First, let’s be clear: generational gaps in the workplace is NOT a new obstacle. I distinctly remember going through diversity training and as a Generation X-er. They taught all about my Baby Boomer counterparts that paved the way in the workplace before me. I learned about how they think and what’s important to them. Also, I learned that although they look and act differently from me, they value many of the same things I do. I remember thinking how beneficial that training was. Over the years I found ways to connect to my co-workers (older and eventually younger generations alike). I also learned to rely on their differing perspectives and wisdom to guide my path.
Are millennials the problem in your workplace?
So it’s a little crazy to see all of this new talk about Millennials. Including how employers need to be prepared for this new generation of workers that are about to take over the marketplace. To dive into this new trend seems like we’ve forgotten that this hurdle has always been in the workplace.
I see this as comparable to a fashion trend. No joke, this literally happened to me this morning. My teenage daughter and I walked out of our rooms and met in the hallway wearing the same cutoff shorts. Well, they were a little different in characteristic. I bought mine at an old vintage jean shop in high school. They sold used Levis that became so full of holes that I eventually cut them into shorts. She bought hers brand new from the mall. They were perfectly cut off and sewn at the bottom as not to unravel too much. But let’s face it. Cutoff jean shorts are the same today as they were 20 years ago, and even 20 years before that! Remember, mine actually originated from a used “vintage” store, so they were already 20 years old.
But you get the point. This is exactly what we are doing with this new Millennial craze. We are experiencing the same generational differences we’ve always faced in the workplace. But this time we have identified the characteristics of the new generation and call it a new trend. We have always had young kids in their first jobs working side by side with older adults that may have been in the workforce for 20 or 30 years. So why this hot new craze? Why are employers so quick to blame the negative shift in their workers’ habits on the new generation? I believe that employers are taking the easy way out and pointing the finger. Instead, they should step up and take responsibility for the culture they set in their workplace.
I want to make it clear that I believe it is indeed very important to study the distinct values and characteristics of each generation. Including millennials! So that we can better learn how to serve them as well as maximize their potential. Generational diversity is just one of the many hindrances we face in the workplace. It can deter us from being successful in the long run. We must find ways to combat difficulties such as these and adapt our companies to meet technological, personal and professional needs in order to stay competitive and survive. However, integration of generational diversity in the workplace is simply not a new concept and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Here’s what we’ve already learned and know from experience: we benefit from one another’s differences. We are better when we find common ground and work together to leverage each other’s strengths to achieve a mutual goal. In researching this very topical millennial subject, I discovered that each generation is actually much more alike than different. We also have the same values and career goals. So I ask you, are millennials really the problem in your workforce? Or have you failed to create a culture that addresses the needs that your employees value?
It is much more beneficial for employers to focus more on pouring their resources into initiatives that engage ALL of their employees as opposed to creating strategies only targeting millennials. Here are some questions you may ask yourself to see if you need to stop taking the easy way out and blaming others and start taking responsibility:
- Do you have a low employee turnover rate?
- Are your employees successfully integrating with one another to form cohesive working relationships?
- Do you have a clear vision that unifies your employees to follow and get behind?
- Have you defined a career path for your employees to grow into and realize their full potential in?
- Is the workplace culture one that is enjoyable to be in and employees feel valued?
If you have answered “No” to any one of these questions, you must be proactive in implementing strategies to change your answers to “Yes.” You may not be blaming all of your problems on others, but you certainly must address these obstacles before you begin losing the employees you already have. You may also miss out on top talent in the workplace.
When you are able to answer “Yes” to all of these questions, you will not only meet the needs of the newer generation but to all generations of employees alike.