What is a millennial?
Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 — and they are entering the workforce. As people are living longer and working longer, this has led to three or even four different generations represented in the workplace. Each generation grew up in a societal context with its own historical events and technological limitations. Each has its own values and cultural influences.
The three other generational groups include traditionalists (born from 1922 to 1943), baby boomers (1946 to 1964) and Gen Xers (1965 to 1979). This is not to say that everyone fits into a distinct category; there is some crossover. In today’s diverse corporate culture, generational differences together with other factors present various challenges in communication and other areas.
I have made three basic observations regarding what distinguishes the millennial generation.
In terms of communication, much is driven by current technology. Communication is instant, quick, more frequent and short (the closer to 140 characters, the better). With that comes a fair degree of imprecision, including typos and grammar challenges, previously deemed unacceptable. Electronic and social media are the platform. There is even a preference toward digital rather than human interaction using channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Second is appearance: A more casual wardrobe is accepted now.
Finally, millennials tend not to stay in a job as long as was the case for previous cohorts.
Here are seven strategies for non-millennials to better interact at work with millennials:
> Stay relevant: Through your style and professional interests, make sure that you do not become obsolete. This means taking what is meaningful to millennials seriously.
> Stay connected: In many ways, this means staying connected using current technology and understanding a round-the-clock schedule.
> Learn new verbs and other vocabulary: Part of staying relevant is keeping up with jargon. Words such “text,” “friend” and “Google” and “speaking with” are often just metaphors.
> Earn and maintain credibility: Part of the goal of the first three is to gain credibility, showing that you are in the game. Also, realize credibility is not always synonymous with respect, as defined by pre-millennial generations.
> Stay balanced: This is perhaps the trickiest, and it is where leveraging credibility comes in. This will allow you to stick to your core values, workplace professionalism and quality of work while understanding that we live in a constantly changing reality.
> Be specific: In order to get work products to your standards, this might mean spelling things out to millennials (page lengths, margins) that might seem obvious to you.
> Give space but set boundaries: This might seem paradoxical and therefore challenging. A successful workplace relationship between supervisor and employee will allow for initiative and creativity. But at the same time, one needs to maintain the important distinction between roles in time and space.