Millennials in the Workplace: Why Stereotypes Are Holding Us Back
You hear a lot about Millennials in the workplace, how they don’t work very hard but might change the world, how they are technology obsessed but never knew a time without it, how they have different expectations about the workplace—and how this is a problem to be solved. But whenever we talk about any generation, the same thing happens. We have these stereotypes in our heads of the big, so-called problem with each generation. And we want to fix it. We want everyone to fit in the same square peg.
And this has never sat right with us. Because these same stereotypes of generations are the fuel that businesses sometimes use to strike down getting the right internal communications tool or making sound business decisions.
We assume that anyone older than Millennials in the workplace won’t use smartphones for work or to receive company communication. So they shoot down the right tool to reach their workforce when they aren’t in the office or only work out in the field. When in fact, over 80% of people own a smartphone (Marketing Charts). And I don’t know about you, but my grandma’s emoji game is on point—she owns a smartphone and uses it. And, in fact, 8 in 10 digital minutes are spent on mobile devices (Marketing Charts). So, why are we letting stereotypes circumvent data that proves we are more alike than we think?
What’s Holding Us Back?
There’s a great TedTalk about how generational stereotypes are holding us back at work that talks about how generations might be a myth. They might not really exist.
Leah Georges says in her Ted Talk: “If we can agree that these groups even exist, we certainly don’t agree who belongs in them. And they span something like 20 years. So, at whatever point in history, a one-year-old and a 20-year-old are said to share the same value system, to want the same things at work, to have the same stereotypes working for and against them. And in fact, different areas of the world define these generations differently. So we can’t even compare generations across various areas of the world. And these stereotypes about each generation have, in a lot of ways, created this self-fulfilling prophecy, that people begin to act as if they’re part of that generation because we’ve said out loud that generation is real. I’m not so sure that it is.”
So, why are we so worried about millennials in the workplace? About Gen Z? About Baby Boomers? Why do we think that retaining the largest generation in the workforce comes down to beer kegs and ping pong tables? Or, as Leah found at one organization a ball pit in the breakroom.
Meeting Employees Where They Are
When really all generations want many of the same things. They want flexibility, purpose in their work, they want to feel recognized, and they want to be supported and cared about. Millennials in the workplace are no different, and Gen Z won’t be either. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be differences in people of different ages. Sure there will. But those differences are more defined by life circumstances or individual experiences than by the generation you’ve been assigned at birth.
“What if we radically, simply, not easily, meet people where they are? Individualize our approach…but this requires flexibility and curiosity.”Leah Georges
Learn How Communication Can Help You Break Through
At theEMPLOYEEapp, our mission is to enable the effortless flow of meaningful information for organizations with largely frontline workforces. And we work with organizations, many of whom, were so antiquated in their approach that they had no way of reaching all their employees. Even organizations that had older workforces. And there is nothing that makes someone feel more valued and supported by their organization than including them in communication. Than giving them the tools they need to succeed at work and giving them the flexibility they need to access resources wherever they are.