Monday, July 26, 2010

Leading Millennials: Inspire & Be Inspired (Part I)

This post started as a response to Travis Robertson's blog post The Millennial Revolution: An Experiment. What evolved lies below. Please continue the discussion here or on Travis' blog.

I find myself in an interesting position with a unique opportunity as both a manager and a "millennial," working from the "inside" to help my organization both recruit, train, develop, inspire, and retain the X,Y, Zs. I have been blessed to work primarily with two companies that may be a bit more forward thinking when it comes to this relationship due to their corporate cultures, but still have opportunities none-the-less. Both Starbucks and "a technology company" are known for their leadership, training & development, innovation, customer service, products, etc. as well as their culture-oriented environments. And both attract an onslaught of "millennials," as customers and employees alike.

Over the course of the last 6 years I have had the privilege of welcoming many college age workers into the workforce, as both of these companies provide incredible work opportunities for college students. In fact, that is how I found myself slinging lattes for 5 years (my first job out of undergrad). There were multiple times I fought the urge to leave for a "better opportunity," and those were pivotal times for my own growth and development, and also allowed me to better connect with and understand the challenges of my staff. It also provided deeply personal anecdotes about my struggles that I share in daily interactions with my team.

Since I am "one of them" I have embraced my role as an agent helping shape a portion of the newly rising workforce, and have worked hard to understand the needs and contributions of both sides (the company, and the individual). This discussion, in my opinion, hinges on fostering honest conversations between both sides, recognizing the needs of both equally, and working together to grow profits, encourage passions, and impact the global community.

First, let's begin with the socio-economic culture shifts that have happened since the generation of baby-boomers. With parents mired from the want of the Great Depression, many of our parents were reared with the expectation that a good job with a pension was the stability and "success" that was desired. That payed off delightfully for corporations (mostly), and allowed us to be raised without a need to save aluminum foil and Ziploc® bags. The expectation of higher education (and funds to attend) became more and more prevalent. Thus the generation of degree holding millennials has emerged more educated and anxious to save the world than ever (or so it feels). And without a fear of want.

Add to this, that pensions are fading faster than a black shirt without Cheer ColorGuard, the ubiquity of an information/communication revolution called the internet, and a slew of "world problems." The idea of walking lock-step with a single company for a decade is seemingly unpragmatic. It seems limiting.

There is no longer a cultural need to hunker down, get safe, and grind out 30 years with one organization to protect against depression-era fears. The greater fears now are the perils facing our world; AIDS, poverty, environmental preservation, clean water, curing diseases, etc. Coupled with the ease of promoting causes and rallying support, it is now not unfathomable to think that the idea of one person funded with only a few dollars and an incredible amount of passion and devotion can have an impact on a grand scale ( InvisibleChildren, Kito International, Charity Water, the list goes on). The perceived "need" to be a company man is fading. The millenials may be on to something...

[continued...Part II]

How does the millennial generation fit into the workplace? How do we engage them in the important work of serving our customers?
Additional Resources:
The M-factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace

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