One of the topics I often discuss with my colleagues, mentors and the individuals that I coach is the role that younger people are taking in the workplace. Some of the folks I talk with have very strong opinions about these younger cohorts, especially Millennials. I don’t want to get into labelling certain groups of people (although I kind of already have), but despite opinions, the younger generations are entering the workplace, or will be very soon. The challenge for today’s leaders is to determine how we can motivate and lead the younger people coming along as well as how we can grow them into high quality leaders of tomorrow. In order to do that it’s helpful to understand the background and mindset of our younger team members.
A few weeks ago Beloit College released their “Mindset List” for their incoming class of 2018. Beloit has been putting out the Mindset List every year since 1998 to help their faculty and staff understand the “cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities.” (McBride & Nief, 2014) While this list is mostly just entertaining and doesn’t have a lot of direct bearing on how we lead our teams today, in several years these students will be entering our workforce and we will need to be able to lead them effectively and develop them professionally once they arrive.
A few items I found interesting on this year’s list:
- The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.
- There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.
- “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.
From the list for the class of 2015 (just about to graduate and enter the workforce)
- The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
- As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
- Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
- More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
- They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
- They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
And from the list for the class of 2010 (those who have been in the workforce a few years and are just starting to take leadership roles)
- They are wireless, yet always connected.
- Text messaging is their email.
- They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
- They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
So what does this mean for us as the leaders of these individuals? Primarily it means that the ways that we have developed organizational culture, adapted to new technology, and offered rewards and incentives may need to be re-evaluated. Collaboration in the future will definitely mean more than meetings in conference rooms and offsite retreats.
This doesn’t mean we have to accommodate every request that our younger team members make, but it might help balance their requests with other requirements if we can see the perspective that they’re coming from. As always, at some point the mission has to come first, but there may be ways to get the mission done better, smarter or faster by considering the “younger” perspective.
Also, a piece of advice for the younger folks coming along (just in case you thought you were off the hook). Understanding and communication are a two-way street and it is just as important to be a good follower as a good leader. Take some time to understand where your colleagues who have been around a bit longer are coming from. Unfortunately, Beloit didn’t start the Mindset list until 1998 so you might have to do some research to find out what makes us tick. I promise it will be worth the effort!
Discussion topics: What tensions exist between different age groups on your team? What perspectives have you gained from another age group that greatly assisted you in getting your mission accomplished?
McBride, T., & Nief, R. (2014). The Mindset List. Retrieved from Beloit College: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/
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