Entitled, lazy, inexperienced, anti-social. Think millennials in the workplace and you’re likely to think all of these things. And you would have a point. But if that’s all you’re thinking then you’re missing the full picture, one in which millennials have qualities which no other generation before them had.
When we think millennials we should also think tech-savvy, collaborative, original, and flexible. All are qualities that drive innovation.
The recent discussion hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICATT) on millennials in the workplace dispelled many myths about this particular, mythic animal. Transaction Advisory Services senior manager Melanie Tom noted the polarising views on people born in the 80s and 90s. Millennials, she said, are not looking for instant gratification. Rather, they are driven by a shared goal or purpose and seek out clear pathways to progression. In a world in which there is so much uncertainty and in which opportunities (and pitfalls) are boundless, millennials need to know that if they invest the best years of their life in something, they will, after the progression of years, have something to show for it: whether a promotion or some substantial and meaningful shift in status.
Millennials also are multi-taskers, a quality which bosses can sometimes mistake for laziness. Though easily distracted by social media, which to be fair has been designed to hook its users, millennials also know how to leverage social media better than their forebears. While there is a fine line, it is a mistake to dismiss this and to simply see things in terms of lost productivity.
Millennials also have tools that have rendered office spaces obsolete. They can work from home, and productively so. As Tom noted, whether they wear pyjamas or watch Netflix during “office” hours is not relevant to what matters: delivery. Millennials meet deadlines and maximise their time in a way which renders long hours of poor quality work unnecessary.
It’s often felt millennials are not as good at communicating as previous generations. There is definitely some merit in this, despite the plethora of communications technology which millennials have at their disposal. But this is equally a temporary by-product of changing times and standards of communication. Millennials do communicate, they just do it differently. How can we understand them?
This generation should be commended for redefining what work means. Many are successful, productive, and innovative. Employers have to do more to understand them, use their talents and create platforms for them to contribute more.
“Millennials are who will carry us through the future,” noted senior assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers Kevin Ramadhar at the ICATT event. “We can’t use archaic techniques.”
At the same time, millennials need to understand the importance of mentorship. They need to listen to their elders, understand the merits of communicating and avoid just walking around with their phones glued to their faces. We encourage more dialogue between the two generations to steer our economy and country forward.