Millennials. Has there been a generation so misunderstood or labeled with an almost constant negative tone? While you’re thinking about it, go ahead and include their younger peers from generation Alpha upwards as well.
2020 is the year Millennials will be the dominant workforce on the planet. So, like them or hate them or frankly love them as I think we should, millennials are potentially the greatest generation ahead of us. We have seismic change occurring around us on multiple dimensions that require in-depth discussion. From technologies like AI, to radically shifting business models, (digital platforming and zero marginal cost) to debates about how resources on the planet need to be managed for the planet and not just one country or one or two socio-economic groups. Even the nature of how we think about house ownership, transportation, healthcare and maybe even families are changing every day. This generation will have an abundance of opportunities to think about and a complex landscape of challenges to handle. For example, a vastly different set of ideas about work (gig versus company versus not sure) will also bloom to be a more frequent discussion.
Increasing questions about what education means (for life or to just graduate) will have for resonance than ever before as this generation as they will likely have three to four times more careers than their parents. The economic burdens of higher education costs are growing while the perceived benefits are coming under more scrutiny than ever. We all know we need a highly educated workforce for a digital future, but are we doing it in the right way?
At the same time, as these more significant changes, this generation is going to bear the burden of an increasingly more extensive group of older parents and already one in four millennials are currently directly managing a parents’ ill health on a daily basis. Add that pressure to enormous college debts and we are not setting this generation up for the success we need them to have.
Who wants to hire a Millennial? This is a much-maligned generation oft accused of being selfish and maybe lazy compared to their boomer parents or older colleagues. However, without infusing their beliefs, views and even concerns into how we manage the world now we are doing ourselves a collective disservice.
We should be supporting every Millennial each day as leaders because they are the core of our workforce from 2020. They have an immense capacity to lean into managing digital change right now because that is how they live and work in one fluid way 24.7.365. Digitally.
We can make these changes right now in five distinct ways.
1. Bring Millennials into big strategy decisions early because they can cut open the Gordian knot
Millennials are keen to lean in because, in reality, they’ve had to lean into a new world from day one. Think about it, from dating, to work, to education in a new and sometimes scarier way than their parents or any generation before them. Instead of guessing about the new digital world, have the most adult digital natives lean into solving it for you. Digital worlds demand a much more instant and customer-centric view of the world. Millennials have only lived in a one-click (mostly one click) world for decades so they can cut through the typical miasma that dominates thinking during significant transitions.
2. Use their language always as they are most likely your customer base of the present and very likely the future.
Customers have portfolios of experiences. Moments matter and we are all responsible to each of us all the time. Ask a Millennial about these terms and they will answer with mostly crisp and well-told stories about each. Now ask someone older and there is very likely to be an extensive range of answers. These digital DNA components (ideas) site at the very heart of a digitally transforming corporation (The Digital Helix). You cannot shift a company unless the language changes too. Millennial generations have that lexicography down to a tee, so we should be using it as the engine for change.
3. Have Millennials build your metrics
You cannot measure the new world mostly or even partially with the metrics of the old world. Have your companies Millennials and younger build your new digital world of metrics. They understand the varying positive and negative social signals, as well as noise. They fully comprehend the amalgams of measures that define digital satisfaction and they get the joint powers of transparency and purpose that increasingly dominate employees as well as customer satisfaction.
4. Be their counsel and ask the tough questions of them
The challenges this generation faces are monumental. They need counsel and guidance and people to talk to. We may not have faced the same range and depth of issues or maybe even opportunities, but we have a vast array of knowledge we should be sharing. The most successful executives driving digital transformation invest (on average) 17.4 hours a week on directly transforming their corporations. Imagine investing 3 hours of that on helping your workforce of the present and tour leaders of the future on their personal development?
5. They are keen to lean in, so experiment with them
The most successful digitally transforming corporations see the ongoing development of alternative/parallel strategies as vital to their current vibrancy. Living by this idea and not just playing lip service to it is one of the clearest measures of success for thriving corporations by a ratio of 5:1 for the most successful corporations versus the rest, (inc.digital Digital Genome research in the global 2000). So instead of handing over these types of programs to senior management, hand them to a younger Millennial team not steeped in traditional thinking or design. The worst you will get is an idea that won’t work but put pressure on another team or plan to elevate itself. The best you get is a combination of fresh thinking and measurable results that could change the game. Millennials are likely to be your secret engine of change here (see the four reasons above).
This could be one of the greatest generations if we help them. They are the backbone of the global workforce from 2020 and will have to face mountainous challenges (from personal to the planet) we need to solve starting now. For many companies struggling with digital transformation (72% of the Global 2000), they are your secret weapon.