Firstly, who are millennials? People born from the late 70’s to early 00’s are termed as Millennials or Gen Y. Born on or after 2005, fall under Gen Z, and the Baby Boomers or Gen X are the folks who’ve been born rough from mid 60’s to mid 70’s.
Enough has been said about millennials. A mere search on the word gives you oodles or research papers, articles and case studies on this generation. Their habits, needs, motivators, aspirations, career paths have all been studied by the keen eyes of many a people. There is so much said and written about them, that it is easy for organizations, leaders and even the millennials themselves to be confused.
So, let’s cut through the plethora and get to the point. There are few and pointed challenges this generation experiences, and all primarily driven by the changes the external environment when they were growing up. The ones which are distinctive to their birth years and from other generations, are as follows:
Quest for Self
The bane of any 90’s child’s parent was the Internet. Even within this generation, were those who were exposed to the Internet during early adulthood and those who grew up learning MS DOS in middle school and eventually learned the magic of the World Wide Web. So, this generation was bombarded with information. Globalization around them in industries meant the exposure to different cultures, religions and families rapidly. The biggest downfall of too much information is confusion. The more you know, the more you wonder. And that is exactly what this generation grapples with. Having seen so much, the question of “Who am I?” is something they all ask at the end of the day, or week, or sometimes even after a cup of tea. Which is why this generation confounds the stability-hungry Gen X with their need to travel, cultivate hobbies and do things for an experience and no other motive.
Guidance, but no Instructions
Let’s face it, they have authority issues. They don’t like being told what to do. Obedience is equal to subservience for them. They’ve grown up watching the generation before them struggle, deal with a failing economy and have been told daily to “value money!”. They had families down-sizing, the industrial scene urbanize, watched the advent of capitalism in full throttle. Which means they possessed enough sense of entitlement by the time to hit the workforce. And that meant not liking managers who treated them like dim-wits, or called out their dim-wits. Honestly, the coach and couch philosophy never saw as much money, till these guys walked in! So, for managers and parents, even society, communication had to change from telling them what to do, to merely directing them towards the right path and leaving them there. They like to struggle with the challenge, use that information stored away in the corner of their brain to come up with an idea or solution, find their own path in life and in the end, emerge victorious. So all they ask for, is when you find them looking perplexed, at cross-roads in life, and on the brink of a crisis, just sit down and have a chat for an hour or two. But don’t tell them what to do! They hate that.
Like that drama!
This generation is the veritable middle child. Which means it needs attention, caught between the righteous elder sibling and the care-free, laid-back younger one. This one wants both and likes neither. So while Gen X can take credit for Google, Apple and even the Internet (yep!), this generation can take credit for Calvin and Hobbes, English Premier League, Pop Music, Teddy Bears, butchering the English language and cyber crimes! Their struggle for self has certainly paved way for philosophy to be re-hashed and be part of desultory conversations. Existential crisis, phobias, disorders and abhorrent behaviors just gets their juices flowing. And saw MySpace, Hi5, Yahoo Chat rooms and later Facebook emerge and flourish with their need to connect and communicate.Sensationally!
Want it all!
They’re a greedy bunch. Want the big corner office with a lazy-boy, a dart board and a coffee maker, the vintage suits and the comfy denims, non-conformity and like-minded groups, individualistic identity and support systems, freedom, independence and people to battle loneliness, work-life balance and high-flying careers, passion for what you do and money to buy the best, juggling roles and wanting no-strings attached relationships. A conundrum, these people be! Any wonder counseling is all the rage, that yoga and meditation took prominence?
The Road Most Often Taken
Risk throws them. This is where the older sibling has left traces of the need for security. So although most millennials talk about wanting to live their dreams, finding their passion and loving what they do, they are not the first ones to quit a steady job to follow this route. They’d rather work 5 days a week and make the most of the weekend, and use that weekend to brood over their lives. Though choice-making is a loud demand, their choices often err towards the conventional. Which is why, even though they detest old-school policies or systems of organizations, it isn’t the structures they dislike, but the way it is shaped. Millennials like to work, some need to work, most want to work – but they also want a rich life which lets them do more than work, while being successful at it. And everything. Easy, no?
For organization, the biggest recommendation is to not do different things, but just do the things which exist differently. All processes of managing performance, development, talent and engagement are stoic and rigid, with edgy corners and ruler-straight lines. This generation likes to squiggle, takes turns, experiment, but all within the comfort of some structure and boundaries. That is it.
And really, if we’re still grappling with millennials at the work place, brace yourself for Gen Z, ‘cuz they’re a doozy!
*written based on interviews with 60 millennials