You've heard of millennials right? Those weird looking new people that are starting to enter our organizations? Countless articles have already been written about them but the tone seems to be one of "freaking out." Millennials are being painted as these type of far-off aliens who are going to be inhabiting our world and changing everything. So, let me assure you that there is no need to panic. Yes, it's true, millennials will be the majority of the workforce in the next few years and yes, this does mean introducing new attitudes and ways of working and thinking about work. But there are three reasons why you shouldn't freak out about millennials in the workplace.
Millennials are one of several trends impacting the future of work
There are several trends which are impacting the future of work and millennials entering the workforce are certainly one of those trends. However, we still need to pay attention to the other things which are happening in the world of work as well. Things like globalization, new technologies, and new behaviors which are dramatically shaping how work will get done. I'm not saying millennials aren't an important factor here, they are, but at the same time they aren't the only piece of the puzzle. Instead of focusing on and isolating the millennial factor we need to look at it in the context of the other shifts which are taking place in the world of work. If millennials are the only thing you're concerned with then you have much bigger problems to worry about.
It's not the first time "different" people have worked together
Any time you bring together groups of people you will have different values, ideas, preferences, and ways of working; that's just what it means to be human and work for an organization. The picture being painted today is that since we have five generations working together that it's time to panic. The values, ideas, ways of working and thinking about work which are being discussed aren't that new, it's just that there's more people thinking in new and progressive ways. If you removed all millennials from your organization I can guarantee that there will still be plenty of employees who prefer flexible work, coaching and mentoring, more rapid response and feedback, and those who care about their community and corporate sustainability efforts.
The shift is gradual
As of now, millennials are not the majority of the workforce but they will be in the next six years. It's not as though one day we will wake up and there will be millennials running around our organizations like gremlins. Most people are well aware that this shift is happening and in fact many organizations are already preparing for it and trying to figure out what they need to do adapt. However, for some reason there has been this assumption that the future employee implies millennial, but that's not true. The future employee is anyone who with new attitudes about work, new ways of thinking about working, and new ways of working. This person can be 18 or 68.
Millennials are acting as powerful catalyst because of the amount of them that are entering the workforce, but the new values, attitudes, and ways of working are already inside your organization and growing.
I talk about these these in more detail in the video below but the point is there's no sense freaking out, take a deep breath, everything will be fine. Make sure to subscribe to the Youtube channel for more videos on the future of work.
Jacob is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Social and Collaborative Tools (McGraw Hill).