Last week I had the chance to watch Simon Sinek's video on 'Millennials in The Workplace.' I liked what he says simply because it is exactly what I've been saying since 1996; if you wish to understand the next generation, you have to start with HOW they were raised.
I discovered FOUR major influences that caused Millennials and even Generation X to act the way they do...if you can answer WHY, then all the data on Millennials begins to make sense.
So naturally, I reposted Simon's interview on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. It took all of two days before people started going "hey Brad, did you see this?" linking of course to Simon's most excellent interview in Australia on the television show Inside Quest with Tom Bilyeu.
The following also crossed my desk...from professional colleague and fan of my work Vinnie DiSalvo. The original post is on LinkedIn.
"A lot has been written over the last several years on generations in the workplace. The last 24 months has led American businesses to see something that has never witnessed: up to five generations working together at the same time.
From HBR’s article: (Click Here to View)
- Traditionalists, born prior to 1946
- Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
- Gen X, born between 1965 and 1976
- Millennials, born between 1977 and 1997
- Gen 2020, born after 1997
Faced with this unprecedented occurrence, organizations have been scrambling to get their arms around how to better understand the needs and goals of those different generations. There is another great article from HBR.org with some insights into some principles to remember. (Click Here to View)
For those curious, I’m a student of Brad Szollose, and have adopted several his ideas in my own work on understanding the “21st Century Workforce Culture and Customer.”
In this article, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on a video making it’s rounds on social media. “Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace”
In the interest of full disclosure, two quick points: 1) I am a huge Simon Sinek fan and have been since his 2010 TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. 2) I’m going to be “painting” with a very broad brush with my comments and while it should be understood, I will say, there are certainly people and situations where my thoughts might not apply.
Onto Millennials – shocker, I couldn’t agree more with some of the thoughts expressed by Simon in his “millennial” video. The one caveat I would insert is that much of what he discussed can also be applied to multiple generations.
In this video, Simon constructs his lesson around 4 main pieces that he describes as key to understanding the disconnect between business and millennials. (Those born 1984 and after, according to the video.)
Those four are:
As I mentioned above, while characteristics can be imposed on broader groups, we can most certainly find outliers within each generational group that these lessons can be applied.
For example – Technology – While Millennials are said to be the first truly “Digital Native” generation, the impact that technology has played on all the generations, more specifically Baby Boomers and Gen X, is far reaching.
Simon goes on to draw the parallel between the dopamine induced high an addict experiences when they get their “fix”, to the experience we all feel when we get a “text”, a “snap” or a “like” on social media. Here is where I think the overlap is in our generations, or really anyone who is “addicted” to technology. Whether you’re a digital native or not, you can easily become addicted. I know plenty of senior leaders who fall strongly in the Baby Boomer or Gen X range that can’t or won’t stop staring at their devices.
(and make no mistake about it, we are all in sales, and everyone is our customer, no matter what we do for a living - See Dan Pink’s work in his book “To Sell Is Human”) I’m a big proponent of the idea that we need to go where the customer/audience is or where they are going to be, but certainly not where they were 10-15 years ago. While these social skills may be lacking and I do agree that we should do our part as organizations to help develop those skills, I think we also need to learn to engage people where they are, and within their comfort zones.
Engaging people in the spaces where they are comfortable is the first step in making this transition. Does it “really” make sense to force someone who is use to, and comfortable with, texting to stop and engage face-to-face. Certainly not, I think. However if you can utilize that modality to begin the engagement process, it can be a jumping off point for deeper more long term connection.
The third area that Simon discusses is impatience. Sure, there are millennials that are riddled with this scourge of a trait. But I ask you, who among us wasn’t when they were in their early 20’s, filled with optimism and vigor. I think it may be exacerbated by many of the factors that Simon mentions, but I’m going to chalk a big portion of this up to immaturity on a business level or lack of business experience. As a whole however, I do think that impatience is a real problem in today’s organizations and I’ll try here to connect the concepts of impatience and environment from Simon’s talk.
Since the recession of 2008-09, many organizations bowed to their lesser instincts (fight or flight) and have become more reactive than proactive in nature (pardon my anthropomorphizing of companies).
Monetary constraints along with a deeply lowered tolerance for risk has created an environment that is represented by cultures of “CYA”, find cost cutting at any expense, if you act it should have a profound, deep, and immediate impact. Now, while in the thick of it almost 9 years ago, this mindset was needed if you were going to come out intact on the other side of the recession. But something was lost in the intervening years. The idea that a project, initiative or employee might require investment, development, tolerance and most of all time to produce a tangible ROI, has almost vanished. Today’s leaders want results at all costs and they want them now. However what most don’t see is how at odds these two stories are with each other. On one hand, they want what they want and now, but in the same breath say that Millennials are unrealistic and want too much too quick. The hypocritical nature of the two is lost on them.
I believe, similar to what we’ve seen in politics, a race to the extremes has occurred in business since 2008. And what any good political scientist will tell you is that very little progress is made at the extremes. If we want five generations in the workforce to work together, we have to stop focusing on the little that divides us and learn to build on the vast majority of things that unites us. Companies with good leadership that have the tolerance for long term planning and execution can easily win the war for top talent. Establishing a clear vision, purpose and values and taking the longer term approach to executing on these will propel an organization deeper into the 21st Century. Those that simply react in the marketplace and look for short term gains will lose talent at a furious pace and will ultimately languish and die with their purse strings clutched tightly in their hands. "
Mr. DiSalvo has 15+ years in the Organizational Development space; managing, design and implementation of workplace solutions for companies with over $2.5 billion in yearly revenue.
Vinnie has a track record of achieving substantial increases in operational efficiency, generating a 300% increase in retention of high performing staff and an annual revenue increase of nearly 75% during his tenure.
He also has a career history of developing key systems and processes which impacted over 3,500 employees nationwide, consistently working to ensure the highest caliber of operational systems and training offerings.
Vinnie, I cannot thank you enough for your interest in my work, and I LOVE the way this article ends. The last paragraph sums it all up nicely.
Thank you. See you next week my friends...