Time and again I keep seeing an increasing amount of articles about Millennials/Gen-Y and how we are all so different to the generations above us. Some have been positive but a large number have been quite disparaging, but probably the most famous (and balanced) article around this subject is the TIME cover story of the MEMEME generation, with the comment, “They are narcissistic, overconfident, entitled and lazy, but they just might be new Greatest Generation.”
However, despite all this talk about Millennials, I have long struggled with the idea that the year we were born determines our behaviour, as it is far too simplistic. This behaviour of putting people into a ‘box’ and giving them a label is something I have seen first hand in my role as a marketer when targeting customer groups based on their age and postcode, but it is also prevalent socially too. For example, we all love to take the latest Buzzfeed/Cosmo/Men’s Health surveys to see what type of person we are and compare ourselves with others. The problem with all of these groupings is that whilst they are interesting, they are largely so general they do not really mean anything and alienate the many at the expense of defining a few. As such, explaining the behaviour of young employees being a direct result of them being Millennials is no more scientific than using someone’s star sign to define their character e.g. “They are a Taurus, so no wonder they are stubborn!” Despite these generalisations, the use of groupings can be useful providing that we use them to identify individuals based on their behaviour and not based on fixed data points such as age, as your behaviour can change irrespective of your age bracket.
To give you an example, over the past 18 months I have had the privilege of working with two of my colleagues, Scott and Aly, who would both be classified as Generation X, with there being a 10 year age gap between me and Scott and another 10 years between Scott and Aly (I won’t give their actual ages as that isn’t fair!). By current definitions I am a Millennial and my two colleagues are generation X and as such we should have VERY different approaches to working. However, we do not have an office and all work from home or on client sites, we communicate via telephone or video conferencing, operate flexible working practices in terms of not having a definitive 9-5 schedule, give regular, honest feedback rather than storing it up for annual reviews, constantly innovate and fail fast, have a flat structure, and ensure our business values are lived every day and do not lie dormant in a brand document on our hard drive.
Sure there are some differences in how we work, just like there are differences between any group of individuals, but my colleagues very much have a Millennial Mindset and are a great example of modern employees, irrespective of their age. They have embraced the new ways of working brought about by technology and used it to their benefit. But my colleagues are not the only ones. Some of my key clients and business leaders I have met are also great examples of modern employees adopting a Millennial Mindset, confirming that you do not have to be a Millennial to have a Millennial Mindset.
The sooner businesses wake up to this and realise that a change in business behaviours is not just a generational thing but a wider behaviour change amongst employees as a whole, the sooner they can start coming up with meaningful solutions to change their corporate culture to ensure they remain relevant.