There seems to be an impression that Millennials and Gen Z are somehow “disrupting” the workplace with their modern views and freedom loving attitudes. However, every generation has had its impacts on society and change is inevitable. Perhaps it isn’t much that the new generations are disrupting the workplace, but just that the previous generations being reluctant to change.
Instead of viewing the new generation as a “problem” and something that needs to be somehow disciplined or controlled, let us consider some ways that the new generation can contribute positively to the workplace.
First of all, there is a need to better understand them. Millennials have been a focus of study as a “new phenomenon”, but we must realize that today, the oldest are coming to their 40s and increasingly occupying leadership roles. No longer are they just newbies entering the workforce, but they are becoming the central actors. In other words, it is about time that Millennials needs are taken seriously and actually implemented into the system, rather than just being regarded as new traits.
Skills in technology, multitasking, and teamwork are some features that Millennials can contribute to the workplace. In order to be able to make the most out of these, employers need to recognize in what kind of environments the Millennials flourish in. For example, this generation has been brought up with more parental involvement than previous generations. They are used to having frequent feedback and guidance, and rapid results. Having a mentorship program may be one way of providing an environment where sufficient guidance and feedback is available.
It is surely important to adapt to new generations but the older generation should not be ignored either. The world today largely operates on data and knowledge that exists digitally, but there is still much that does not. Experience based knowledge is one thing that can be lost by not adequately integrating the older generations. In addition, a gap in the capacity to utilize newly implemented technologies can result in diminishing the confidence and productivity of experienced workers. This can lead to creating hostility between the generations, less cooperation, and less productivity as a whole. Integration efforts have shown that older generation do have the capacity to learn and adapt to new ways. The problem is that often there is not enough effort put into training. Each generation needs different degrees of instruction to understand, and addressing these needs can result in increased productivity.
To summarize, what is important for a productive workplace is not just adapting to new demands and trends, but integrating all generations. Each group has its own preferred ways of engaging in work, and by recognizing these differences the workplace could benefit as a whole. With Millennials in management positions and an even more technology savvy Generation Z entering the workforce, the workplace is sure to continue its transformation.
References: Rob Salkowitz, Generation Blend (2008) / Ronald Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up (2008)