you are open enough to learn. There is no rule that says the person who has been there the longest has all the knowledge.

‘You can teach old dogs new tricks, if the old dogs can open their mind to embrace change’

Tech savvy, demanding and ambitious, Millennials are bringing with them an entirely new way of doing business; it is exciting.

I challenge all mangers to reflect on the individuals in their team. Are you identifying experts and really listening? At wattsnext we recently conducted a team session where we encouraged feedback on Millennials in the workplace. Two of our Millennials input was invaluable and has led to internal improvement in our business.

The Millennials are craving leadership, not judgement. As managers let’s ease the cross-generational tension. There is a demographic shift coming and we need to change our management styles to embrace it.

Where should the blame really sit?

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of  wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.


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5 years ago

The millenials in many ways have had a tough trot. You may laugh and say what about the great depression or the stag flation years in the 70’s & 80’s. But what I mean is that they came into the workforce when we had unshackled ourselves from the old ways of doing things but were really yet to work out the way forward. They missed the grounding that the older workers took into the new economy & probably never go a good enough toe hold on the new economy becasue of it.

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