Millennials make up a large part of today’s workforce, but there is still much confusion as to how to incorporate their talents, skills and qualities into the workplace. In this article, keynote speaker Jones Loflin, an expert on change, gives his thoughtful insight on how organizations can effectively approach generational change.
Did you know Millennials are lazy? It’s true. I read it on the Internet. Here’s the article: Millennials Think Eating Cereal Is Way Too Difficult. I laughed because the article immediately became fodder for many to discuss the difficulties of trying to lead these “younger workers.” I responded with a LinkedIn article entitled, Let’s Stop Calling ALL Millennials Lazy.
Leading multi-generational teams is a challenge. Looking at the general preferences of each generation is a good way to start understanding them. What’s not helpful is trying to stereotype each generation and use that (mis)information to lead everyone who fits in that age range.
If you’re leading a team comprised of people from multiple generations, here are five principles to guide you:
Remember that generational preferences are a small part of a bigger picture.
Personality differences, cultural and economic influences, and “how one was raised” are stronger influences than the time period in which one was born. Acting with only generational tendencies as your guide will rarely work. Dig deeper to really know how to best work with that team member.
Focus on what ALL generations want from you.
Research by Dr. Ben Rosen found that Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Generation Xers have the same five expectations of their employers. They are:
Where your homework comes in is understanding how different individuals define these expectations. An effective place to start might be to have a team meeting and post flip charts around the room with each of the five expectations. Then have them write their response to this question for each expectation: “What does this mean to you?” or “How could we be more intentional about meeting this expectation?” Also, don’t forget to use these expectations in an annual employee survey or employee engagement assessment.
Expect (and look for) diversity within a generation.
In her book, Retiring the Generation Gap, Dr. Jennifer Deal writes, “”The generations’ values do not differ significantly – individuals of all generations differ much more from each other than any generation does from the others. That is, there are more differences within each generation than there are between generations.” Stereotyping one group as “lazy” or “stubborn” or “technology-challenged” can cause you to miss the full potential an employee offers your team.
Recognize that everyone resists change.
Older workers are more resistant to change, right? Not so, says a study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology. In a study of over 30,000 employees in 93 German firms, researchers found that younger, rather than mature workers, are more resistant to change. As I frequently comment in my presentations on change, you have to, as much as possible, determine the specific reason someone is resisting a change. Trying to communicate and lead a change based on how you think different age groups will respond is dangerous. Start with communicating how the change is aligned with the mission of your team or department. That’s something every generation will understand.
Encourage healthy curiosity.
Learning the “Why” behind someone’s chosen course of action (or inaction) is extremely important in finding points of agreement and resolving differences. If you have built a culture that values diversity, encourage positive discussions related to potential generational differences and viewpoints. Be the one that helps them find the shared values being expressed in each person’s responses.
The best leaders are those who recognize the unique contribution that can be made by every person on their team, regardless of age. Don’t let generational stereotypes cause you to make a mistake that could hurt your team’s performance.
What’s the next step you need to take to improve your ability to lead people of all ages?