Generational stereotypes start as a hunch, then, as the generation matures, the trends become more obvious – until now. Summarizing a stereotype with this particular generation may be harder to define than any other generation in history. Who are the Millennials?
The Millennials are the generation born between the mid-’80s and the mid-’90s and are also known as generation “Y”. This generation arrived at the dawning of public use of the information superhighway, better known now as the World Wide Web (WWW) or now simply referred to as the internet.
DOS systems with monochrome screens were moving to full-color screens and the first “Windows” OS was released. Laptops were making their first appearance and cell phone were soon on the way. The digital era had just experienced a quantum leap into a new way of gathering information.
By highschool, Millennials were getting their own cell phones and it made perfect sense as payphones were already starting to disappear from public spaces. This new convenience also underwent rapid changes. In fact, children in many cases became better at explaining the changes to their parents rather than the other way around. Millennials were having to navigate this world on their own.
Then, the next big technological breakthrough emerged. The cell phone became the “smartphone” and could be used to connect to the internet. Communication was entering a whole new territory. Kids were keeping up, parents were catching up, and trolls and bullies were discovering new ways to target their victims.
Organizing a meeting for a book club could be typed as quietly as a connection for a drug deal. Selfies could be very different behind closed doors than what they take at school. Parents suddenly realized they needed to not be a passive observer. This amazing network of connections was creating new parenting challenges no one could have seen coming.
The Millennials got handed a massive amount of information and technologies with little guidance. Parents of this generation had no experience with all this new technology in their children’s hands. There there was no way to predict how it could be used or exploited. For most, this was a great advancement for getting information rapidly. Unfortunately, for some, predatory acts and cyberbullying lead to some tragic consequences.
Simon Sinek, corporate educator and author of Start With Why, Find Your Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together is Better, and The Infinite Game, fears that this generation got a little cheated by failed parenting. Not because of bad parenting but because there was no previous experience of how to parent in the world of the internet.
Millennials are now entering the jobs market and some are not prepared to cope with waiting for a project to complete in a world that has been able to deliver them almost anything they want in 24 hours or less. They are impatient with communication by phone and would rather send short texts. They also grew up in a time where the parenting and teaching trend was to deliver only positive messages to children, such as, even if you lose at something, you are still a winner and special. A philosophy that does not always hold true in corporate America where if you lose you may be criticized, shamed, and fired.
Simon Senek, in a YouTube interview, seeks to explain the conundrum of the Millennial Generation and explains how he has observed the Millennials that are now showing up at the workplace. It is a complex generation that seems to be at odds with the traditional workplace. They want to make a difference, they are seeking a greater work time/playtime balance, they desire equality for all, they understand the environment is at risk and needs actionable change now, not 10 years from now.
The challenge they face is, how to organize their movement. The ability to concentrate and focus is the weak link in the chain and the question remains, will Millennials be able to pull it together to create the change they want to see in the world.
The future employers of this generation have a unique challenge ahead but perhaps a most rewarding one. It is going to require patients and it’s going to require an open mind. A large percentage of the senior generations now have a good understanding of the World Wide Web and its many paths to knowledge and communication. It is not too late to educate these new employees on the power of focusing on one issue at a time, organizing one’s thoughts, and then moving forward in a way that can create necessary changes along with the inspirational changes they are seeking.
Simon warns, however, that If we continue with a “them vs. us” attitude toward Millennials we will truly have failed this generation as well the one behind them. They are perhaps the generation that will, with the help of the internet, unify this planet in ways we could not have previously imagined. We just need to provide them with how to structure their movement.
Click here to see the passionate talk by Simon Sinek that sparked many corporate conversations on who the Millennials are and how we can integrate them successfully into the workforce.