GET OFF MY LAWN! Getting better at working with Millennials!
Since entering the workforce, Millennials have gotten a bad rap. There is a long list of complaints levied against them… mostly by the crowd that falls into GenX and older. In this interview, Dave Prior and John Tanner from LeadingAgile are joined by Jenny Madorsky, a Millennial who is a Project Manager at Huge. Dave is GenX and harbors a secret fear the internet will break and go away forever. John is in between the two (and would like you to get off his lawn) but self-identifies as being more on the Millennial side. During this podcast they explore the way Millennials approach working and collaboration. They dig into some of the stereotypes that crop up when people complain about Millennials and GenX, as well as how a Millennial’s view differs from the older crowd’s. In the final portion of the interview, the discussion turns towards what GenXers can do to be better prepared for working with Millennials in order to better support them.
0:08 Interview Begins
01:44 Jenny’s areas of focus in college are a secret weapon – Mechanical Engineering & Theater Studies
03:18 Defining what we mean by Millennial
03:36 A Millennial explains Millennials (experience over stuff)
04:50 What is challenging about working with GenX
07:40 The changing relationship between employee and company
09:33 Get Mentors!
11:54 Building lasting relationships and networks though shared work experiences
12:34 Broad knowledge vs Deep knowledge
14:25 What can employers do to make the work place more enticing to Millennials?
17:17 Consumers of employers… who offers the best experience?
19:37 Do you need different skill sets to interact with different age groups?
21:42 How can older generations be better prepared to work with Millennials?
24:05 Sometimes the gift of feedback can be a tough thing to receive
26:27 Helping the other person be open to feedback (Shout out to Sally Elatta!)
30:10 Jenny asks John and Dave for their perception of working with Millennials
31:20 Curiosity perceived as arrogance “I’m still expecting the internet to just shut off one day..”
32:29 Positive dissonance in the workspace
34:04 Knowing when to contribute and when to listen
35:27 Why Jenny chose to make the switch from Program Manager to Project Manager
37:17 Applying Agile practices in a Digital Agency
40:27 Agile for the Millennial crowd… do we need a new Manifesto?
Other Links from the Podcast
Sally Elatta http://www.linkedin.com/in/elatta
A great discussion. I enjoyed it, and I didn’t fast-forward through any of it.
Jenny mentioned quality vs. quantity of experience. This is nothing new. I remember interviewing technical people in the 1980s who claimed to have 15 years of experience, but on further investigation they really had 6 months of experience repeated 30 times. This has been recognized as a problem for a long time.
There’s the notion of “mindful practice,” which is superseding an earlier notion of “10,000 hours” to master a skill. You can learn a skill in a relatively short time (not instantly, of course, but in less than 10,000 hours) if you practice it “the right way” and with “the right attitude.”
Dave said that in his father’s generation people tended to stay with the same company their whole career, and now things have changed. I recall in the IT field in the 1980s, the average tenure of a technical professional on a job was 18 months. Things haven’t changed; at least, not that thing.
John mentioned loyalty to an idea or a group of people…not loyalty to a particular organization, but to an ideal. This resonates with me.
Dave hesitated on the word “employee” because he felt it would sound negative. He’s not off-base. “To employ” literally means “to use.” Who wants to be “used?”
Jenny mentioned the things that attract her and others of her generation are mission-focused and customer-focused work; the opportunity to work on cool problems with smart people. This seems consistent with the idea of “meaningful work” I’ve been hearing for the past few years. It’s also consistent with the motivators all my colleagues have cited throughout my career. It’s yet another idea from the discussion that doesn’t strike me as “different” by generation. It’s true that conventional managers have long believed in the myth of extrinsic “employee motivation,” but that doesn’t mean people have been uninterested in meaningful work. We were always interested in meaningful work. Management “science” is finally catching up, that’s all.
I’m not so sure about the idea that millennials are “consumers of employers.” I suspect something a little different is happening. As I see it, a company’s mission or focus may shift over the years, and so can an individual’s mission or interests. As a company’s direction and an individual’s direction converge, both may consider it advisable to collaborate. As one or the other’s direction changes, both may consider it advisable to separate. No harm, no foul.
I was happy to hear Jenny mention the Four Agreements. I include those as part of the definition of “professionalism” in my ebook on that subject.
She also mentioned the desire to participate immediately is driven by curiosity, not by arrogance. I completely agree with that. Unfortunately for me, in years past that attitude has not served me well, particularly in the early stages of my career. Maybe I was born in the wrong year.
John’s comment about staying quiet if you don’t have the experience or knowledge to say anything is well taken, but this isn’t a generational issue. “Speaking up” may amount to asking questions. In my experience, inexperienced people often ask questions for their own edification that end up driving out ideas and problems that the experienced participants wouldn’t have thought of. Ideas and issues emerge as the experienced people try to answer the inexperienced person’s questions. A room full of experienced people may take a lot of things for granted, and fail to ask questions. It’s wise to let people speak, and if they genuinely don’t have anything to contribute and they’re side-tracking the work, then offer feedback on that.
Dave asked about Agile in companies with a millennial culture. Jenny explained the Agile mindset is implicit; it’s already there. We’ll use the tools when it makes sense. Otherwise, we’ll do what we need to do. Actually, that’s what “agile” is supposed to be. It isn’t about ceremonies and boards and roles and rules. It never was.
The talk was interesting, but it really didn’t enlighten me about differences between generations; instead, it reinforced my sense that there aren’t any deep differences.
A big thank you to the participants.