First of all, I’d like to warn you that this blog post is not about the Kardashians.
Did I just detect a collective sigh of relief?
My last two blog posts covered how millennials are paving the way for the rest of us in the workplace and how to address technology gaps in multigenerational organizations. This third installment focuses on how non-millennials can keep up with millennials, an ever-growing segment of our workforce. So, if you’re seeing the number of 18 to 35 year olds increasing at your organization and you feel a nagging sensation that you’re falling behind or being viewed negatively because you can’t keep up, this post is for you.
Key #1: Let go of your pride
Have you ever had one of those “shaking my head” (or, “smh” in millennial-speak) moments when you bring up a well-known song or movie and no one knows what the heck you’re talking about? Chances are, you’re dealing with a millennial! But I guarantee you they’ll figure it out in ten seconds flat on their smartphones! This is because they’re digital natives. It’s almost instinctual for them to use technology to find the answer to any question. To put this in perspective, a 60-year-old friend of mine received a tablet from his employer to use for work and he had no idea how to use it. He ended up learning how to use it from an eleven year old! In no time, the little girl showed him the ropes. He was impressed, but the lesson here is that he didn’t reject her help. He gladly accepted it. Sometimes if we’re older, we put undue pressure on ourselves to know everything at all times – and know it better than our younger peers. It doesn’t really make sense, especially if it’s not something we’re used to doing. So let go of your pride and don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers for help – no matter their age. You will not lose respect or appear “less than;” on the contrary, you’ll build communication, trust and knowledge sharing amongst your team.
Key #2: Managers, unleash your millennials
To make the above situation easier, managers could take a proactive approach and reach out to their millennial staff asking them to hold regularly scheduled knowledge sharing sessions with the rest of the team. Topics could be based on navigating new software, teaching tech-based shortcuts, or offering lists of leading industry-related online resources. And because millennials are so tech savvy, they can create slides to present on a web conference or even upload the files to an online learning management system enabling all staff to watch and learn anytime, anywhere. This avoids the problem of non-millennials feeling awkward or embarrassed having to ask their younger peers for help. It also keeps millennials engaged by providing them a way to contribute to the organization, something that is important to them.
Key #3: Observe and copy
Finally, it is always important to observe the people you’d like to learn from – and then copy them. I’m not saying that if Joan is wearing a purple top with white polka dots, you have to go out and buy the same one. I’m saying that you should buy a similar shirt if you like it, but add your own style. If you notice that one of your millennial colleagues is receiving positive attention for completing a long-awaited project in record time, and you’ve been working on a project that is taking forever and a day, make a mental note of that person and pay close attention. How do they spend their time at work? What do they do during their downtime? How do they organize their time? Are they surfing the web a lot? If so, where are they getting their information? And as I mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask either (unless you don’t mind being “that” person peering over their shoulder, sniper-style, while they’re at their desk but that’s a bit too creepy for my taste).
Do you have any personal tips on how you keep up with the millennials in your workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment below.