If you are a company leader or an HR professional, you are by now familiar with the "Millennial Crisis". That is, that challenge and the promise of the new generation (young people born around the year 2000) to companies and organisations large and small.
The promise: they are bright, creative, connected - with far more ease and joy than older generations can - flexible and adaptive. They have what it takes, to re-new businesses, crack problems that have confounded us for long, and solve some of the bigger problems of the world (that we created!!). In short, they are our best bet (for now).
The challenges are not small either: they are entitled (or so they seem to us), crave creative and intellectual freedom, don't respect traditional authority and hierarchy, don't care about many of the traditional markers of success: money, career ladder, corner office, bigger is better... They don't care much about the old style "career incentives" either. They care more about finding meaning then loyalty for an employer.
Why are these problems? Well, they only are, because these attitudes defy the premises on which most of our companies function. But the Millennials are badly needed in the workforce! So what is then a company to do?
Many companies are sitting with this baffling (and painful) question. The two most common reactions I notice are:
- blame the Millennials for being naive, lazy, immature, entitled... and trying to "talk some sense" into them. (chances of success: none to minimal).
- improve their existing systems to try (again) to get them to function: more management and leadership training, more indicators, more employee motivation events. (chances of success: minimal - but nice for the managers who get training).
It's not working. Apart of short outbursts of energy, I notice a sense of resignation, that this is just too hard (impossible) to sustain.
Yet there are solutions. We just have to look at them, learn and adopt (adapt).
A new generation of companies (all around the world) are organising themselves differently - in ways that work for Millennials, and work much better for everybody else, too.
These companies have opted to replace the traditional hierarchy with new systems. You can find under several names (teal organisations, holacracy, self-organised companies). They have piloted in the last decades the new blueprint for engaging and harnessing the creativity and passion of their people. These are companies that beat the terrible trend of disengagement at the workplace, with all its ills and costs.
As every game changing idea, this one is simple and beautifully sophisticated, too: organise the company like a city, like a community, and not like a machine.
That transforms the people working in the company from tools with one single use and purpose in passionate, meaning creating, multitalented contributors. There is a wealth of experience showing how this may work, and what does it take. It is all there for us to reach for it and use it.
If you are a business leader, here is your first step: recognise that the old operating system is neither the only one possible, nor the one that is likely to bring the gifts of the Millennials to your company. Second step: take on the challenge!
The only way forward with the new generation looks like a more beautiful path for all of us.
Watch here two great documentaries about self-organised companies.
What are your experiences and thoughts about engaging Millennials? What are your burning questions?