The oldest members of the millennial generation are now in their 30s, so it’s not uncommon to find millennial leaders in the workplace. There are plenty of stereotypes about millennials at work, but are these stereotypes true? And if they are true, are they positive or a negative when it comes to leading a team?
Multigenerational teams with millennial leaders can benefit from sharing their learnings from past experiences, insights into new technologies, different perspectives on work-life balance and much more. By breaking down some of the strongest aspects of millennials’ workplace preferences and behaviors, we can see how millennials can successfully lead co-workers of any generation.
1. Millennial leaders are technology-driven
Millennials are seen as the generation that is glued to their phones, and the statistics back this up. More than 41 percent prefer to communicate through electronic channels than face to face. This can be an issue with baby boomers in the workplace, whose focus has traditionally been on face-to-face meetings and discussions. However, it’s important to remember that this generation saw workplace communication go from fax machines and dial-up internet connection to smartphones and video calls.
For millennial leaders to work effectively with their older colleagues, they cannot fall prey to the stereotype that baby boomers do not know how technology works.
Many workers who lack technical skills want to learn, and being on a team with a millennial is the perfect way to do so. For instance, a Pew Research Center report states that “the Internet of Things will not be alien to them [baby boomers].” They have seen a great deal of change in their workplace technology already, and millennial leaders must be open to helping older workers build their skill sets, rather than letting those stereotypes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2. Flexibility is important to millennial leaders
Seventy-five percent of millennials believe that they will have two to five employers in their lifetime. Employer loyalty has a different meaning for the millennial generation than it does for their older teammates. This makes millennials flexible and open to change, especially when it comes to work-life balance and the possibility of taking time off.
Instead of being seen as a clash of interests, this quest for work-life balance should be seen as an advantage for teams with millennial leaders.
Many modern companies display their flexible working environments enthusiastically, but it is difficult to do so if older generations in the company don’t take them up on the offering. Millennials who lead the charge to enter into flexible working arrangements can help boost a workplace’s flexible working practices and attract more people who are interested in such arrangements.
3. Millennial leaders value non-hierarchical approaches
Millennials value flat team structures, finding more job satisfaction with a more democratic, non-hierarchical approach to decision-making in the workplace. Their Gen X and Boomer coworkers, on the other hand, are accustomed to the traditional top-down corporate structure. These two values might seem at odds, but if millennial leaders have senior backing behind them, they can adapt their team structure accordingly.
A goal-oriented structure allows for both systems, flat and hierarchical, to work together. Millennial leaders can also use this as an opportunity to introduce their older colleagues to a workplace structure that is becoming more and more commonplace.
Lessons for all age groups
It is never true that one generation in the workplace should subsume their preferred work style to the other completely. In a multigenerational team, there is a unique opportunity to gather the positives and negatives from each other. It requires moving beyond stereotypes and understanding from people at all levels, but it can be a valued part of a thriving and diverse workplace.