Written by: Marilyn Weiss, Founding Partner
As seen through the lens of older generations, millennials get blamed for a lot. Who ruined the taxi industry? Millennials. What ever happened to bar soap? Millennials. Brunch, vacation, cereal…millennials are killing it all. But I’m finding this judgment is misplaced. If we employ true empathy to see millennials through their eyes, we get a much fuller picture of their struggles, strengths and potential.
At SIVO, we regularly hold roundtable discussions to learn from and build empathy for groups who are different from us. We’ve hosted several sessions like this with millennials, and the conversations were enlightening. Our intent was to rise above the generational stereotypes and get to a deeper understanding of this group that is often maligned.
I realized the beauty of this group is they are reinventing life to fit their needs—and changing products and business models for everyone else in the process.
As I heard the stories from these young people, I found that the stereotypes surrounding them seem to be more myth than reality:
Myth: Millennials are lazy.
Reality: They are hard-working people who are doing their best. Many have college degrees, but they also have crushing student debt, so they work where and when they can and not always in their chosen field. They want more flexibility and time to travel, so they are redefining what work looks like. It’s not laziness – it’s being creative to invent the work/life balance they seek. So, working with millennials could be easier with an understanding of their underlying reasons for seeking flexibility.
Myth: Millennials are ruining industries.
Reality: They are questioning the status quo (Why does everyone need to drive their own car? Why do you need a diamond to get engaged?), and then finding better ways to do things – like ride sharing, meal kits, and flexible work schedules. I think we should harness the questioning and creative nature of millennials to reinvent processes and products that are overdue for a refresh.
Myth: Millennials aren’t loyal.
Reality: They are loyal to their craft, but not necessarily to one company or one industry. They are willing to work hard when it matters, but they are not willing to simply be a cog in a wheel. It’s more important than ever to better understand their motivations. That way, companies and millennials can work in a mutually collaborative environment.
Myth: Millennials can be difficult to work with.
Reality: They really do like collaboration, just as much as any other cohort. They want to be treated with respect. They like to feel fulfilled and valued. They prefer to skip all those meetings and use effective technology instead. They are aching to be heard, trusted and taught instead of being given tasks and orders. Their eagerness for bigger responsibilities is refreshing. We should give them the chance to shine.
Myth: Millennials think they know everything.
Reality: Well, they do know tons about technology—but they also crave mentorship and collaboration. This group is often given a lot of responsibility early in their work lives because they frequently have the digital intelligence that their older colleagues may lack. Yet, despite their digital savvy, they still need and want the social and emotional guidance that comes from years of working experience.
Recognizing what makes millennials tick is important for our business at SIVO in a few ways. We help guide our clients who crave more understanding around this group when targeting services and products to them. We also get asked by companies to help them understand their multi-generational workforce through an employee insight lens.
I personally appreciate their growing list of contributions. After all, isn’t liquid soap more convenient than bar soap? And do we always need to rent a car when we are out of town for a quick meeting, when a Lyft is so much easier? These are positive changes and innovations, new business models, products and ways of shopping – all thanks to millennials.
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Marilyn is a passionate, dynamic researcher with over 20 years of experience. Her approachable manner inspires people to invite her into the most personal aspects of their life. Marilyn has never met a stranger. Her previous life as a pediatric ICU nurse is a testament to her bravery, ability to remain calm under pressure and her undeniably huge heart.