A slice Of The Millennial Pie – A Recipe For Success

Ed Moss change expert and dare we say a self confessed millennial, shared his perspectives at our recent annual coaching conference on how organisations can position themselves to get the most from the millennial generation, which by 2020 will form almost 50% of the workforce.

In this candid reflection piece, having listened to feedback from delegates and lessons from other expert speakers, Ed gives us more food for thought and emphasises the need to believe that all generations have something to bring to the table, so managing inclusivity is key.

“In December I ran a workshop at the WME coaching conference on having a ‘slice of the millennial pie,’ with the intention of helping delegates to understand this age group’s context of what they have grown up through in the UK. As the millennial workforce generation are arriving in their mid-twenties to late thirties, they have had radically different experiences of the world; growing up in a unique time in history – simultaneously, in the wake and midst of cultural, social, political and technological change; they have a different view on how things should be done. As they enter leadership and management roles, they either expect things to be different or go and do their own thing. So I posed the question: What needs to be in place to attract and retain talent from this broad generation for a thriving organisation in these interesting economic times?

“The workshop received really mixed feedback, which is always the kind of response I find most interesting as it clearly hits a nerve; with many finding it helpful and others seemed frustrated or disagreed with the perspective I shared. My response to this was to get super curious, because you know you are doing something right when you get a mixed response.

“In the session, we looked a little on how to manage ‘millennials in the workplace. One delegate pointed out during the Q&A session that many of the behaviours and tools I described were just “good leadership” and relevant to everyone not just millennial’s – which I would agree with. Perhaps the question should actually be ‘How can managing millennials better, make the workplace better for everyone?’

“For the first time in history, we will have 5 generations working alongside each other. This presents a challenge for leaders which is not isolated to handling millennials, but rather how to manage the contextual backgrounds of people who are entering the workplace for the first time and who were not born when we remember watching 9/11 happen; alongside those who were born in the wake of the second world war and rationing in the UK. The solution, in my opinion, comes from inclusion. At the conference Linbert Spencer, Director at the Centre for Inclusive Leadership talked about the performance formula (Skills + knowledge + judgement) x attitude (to power of treatment) = performance & profit; with treatment being made up of Belief + Culture.

“Firstly, as leaders, we could start by asking ourselves how would our workplace look different if we lived the belief that everyone from all the generations has something to bring to the table? Linbert encouraged us all to look for the ‘scaffolding that is no longer needed’. A tough but often sighted example to play with might be your annual leave policy – what would happen if we trusted people to just take the amount of leave they needed to succeed? (this kind of flexibility shows up highly when millennials are looking for jobs). Well, this probably would require a change in culture. A culture where communication is clear and kind, where people can make mistakes and are then accountable to their colleagues to learn from that and change rather than being punished. A nice strict inflexible policy where you apply for your ‘entitlement’ is easy to manage on a computer system but misses out the key point that some people may need or value more time off than others to be successful, and avoids having to have difficult conversations about performance. A culture where this is possible not only benefits individuals but the team as a whole through better communication and clearer expectations.

“The belief that everyone from all the generations has something to bring to the table transcends contextual experience through generation, but also by gender, sexuality, physical and mental health and well being as well as ethnicity. For millennials, things that stand out are rigid and impersonal policies and fairness – seeing only policies that seek to remove discrimination or prevent harm, is not typically good enough for this group. So you also need to ask yourself about the gender pay gap in your organisation, what signs you have on your toilet doors and the obvious visual diversity candidates can see as they walk through your offices to their interview – as when attracting talent from 50% of the available workforce, you simply cannot afford to give people the impression you are only prepared to tackle discrimination… if it’s not inclusive they won’t stick.”