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Jun 29, 201711:13 AMOpen Mic

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Millennials, generations, and how we work

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There is still a lot of buzz surrounding the Simon Sinek millennial conversation from a few months back, and most of us can agree with his points. He speaks of four characteristics that cause a disconnect between millennials and the workplace:

  1. Parenting;
  2. Impatience;
  3. Technology; and
  4. Environment.

At ThirdSpace, we have our own viewpoints on this topic from the perspectives of a millennial and a Gen Xer.

The millennial — Zach Blumenfeld, ThirdSpace COO

While I agree with what Mr. Sinek says, his stance can be perceived negatively. Why isn’t this generational change in our culture viewed as a positive? Sure, we can be impatient and our work habits are different than the status quo, but we are taking over the workforce and changing the way we work. Out with the old and in with the new. The world is starting to adapt to our tendencies and we naturally embrace technology while making it central to our lives. Mix the exponential growth of technology and a corporate environment that cares more about numbers than people and you deny a company culture that fosters relationships, growth, learning, innovation, and engaged employees.

A problem with the way we work is that most companies have historically not catered to how millennials were taught to work. Big corporations that I’ve worked with in the past are “old school” and give you a nice desk in a small cube with a (sometimes) new PC. Sitting in a cube for eight hours is not our style. I’m not saying I need a Ping-Pong table and free food — although that is nice. Rather, I want to be a part of something that matters. I agree with Sinek’s four characteristics that cause a disconnect, but I have my own four that cater toward the wants of a millennial:

  1. Company culture and employee engagement;
  2. Deeper purpose;
  3. Career journey; and
  4. Leadership.

The biggest problem in today’s workforce, no matter your age or generation, is company culture and employee engagement. According to Gallup, approximately 70% of employees in today’s workforce are disengaged. Worldwide, actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2:1. These are alarming statistics and should be the number one topic of strategy discussions. Culture doesn’t happen overnight or because everybody has access to an organic juice bar and we throw a motivational picture on the wall. If you don’t put in the effort, there is no chance for a great culture. We need to be able to bridge our first space (personal life) and second space (work life) together, ultimately making a ThirdSpace (see what I did there?) where we connect work and play. This isn’t a topic that should be masked or sugarcoated. Engagement comes from within. Engagement comes from being a part of the bigger picture.

Without going to your company website, what is your company’s mission statement? You are in the majority if you don’t know. Once you figure out your company’s mission, what does that mean to YOU? Are you on board with the mission? A company’s mission needs to align with its employees. From talking with hundreds of executives and organizations we’ve found that one of the most motivating factors for employees, especially millennials, is being connected to the deeper purpose of the organization. Most are not, and this is a big reason why you see so many employees job hopping every few years.

I’ve worked for a few different corporations — big and small — and there has either been no onboarding or there is a typical onboarding process. You know, come in for a few days of training, let’s check up in 30 days, then 90 days, and then you are good to go until your annual performance review. Onboarding is a journey. You are on an organizational journey to master a craft. You never stop learning and you should never stop onboarding. Knowledge is power and empowering your employees is a win-win for everyone involved.

Too many times I see a “top-down” approach in organizations and an extreme disconnect between leadership and employees. We need to be able to bridge the “top-down” with a “bottom-up” approach, and it starts with leadership allowing this to happen. Think about your favorite boss or manager. What made you like him or her? Most likely he or she helped motivate you, allowed your voice to be heard, and helped lead you on a journey throughout your career instead of micromanaging.

Our world is changing. We need to connect people from all demographics with one another. We need to do a better job of fostering relationships and engaging our teams. Help guide your people and put them on a journey with deeper purpose and meaning. Organizations and management need to lead the way. I challenge you to embrace technology and our ever-changing environments to make work a place where millennials — and all generations — can work together and have fun doing it. Help us make a difference at our organizations and in the world. The future of work is now. The future of work is you.


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