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Opening Insights: Millennial Muck-up

Coming to an organization near you, Millennial sensitivity training! Learn how to do something with the most challenging (and challenged) generation that America has ever seen. More than just a headlining statement, the trouble with Millennials is very real and many organizations are spending real money to do something about it. Rather than looking elsewhere for new talent, several organizations are evaluating new methods to accommodate this puzzling generation.

Informational Insights: Generational Integration

For many middle managers and executive leaders, it is tempting to take a stance of, Millennials are just plain wrong and we do not know what to do about them, so we should find somebody else. Well, that sentiment just will not work, as the primary workforce is comprised of them, and they are at an age when they will begin taking over middle manager and upper-level management positions. We can’t change that now, but there are two options for us to consider: We can work to change the people, or we can change their environment. Either way, a change is clearly necessary.

What Is the Deal with Millennials Anyway?

Millennial individuals, born roughly 1981-1994, are generally known for being tech-savvy, awkward/poor communicators and devoted to their own careers, not to their companies. They desire meaningful work. They like to work together in groups, but they don’t know how to communicate.

 A type of Perfect Storm is beginning to coalesce with Baby Boomers hitting retirement age and the notoriously difficult-to-train Millennials taking over their vacated positions. Boomers don’t know how to speak to, or relate to, Millennials and Millennials can’t hear, don’t care and already know everything the Boomers are telling them. Is the knowledge and wisdom of the elders’ experience walking out with retirements? If cross-generational communication is a necessity, what can we do to ensure it happens? Though we do not appear to be doing it now, some organizations are taking a research lead.
One of America’s largest auto manufacturers managed to make it through the financial crisis of 2008 only to be faced with the Millennial crisis a decade later. Their generational gaps are making knowledge/wisdom transfer a tremendous problem to solve and overall productivity is dropping fast. Now, they are investing in resources to teach employees the art of teamwork, because they are unable to do anything with their millennials. They are investing in teamwork training for Millennials, and for those who work with them, because they cannot work together, because they are too immature and selfish, and they are incapable of learning. They can’t hear, don’t care and already know everything that is said to them.
Why are Millennials so hard to train? Many point to Higher Education as the culprit. Ernst & Young have removed the bachelor’s degree requirement from their hiring standards and other organizations are making similar adjustments. USA, UK and South Africa are having the same trouble with their universities, as are institutions of higher education everywhere. They are graduating Millennials, not thinkers, not conceptualizers, not dreamers, but individuals who only know WHAT they learned, not how or why to use it. The dubious value of a college degree points to an uncertain future for universities across the globe. As is the case with Ernst & Young, the need for a degree will simply go away, as will the need for institutions of higher education.
The primary reason universities exist is to do research. Millennials can’t do research because they can’t think, be creative, ask questions or take a chance. Without the means to change how they do education, degree holders may once again become a rarity.
One of America’s largest aerospace firms is flush with long-term government contracts and is making lots of money. On paper, they appear to be in great shape, but economists are saying it will be short-lived as the organization is unable to complete its contracts on-time. They have seemingly unlimited government funding, but are unable to deliver a product. Why? They are reeling from the changing of the old guard. “Many large, older companies are caught up in a tsunami of baby boomers retiring and are unaware of how much tribal knowledge they are taking with them,” says Dorothy Leonard, professor emerita at Harvard Business School.

What Can We Do About It?

An organization leading the country in rentals and storage just began a journey into the unknown. Their Millennial problem has taken the form of severely understaffed storefronts due to a dizzying turnover rate that leaves middle managers puzzled and customers desperate. Plenty of applications are coming in, but the rate of acceptable incoming replacement hires returning to the floor can barely keep up with the rate of those who leave. Additionally, the team environment is one where Millennials are in charge of other Millennials. Why is this a problem? They can’t hear, don’t care and already know everything that is said to them. How will they communicate? No relationship can be successful without trust, understanding and communication.

The most amazing thing about this organization is not traceable to some super-policy from the executive leadership or special corporate social responsibility practice. Within this organization a quiet movement has begun. The Millennials, not the management, have initiated a grassroots movement to introduce a program for organization culture change. They are the problem, yet THEY want to do something about it. A handful of individuals in three groups are coming together now.

Rather than complaining to their bosses and demanding a change, as is common among the entitled Millennial masses, this group of individuals is positioning itself to affect an employee-driven organization culture change utilizing proven principles of bottom-up management and followship-leadership. They are influenced by a volunteer researcher, who is also an entry-level employee, and led by one of the company’s own front-line managers.

They are all signing up to participate in a pilot Collaboration Laboratory (Co-Lab) managed by Awareness Communications Technology, LLC (AwareComm®). In the Co-Lab, the principles of communication are experientially learned along with the value and necessity of working together as a team. Co-Labs follow the same principles used by Edward Deming, famous strategist responsible for rebuilding Japan, thereby transforming it into a manufacturing powerhouse, and for helping NASA during the race to the moon. He helped a puke bureaucratic government agency become the pinnacle of performance and saw our astronauts safely returned to earth.

They have an uphill battle to fight. Once they prove, that by working together and by taking charge of the development of a new company culture, they can be the change they want to see in their organization, then their movement becomes undeniable. Then, their leadership has to listen and that is how change will occur. Not with policy, not with a new vision from leadership, but through the actions of a group of people who want something different and are willing to take charge of their work environments.

Source Links:
The Millennial Struggle
Ernst & Young Removes University Degree Classification From Entry Criteria As There’s ‘No Evidence’ It Equals Success
University ‘Safe Space’ Culture, Making Scientific Breakthroughs UNLIKELY
As Boomers Retire Companies Prepare Millennials For Leadership Roles

Possibilities for Consideration: A Deliverable Answer

When the workers of an organization are the ones who ask for the policy change and drive its implementation, the rate of success for that initiative soars.

  • What would it be like to work in an organization where there were no hierarchical boundaries?
  • What would it be like to take charge of the environment that you wanted to learn, grow and work within?
  • What would it be like to have the confidence to take a risk, knowing that your coworkers will have your back?
  • What if you could take the professional development software home with you, and help your family culture as well?

Add Your Insights

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.


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