The battle against the Millenniums – and why you might already have lost it

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Sanne Villemoes

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2018-09-10 | Sanne Villemoes

Yesterday, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal from Deloitte with the subheader: “By understanding the work styles of Millennials, CIOs and other business leaders may be able to increase their engagement and commitment”. The study shoots down some of the stereotypes which can be easily found about Millenniums. Credit for that. However, what it also does is providing new stereotypes on the basis of their Business Chemistry study; it concludes with the words: “By understanding their (Millenniums) work style types and employing strategies to engage them, CIOs and other business leaders can help foster commitment and empowerment among this generation of employees.”

I agree with that CIOs etc. should consider trying to better understand Millenniums, however, they also make Millenniums sound like a new species of humans, or is it just me? Some of the articles available on the Internet on how to manage Millenniums and the general tone herein almost sound like the employers are getting ready for the upcoming and ongoing battle against the Millenniums, and the vocabulary utilised almost reminds me of the rhetoric of George W. Bush’s speech at 9/11 – a reminder that “we” are dispositional different from “them” (without drawing parallels between the two scenarios).

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Are Millenniums that different?

A quick google search for “manage Millennials” gave 60.900.000 results. One of the articles gave advice on how to best ensure a good fit between the company and the Millenniums. Here are some of the advice: Do not let the Millenniums get bored, tell them to relax on vacations and pay them well. Is it just me who finds these pieces of advice a bit tragicomic? Who likes to get bored? And who does not like to be paid well? Just wondering.

The mistake that many companies and managers do is to assume that all young people, all Millenniums, are alike. A study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology from 2017 found that “the magnitude of generational differences is small to near-zero”, stating that only 2% of a person’s attitude and beliefs can be attributed to their generation. Hence, 98% of how we feel, think and behave has nothing to do with our specific age group, which means that Millennials are more likely to have differences between each other than e.g. a Millennium and Gen-Z. Before questioning the validity and reliability of this research, I would like to point out that the research was conducted over an eight-year period including more than 600,000 people. Pretty significant.

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Nevertheless, I believe that there is a difference between Millenniums and other generations. Society is in constant development for which reason we as humans also develop, and Millenniums do think differently about the world. However, what I do not believe is that we should perceive Millenniums as a new uniform species of employees and humans. Is it possible that every Millennial in the world has the same preferences and believes about how the ideal workplace should be? No, of course not. Like every other person on this planet, Millenniums too are different with different experiences, backgrounds, preferences, perspectives, and goals – and that is what the above-mentioned study can help remind us.

There is no one-size-fits-all

In short, Millenniums are a new generation with other preferences and wishes for how the future and the workplaces should be. However, let us quit the stereotypes and generalizations about how to manage Millenniums. It is simply too dangerous to think like that and you will end up losing the battle.

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In general, this rule does not apply to anything. Therefore, forget about the age and the fact that your new employee is a Millennial for a second. In order to win the battle against the Millenniums, you must first and foremost wave the white flag; acknowledge that Millenniums are as different as every other employee you have. Secondly, you must accept that this is a new generation with new preferences which you need to adapt to.

That is how you work with Millennials and win the battle together with them.

*Next week, we will post five tips on how you work with Millenniums without any generalisations. In the meantime, take a look at Simon Sinek’s “The Millennial Question” on why Millenniums might perceive things differently – because honestly, I cannot do it better myself. *

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