Change / transformation Generations / demographics Leadership

Millennials aren’t the problem. Our definitions are.

Want to see something stunning?

This slide was presented during the 2015 DigitalNow conference in Orlando. The topic is millennials. Drink it in.

millennial disconnect

There’s your generational disconnect in a nutshell.

Before we all run down the “Millennials Are The Problem” rabbit hole, though, let me put forth an alternate point of view.

Millennials aren’t the problem. Neither are we old farts. Generations have always clashed.

The real problem is that we can’t agree on our terms.

Case in point: Millennials say they’re loyal. We say they’re not. Who’s right?

It depends on how you define “loyalty.”

If you were born, say, when your TV had three channels and your phone was wired to the wall, “loyalty” means “time served.” It’s all about longevity. The longer you’ve been with an organization, the more loyal you are to it.

Millennials — many of them, anyway — base their loyalty on values, not time. If they buy into your core values, your social activism, your morals and ethics, they’ll stay with you. If they sense that you are as devoted to them as they are to you, they’ll drop anchor and stick around. But it’s a two-way street. “Do for me and I’ll do for you” — that type of thing.

We can no longer expect that millennials will bend to our wills. Any why? Sheer numbers. Millennials outnumber every other demographic in the workforce today. I hate to break it to you, but the way they work will soon become the way we work. There’s no getting around that.

It’s time to come to grips with the notion that our traditional definitions of business no longer apply — that we’re the ones who have to change, not them.

“Business — the way we lead and manage organizations — is going to take on a radically new look over the next several years,” Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant write in When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.


William D. Sheridan