Pop quiz: What is the greatest threat to the workplace as we know it?
A) Social media
B) Economic instability
D) That kid sitting in the cubicle outside your office
If you said anything but D, it’s time to wake up and smell the four-dollar mocha.
Yes, today’s workplace is facing its share of challenges from options A, B and C. Yet in a way, they’re nothing new. The modern world of work has always evolved with new technology, bull and bear markets, political unrest and shifting consumer needs.
However, never in recent history have we seen such a big clash of culture within our own organizations. I call it the millennial takeover—and I believe it is the greatest impending disrupter to the way business has always been done.
If you’re asking that question, then you’re already in trouble.
By year 2025, well over half the American workforce will be millennials. These are defined as people born between 1981 and 2000. We’ve seen the first wave of millennials infiltrate our colleges and companies within the past several years, and more are still to come. As the huge generation of baby boomers retires and the equally huge generation of millennials swoops in, culture will clash.
It already has.
Surely you’ve noticed your 60-year-old supervisor has very little in common with the 25-year-old IT guy. In fact, he has some not-very-nice things to say about that IT guy—because he doesn’t understand him. And that 25-year-old IT guy is probably thinking the 60-year-old supervisor has a chip on his shoulder and won’t give him a chance. And he might be right—yet he, too, does not fully understand his supervisor and all the knowledge he has to share.
Maybe you are that supervisor.
Somebody has to bridge the gap. It’s critical. Because over the next 3 to 7 years, your boomers will retire and the workplace will change according to the next generation’s preferences for culture. By sheer force of numbers millennials will have tremendous influence on the way work gets done. You can’t stop it. But you can work together now to make sure the most talented millennials select your company as their employer of choice.
In other words, companies who welcome millennials—attracting, retaining and motivating this younger generation for the good of the entire organization—will be more likely to succeed in the future, when millennials (and their values, their ideas, their skills) comprise the majority of workplace talent.
As an Xer with experience working closely—and amicably—on both sides of my generation, I know how to do that. And it begins with communicating. When you give everyone a voice at the table, you can begin to understand one another. Then respect can take root, despite your differences. And respect makes way for collaboration, loyalty, innovation and so much more.
Sadly, some of you won’t get there. You’re paralyzed, either ignoring the problem or refusing to change. That usually means as an employer you’re expecting your millennials to conform. Or as a millennial you’re resigned to waiting it out and grumbling. So let me ask—how’s that working for you?
The problem exists. But so do the solutions. NeXtGen Advantage can help. For details on consulting services and speaking availability, email chad (at) nextgen-advantage.com or call 920-419-7710. Together we will discover how to work together for the success of everyone involved.