THE BLOG

Are You Skilled Enough To Manage Millennials?

03/09/2016 03:16 EST | Updated 03/10/2017 05:12 EST
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Man giving lecture to four people in computer room

So, you think you know it all -- a lifetime of experience, rugged individualist, nothing going on that you haven't seen before; no job is too big to handle. Really?

If that sounds like "standard operating procedure" for you, chances are you're a baby boomer stuck in the 20th century -- you don't much understand nor like millennials. Newsflash: you're living in the past with a pretty shaky future in business in in the years you have left.

Take a look at the following points and use them for self-examination--it's a must read, because change is the only constant and you need to change right now!

1. Do you believe "70 is the new 50"? If so, you're fooling yourself. 70 is the same as it always was except now you get a hip replacement and 15 more years to play -- if you're lucky. If you were born in 1946, almost a quarter of your pals are already dead, amazing in itself because life expectancy for that year was about 65! We're not old, just "older". My grandmother was old at 65...stooped, wore dentures, dowdy plain clothes, long white hair rolled into a bun. I'm older than that now. I work out, ride a bike, fly a plane, SCUBA dive, travel, and I enjoy my life. But I'll be 70 in a few years, not 'the new 50'.

2. Is a 35 year-old millennial with an MBA ready for your job? If you haven't lined somebody (or several somebodies) up, your company is at risk. I once had a boss...to look at him, strictly old school. Chauffeur, high-ticket suits, man about town with mandatory retirement at 65 back in 1984. I was millennial age...in my thirties...and he brought me along as his protégé and transferred me to Head Office in Toronto so I could succeed him, which I did a year later. He was 'way before his time but he enjoyed his life, handpicked a successor, and died naturally last year at 95.

3. Is your company giving a good piece of the profits to local, regional, national charities and good causes? If not, millennials will think you're a Neanderthal...because you are. Millennials don't join Kiwanis or Rotary or Lions much anymore. Service, for them, is working at shelters in their towns, serving food, and providing clothes to needier people. They give their time to Habitat for Humanity. They want to work for companies that make financial contributions to those who need help through various groups that dispense it. This has become so commonplace that esteemed institutions like the University of Toronto are now offering diploma courses training working adult students as 'Corporate Responsibility Officers'.

4. If your idea of collegial or collaborative work is putting millennial employees in a room and telling them how things are going to be, check out your income statement and balance sheet; declining numbers for the past five years or so, right? Your fancy smartphone isn't about calling your spouse, Facetiming your grandkids, or swooning over their 'brilliant' posts on Facebook. If it is, throw it away because it's actually a required communications tool to connect you with your entire team 7x24.

5. If your style is Management by Objective or MBWA (management by walking around) you're in a time warp, stuck in the 20th century and the prize is that you get to leave your kids only memories. Now, companies are truly collaborative and unprejudiced as to age, gender, orientation, race, color, and even body art. It's how Gen Y wants things to be.

6. If you and your managers aren't providing and receiving one-to-one coaching and assessment regularly, you are just not 'getting it' and your company has a limited lifespan. Oh, don't even think about enforcing 9-to-5 hours or any of the old regime rules. And don't attempt to limit use of social media versus adapting to it yourself because, if you don't, you're not a Neanderthal...you're whatever came before that.

This review means to inspire you. Decide whether you even need to be visible, much less active, in your workplace. The generations have passed the torch and we are transforming. Work styles are radically different and new...change as always, only faster.

It's a collaborative world where people never separate work and play. If someone has an idea at 11pm, it may work at 11am, but the group is probably ready to discuss it when it happens. If your generation didn't care to work collegially, you're from "then", but the world is "now".

Baby boomers have always believed they'd dominate and many expected to live forever! Time is the leveler; the oldest boomers are now turning 70 with the youngest 54.

In 2015, the work force had more millennials than boomers for the first time and in 2016, the general population of millennials became larger than the boomer cohort.

Don't believe me? Look at your country's politics: who is changing things? Hint: not the boomers. In October, 68% of eligible voters cast ballots...the highest in 22 years - or a generation! That was millennial power at work and it said "we're tired of old ways and tired of being social underperformers". They elected someone (Justin Trudeau) who was more like them. In workplaces, we see company day-care and widely flexible work hours. There are free cafeterias and workout rooms. And there are experiential team-building outings that go as far as group trips to foreign countries. I remember being avant-garde to my employees when I installed showers for those who biked or ran to work...and that was 15 years ago!

When our parents didn't like our new ideas, we implemented them anyway. Now, the next group is stepping up and taking its turn. Enjoy your life. Trust the young people. They really do "get it".