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Understanding Millennials – 6 Essential Tips for Babyboomers & Gen X’ers

I recently visited a digital studio.

This particular studio hires online learning gurus. They translate traditional learning material into accessible e-material for business and academia.

Every employee is a millennial. Unashamedly so.

Millennials, for those who don’t know, are those born after 1994. In our South African context they’re also termed ‘born frees’.

They usually answer advertised job positions that use the phrases: “quirky” and “newly graduated”.

The digital studio I visited openly acknowledge the “entitled” reputation of their generation.

To that they add their ability to harness the “collaborative, culturally competent, entrepreneurial, confident and results-oriented” qualities they believe they bring to the workforce.

I visited to see whether the strategically positioned pool table, bean bags and pinball machine really did make it a unique place to work.

As a ‘Generation X’er Millennials intrigue me

Perhaps because I am tied to the diametrically opposing values of loyalty and hard work, but particularly because I am envious of their demands to accelerate up the career ladder.

And specifically of their desire for balance and meaning, both inside and outside of work.

The following 6 tips about how to behave when around Millennials should be useful for Baby Boomers, particularly, who notoriously bump heads with the energy and divergent opinions of Millennials:

  • Be curious. Find out what is important to Millennials and what gets them excited.
  • Be interested in their tech; let them teach us how to navigate virtual tools and build a Twitter following.
  • Demonstrate that ‘real time’ relationships are still important, and how to do relationships without the aid of a device.
  • Acknowledge them; recognise their successes.
  • Add a little comfort to their environment to build job satisfaction. A beanbag and a free latte may more than reap the returns in productivity.
  • Mentor or sponsor a millennial, not because you know more, but because they need help navigating their careers. They may look cocky and self-assured, but research suggests their self-confidence is at an all-time low.

Many workplaces are grappling with integrating ‘born frees’ and those generations who have gone before.

I suspect it’s as simple as connecting with the person in front of you, and demonstrating a willingness to build a relationship; an art that is very much the domain of the generations that have gone before them


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