Millennials: What do you really know?
Kirstie Fitzpatrick doesn’t like to be called a ‘Millennial’ even though she is one. ‘The term carries negative connotations and puts us in a box,’ says Kirstie, a journalist and blogger.
Millennials will soon make up half the world’s workforce and aren’t going anywhere fast. They’re young. They’re creative. They’re driven. They want to be challenged, make a difference and be heard. So why is it that some members of ‘older generations’—including leaders in the public and private sectors—believe Millennials are difficult to work with and, indeed, should change. Should it be the reverse?
Should the older generations become more millennial to make a major difference in the workplace? ‘These are burning questions worth exploring,’ says Dr Kim Vella, a sociologist and accredited career coach, who has struck a six-member panel of Millennials to talk about Millennials on 6 March.
‘Many believe Millennials should adapt to fit into the workforce, but is this the way to go?,’ asks Kim. ‘I believe it’s best to get to know this generation and tap into their talents, ways of thinking and new ways of operating. But why does this seem to be so challenging for many leaders?’ The panel discussion, ‘Millennials: What do you really know?’, also busts myths about the generation born between the late 1980s and 2000. Millennial panel members include an entrepreneur, management consultant, journalist and public sector leaders.
‘The views that some have in the community that we have a sense of entitlement, are narcissistic and come into workplace trying to change traditional ways isn’t correct,’ says Kirstie. ‘People often think of us as being self-focused and not group focused, which is another myth.’
Jordan Kerr, a management consultant and social entrepreneur, says he’s keen to be on the panel because the conversation about how to make the most out of Millennials at work ‘often happens around us and not with us.’ ‘I’m living the Millennial life and have a front-line perspective, says Jordan. ‘We have so much to contribute.’ ‘Many people don’t quite understand our skills sets or how to leverage them,’ says Jordan. ‘We’re digital natives and the first generation in today’s work world who grew up with the Internet as part of our everyday lives. Some say we’re impatient, but this isn’t the case. It’s just that we don’t like doing menial tasks if we can get technology to do them for us. We know how technology works and thrive on using it to improve the way things are done.’
Another Millennial myth is that members of this generation never settle or stay in jobs for any length of time because they don’t have a long-term career focus.‘This isn’t true, but we do like to be challenged, valued and appreciated in the workplace,’ says Kirstie. ‘We want to know how we can benefit a workplace and want to channel our creativity in a workplace that values us. If we don’t get that then, yes, we’ll move on. Why wouldn’t we?’
Yet another myth is that Millennials don’t accept traditional work structures and aren’t team players. Kerstin Oberprieler, a gamification designer, says this generation grew up working in teams at school. The ideal, says Kerstin, is to take advantage of the fresh and innovative ideas that Millennials have on how to join play and work. ‘Often workplaces are very top down, linear and command and control based,’ says Kerstin. ‘In gamification we bring play and work together through a different approach, where it suits. Millennials appreciate the advantages of this approach since it means they can be engaged. We have great ideas on how to manage projects and relationships differently.’
Kim sees tremendous opportunity for workplaces to leverage unique Millennial attributes. ‘Millennials are more culturally diverse than any generation before them and so have a broad and rich perspective,’ says Kim. ‘They care about more than money and bonuses. They want purpose, development, value and the opportunity to make a real difference. These attributes are all valuable for a dynamic and healthy workplace.’
‘Millennials: What do you really know?’ will be held 6 March, Commonwealth Club, Forster Crescent, Yarralumla, 6 to 7.30pm. Tickets are $40 and available here.
By Wendy Johnson