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The Millennial Generation – Coming soon to an organization near you!

Millennials are born between 1980 and 2000 with many entering the workplace in recent years.  Where generations previous to them have had the ability to fill the gaps in our organizations, the Millennials have recently arrived.  In today’s workplace, many American workers are continuing to fail in their work/life balance where they are stressed, overworked and continuously finding dissatisfaction in their health and happiness.

Several questions remain: is the workplace environment today ready for this new generation of workers?  Will the Millennials challenge and change the existing work culture? And will previous generations adapt to the new ideals or concepts this generation brings to the workplace?

Millennials have a wide range of differences from other generations.  These differences challenge the workforce conditions, the policies and procedures of organizations, and – most importantly – how today’s leaders will bring this new generation of workers together.  Important to Millennials remains their sense of social issues, work life balance, family, fast paced environments and continued equality in their work.  We know that Millennials will not stay in their jobs if they are not satisfied or agree with leaders in which they follow; therefore, the change that is needed to keep this group moving forward in a positive direction must be addressed.

The Millennial Generation—American teens and twenty something’s—is confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. (Pew Research Center) For years, employers have been aware of employee engagement and retention issues in their workplaces. These organizations have engagement policies that typically address engagement for the organization under one policy, without any differentiation for the generations of employees. As the millennial generation (also commonly known as Gen-Y and includes births from 1982 – 2000) grows in the workforce and baby boomers retire, managers and human resources professionals will need to develop new engagement models that take into account the generational differences between baby boomers and Millennials. (Pew Research Center)

I have been working as a leader in the not-for-profit sector for 20 years.  Throughout my growth as a leader, I have viewed a strong difference in the generations that affect the outcomes of the work we do.  While generations are not the only factor to consider in today’s workforce, it is important to understand the behaviors they bring to the table.  My own experience in the leadership world has given me the opportunity to lead and manage Millennials and how they change the organization.  They tend to have varying work ethics, personalities and behaviors that can or cannot compliment the work of those who are more experienced.  Millennials are changing the way we do work and how we serve people.  Organizations must learn how to engage and inspire this generation in particular as they take over the workforce.

In an on-line article “The Millennial Generation: Their Transformative Impact on the Workforce,” consulting giant Mercer and John Hollon stated that, “One of the contextual pieces that always seems to be missing when examining differences in generations is that there is rarely an acknowledgement that younger people will always see the world (and the workplace) differently than more senior members do.”  We do not give the millennial generation the credit they deserve, and dictated by my past experiences, the lack of understanding from older generations is destroying organizations today.

The Paradox of the New Generation, written by Suzy Frisch, an expert in Millennial behaviors, states that Millennials are thought of in different ways, “Entitled or eager, coddled or collaborative? Overly ambitious or multi-taskers in search of meaning?”  (Frisch)  The 76 million-strong millennial generation can either be an employer’s best weapon for innovation and growth, or they could be a disruptive force in the workplace filled with Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Generation X-ers.

As this new force filters into the workplace, organizations are discovering their youngest hires are a breed unto themselves. Their attitudes, approaches to work, and expectations differ from the others in the workforce, giving employers fresh challenges to successfully integrate this group into their teams.  Frisch further states, “It is critical to understand this group’s craving for meaning on the job because it drives their choices about where to work and how long to stay.”  Leaders in my organization are struggling today as I have introduced a balance of Millennials over the past year in leadership positions where previous years the leaders were more of a common breed of boomers.

This subject is important to me as we move forward in our organization and in our community, but it can come with a price.  As the organization grows, it is having a direct affect on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction among older team members, significant chaos among some, and in the end, a bit of anxiety among leaders both on staff and on the board.  I have been able to utilize my own knowledge to begin work with the three groups by paring up experience with innovation in hopes of bridging the gap among the team.

In Rockford, I am told that many of our millennials desire to leave the area and find work in their lives somewhere else.  Our job as leaders and as a community must be to support our new generation of workers in order to attract, retain and move forward.  We as leaders must promote the opportunities and be willing to listen to our younger workers as they are the future of Rockford.  I am excited about the academies and the direction of our education system that will prepare students for opportunities right here in their hometown.

What do you think it will take to compliment our workforce with millennials in the area?  Is Rockford’s organizations ready for this group?  Is Rockford ready for the changes this generation will bring?

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