Working with Millennials – a challenge and a great opportunity

According to Wikipedia, Millennials, also known as Generation Y or the Net Generation, are the demographic cohort that directly follows Generation X. The term Millennials is usually considered to apply to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. They can also be named Generation G for Google or Gamification as they have been using games and google for all their activity.

The title of this post could have also been “working with innovation” as this new generation of people represent innovation, disruption and changes in everyday life and work.

After the second world war, people enjoyed what is called the golden years (les 30 glorieuses in French). Europe needed to be rebuilt, there was full employment and you had a job for life. People were part of the baby boomers.Then Generation X came. Demographers and researchers typically use birth years ranging from the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s. 

The 1973 oil crisis began in October when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo. The initial nations targeted were CanadaJapan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States with the embargo also later extended to PortugalRhodesia and South Africa. By the end of the embargo in March 1974,the price of oil had risen from US$3 per barrel to nearly $12 globally; US prices were significantly higher. The embargo caused an oil crisis, or “shock”, with many short- and long-term effects on global politics and the global economy. It was later called the “first oil shock”, followed by the 1979 oil crisis, termed the “second oil shock.”

With these 2 crisis and the world economy in shambles, generation X found themselves entering the workplace with little or no hope to find a job. The balance had changed from full employment to very high unemployment. When you found a job, you had to work hard with little money to keep it. 

Then came the Millenials. That generation saw their parents work hard and often being fired without consideration by large corporations that also were trying to survive and were firing to keep some sort of a margin. As they witnessed such hard time, they came to the work space, not too long ago with the idea that work/life balance was important and that their quality of life was their priority and not loyalty to one company.

Generation X found themselves in a position to manage Millenials or to work with or for Millenials. The two cohorts have very different experiences and very different vision for their lives. Even though, Generation X has been credited with entrepreneurial tendencies (obviously for the 30 years prior to them, there was no need to be entrepreneurs), the Millenials are the champions of innovation and entrepreneurship. As loyalty to a company is not their priority, what motivates them is innovation and new ways to keep them happy in their job for the time they will dedicate. This is why today very innovative companies such as the GAFA offer, dry cleaning services, 3 meals a day and nice environment (Google has climbing walls in their lobbies). With technology improving, Millenials see less and less the need to travel for work (video conferences and collaborative tools do the job). 

You understand with such differences between the two cultures (it is almost as if you were talking about different cultures from different countries), it is very difficult to have the two communicate. Both need to adjust and understand each other. The main key point is the fact that today in a lot countries we are back to full employment hence giving Millenials the hand over Generation X which is almost retired. So Generation X finds themselves again making all the effort to please Millenials, use their innovative minds and optimize their productivity.

I have written a lot about cross cultural management, I have also courses about cross generation management. If this interests you, get in touch and we can discuss.