When Millennials Take Over
It seems the millennials is the generation everyone is talking about.
And everyone is trying to understand them. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015 millennials will overtake boomers as the largest living generation.
But who is this millennial generation? Three words that can describe this generation: confident, connected, and open-minded. The millennial generation consists of those born between 1980 and 1997. This generation continues to grow as young immigrants enlarge their ranks.
Millennials are more diverse — ethnically and racially — than older adults. They are on track to become the most educated American generation. Politically they tend to think of themselves as independent. They are less religious. They are less likely to get married. And they are not likely to have served in the military.
The recession has badly set back their entry into careers and starter jobs. They are saddled with student loan debt unlike other generations. They are putting off big purchases such as cars and houses yet they are more positive than their elders about their own financial futures.
Millennials are coming of age and moving into leadership roles along with genX as boomers retire. The old ways of organizational structure of hierarchy and silos does not work with this generation. Millennials have grown up in very open, collaborative environments where the team approach is ingrained into them from an early age. They are digital natives and use technology to communicate and network effortlessly. They are used to having access to information. They have no issues with change. If something isn’t working then they move on quickly. The traits of the millennial generation are often at odds with the traditional management structure. A culture shock takes place in the workplace.
How can businesses adapt to this generation, which is very different from previous ones?
In the new book, When Millennials Take Over, authors Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant tackle this new reality for organizations. Combine the decline of modern management, the social media shift of power toward individuals, and the ascent of the millennial generation into leadership roles, organizations of all shapes and sizes are facing a future that they are ill-equipped to handle.
As a result of this perfect storm of trends, Notter and Grant found through their research that many organizations are struggling to stay relevant to customers, capitalize on opportunities in the marketplace, and attract top talent. Successful companies regardless of size and industry, on the other hand, are shifting to embrace this new reality.
There are four key capacities, according to Grant, that will drive the future of business: digital, clear, fluid and fast.
Grant says the future isn’t about the millennial generation taking over, but about how all of the generations can learn and work together. The future will involve embracing the strengths of the millennials in using technology to relevantly use their network and connect with other types of people.
She shares three suggestions that organizations can use:
■ Sharing information internally with staff, allowing them to see both big and small pictures.
■ Giving more voice to those on the front lines, allowing them the opportunity to share directly what is happening instead of having the manager report up.
■ Creating an environment where experimentation is OK and removing the fear of failure.
By developing those key capacities as an organization, a community-based culture is created where there is a strong sense of ownership and trust develops allowing organizations the ability to address the quickly changing marketplace.

Using a Star Wars analogy, Notter says, “For every Luke (millennial), they need an Obi (boomer) and a Han Solo (genX). We need to work together.”
Success depends on every generation to work together adapting and building each other’s strengths.

This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, February 22, 2015 and nationally distributed  to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency.

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