I’m not surprised when a millennial is able to sum up a grand observation about our generation. The more I learn about, and write about my generation, the more I notice similar observations, and a sense of cohesion of attitude with my peers. But I am pleasantly surprised when someone from a generation ahead of us is able to “get” millennials. The recently published Forbes article Millennials Will Inherit the Earth by Michael Schulze (Senior Vice President, Retail, SAP) has great observations into millennials, as well as ways for older generations to understand, and relate with them.
Here are some great quotes from the article, and my response:
1. The generational disconnect. “As leaders of industry, we need to seek ways to understand and engage them, to teach and to learn from them.”
Millennials are here to stay, we are large in numbers and we’re changing the country. The disconnect between millennials and older ones isn’t formed from rebellion on our part, but mostly through miscommunication, and misunderstanding. Millennials are generally not rebellious against their elders. Because of this unique generational divide, I agree that there needs to be a give-and-take approach in order bridge the divide. The millennials world-view may be more accurate in judging the current climate, but their insight doesn’t trump experience and expertise of older generations.
2. Not as self-absorbed as we appear. “This is where elements like social responsibility come into play, taking into account where merchandise is manufactured, how the workers are treated, and what kind of footprint is left on the planet. And “…millennials are holding us to a much higher standard than we’ve been holding ourselves to.”
I recently reblogged the article Young Millennials still think the world owes them a living which shows the apparent self-absorption of millennials, and my peers disagreed with the conclusions of the piece. Take a closer look at what milleninals are wearing and you’ll see that the labels are socially or environmentally responsible. To millennials responsibility is cool. As far as this generation’s high standards, I think it stems from millennials seeing a need for change, and a mindset that doesn’t want to settle. This is a generational strength that can be harnessed.
3. Unrealistic Smarty-pants. “Millennials… have far more formal education and skills than other generations would have had at that age, but they lack practical experience. […] Macy’s is looking for ways to engage their millennial employees and figure out avenues for ‘reality checks’.”
The oracular millennial generation has been taught that it’s “education, education, education” that will get you ahead. And now we have loans, loans, loans. Don’t assume they are rebelling against your direction or leadership. Keep in mind that their worldview was formed by generations older than them, who may have forgotten the practical details of earning your way to success. Feel free to give us a reality check, that our teachers/parents/professors/coaches thought unnecessary for some reason.
4. Help us grow. “A leader isn’t good because they are right,” [General Stan McChrystal] said during a presentation on thought leadership platform TED.com. “They are good because they are willing to learn and to trust.”
WHAT? I thought my degree was license to have people listen to whatever I say? This is very sound advice that makes sense. Just inform millennials when they need to learn from you, or trust your judgement and direction. They may be stepping over a line that they should know about, but may not know exists. Just say, “trust me on this one.”
5. There is hope for millennials. “I firmly believe that, as my generation continues to listen to, work with, and even shop alongside theirs, we are passing the baton to a generation that will improve people’s lives like never before.”
Next time you have an up-and-coming, ambitious millennial who doesn’t seem to know as much as he/she claims, don’t be too intimidated or annoyed. Although millennials are overconfident, and seemingly unflappable, instead of picturing them in their proverbial underwear, picture them as the ethereal bald kid from the Matrix. Before you rant “Oh yes there IS a spoon, and it’s a silver one planted squarely in your mouth!” gently take their hand, learn more about their worldview, which is probably completely different than your own. Be ready to learn a lot, and be ready to teach a lot, because believe it or not millennials are listening!
Underneath the apparent entitlement, they really are hungry to change the world for the better. That is no illusion.