How will millennials work with us in the future workplace?

By Robin Lipscomb, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace

Somewhat disappointedly, we now live in a confused, uncertain and chaotic time where for the most part we appear to be almost de-humanising ourselves ahead of what seems to be substantive global change.

The economy, the threat to our liberties and the increasing reliance on working in an isolated yet more connected world at times concerns me greatly when considering the needs of our children and future generations.

But perhaps there is hope – our children really are the future!

More technology, more control?

To some extent, each and every one of us has developed a laissez faire attitude to new technology in our consumer lives.

It’s crept up on us to such an extent that we are now almost co-dependent on the advancements. We are connected and plugged into the grid and we want the newest phone, the latest connected refrigerator, and the internet-delivered on-demand expresso – who wants to press buttons anymore?

We use this bond, this gratification of the latest technology, to propel our private lives forward with a view to perhaps becoming better, ‘always connected’ versions of ourselves in this game of life v. 2.0.

The latest devices using nano-technology will shrink everything, the latest graphene cells will power them for weeks on end, and having an app for anything we can think of will only ever be a click away.

In fact, more of us than ever cannot perceive a disconnected world or going for a walk in the country without our thumbs twitching and controlling our devices, machines and IoT sensors which are now connected to the pervasive and, yes, omnipotent grid.

Yet somehow we have convinced ourselves that in today’s modern world we are now in complete control of our lives, data and social connections. We know this to be true because our phones and Echo Dots tell us so!

Simpler times?

Interestingly we think that we have simplified our lives, whilst in reality, we now resemble swarms of worker bees competing to feed the queen the best nectar.

We are now living in a more complex, diverse and delicate world than ever before.

At times we may feel like we’re struggling to catch our breath; like we need to find the equilibrium and balance within our lives.

I don’t think that many realize that we are in fact becoming depleted of energy, we are physiologically and sociologically drained and fast becoming dependent on technology.

All of this is leading to what some predict will become a wider addiction that creates a compulsive need to keep our phones close and social media accounts closer.

Entering a new world

Enter Generation Y, or ‘millennials’ as some define them, those who were born in the mid-eighties and who are now expected to single-headedly drive and challenge the behaviors and often the cultures that will be prevalent for the foreseeable future in the workplace.

But what will the future workplace look like with this new breed of digitally-enabled workers? And how will they cross over to announce their arrival into the world where they only have part of the story – the new bit – and does it really matter that they don’t know what DOS is?

I was fortunate enough to have been brought up at a time in which I was heavily involved in a lot of the innovative development and technological advancements which were the foundations for what we now take for granted.

I, perhaps like many others of my generation in the ICT sector, would consider myself to be a Hybrid voyeur and although not digital by default, I am certainly digital by proxy. Fit for digital, if you will, but with the experience of knowledge and know-how, and with the burning interest, passion and enthusiasm of a millennial!

Throughout my working and private life, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of the new generation slowly coming through. I mentor them, I interview them, heck, I even employ some of them.

I am fortunate enough to talk to a diverse cross section of them at conferences and events, and I have to say that they are very impressive individuals.

They are bright, articulate and very keen to “change the world in which we live.”  I am in fact in awe at times.

Where we’re failing

However, this also highlights a slight niggle I have.

When I approach some of the same folks a few months later, I have started to notice a common theme in that once the novelty of the workplace seems to dwindle, those same energetic ‘go-getters’ seem a little disenfranchised in the roles they are undertaking or have been asked to fulfill in the workplace.

I have asked many what the obstacles are and I get varied, enlightened responses to my questions.

But the one constant I do hear time and again is that they expected the workplace to offer them more. This isn’t what they signed up for.

Clearly, they aren’t being nourished, they are being asked to conform to the old processes and ways of working – how can this be happening??

Put yourselves in their shoes: they wanted to make an immediate difference and they wanted to work in an environment that allowed them to flourish, to prosper and to not be curtailed or punished for having innovative and inquisitive young minds.

They have never once spoken of beanbags or free meals, so what are they asking for that’s so hard? Substantive and material change, that’s all!

They don’t want to wait a year to see results, they want it now and in some cases, we stifle them.

A generation unafraid to act

I’ve heard talk of ‘instant gratification syndrome’ with hushed and negative connotations, but this hunger to drive forward is so effective in business and mustn’t be undermined.

The dopamine release that one receives when excited about bringing something new to life: the birth of a child, a new app or something born through scientific innovation and endeavour. This is a euphoric feeling and drives competitive advantage, staff retention and a whole host of other benefits such as wellbeing to not only the individual but their co-workers

On the outside, those uninformed previously ‘free thinkers’ think this new generation are just immature. They see them as an entitled group of individuals who expect things without working for them – they want everything when they want it and they want to overcome obstacles and to be self-sufficient. They see them and their driven behaviors as being negative. I see them as pioneers!

This generation is changing the way that we all look at work. They don’t want to be anchored to a desk. They want to enjoy life and they want to innovate when the mood takes them.

They don’t want to transact with legacy-based people, processes, infrastructures or hard-wired applications. They live for the moment and they live with the dream of making a difference.

Remember, this generation acts differently: If they need an app they will write it, if they want new scripts they will develop them, and if they want a host they will build it out of a Raspberry Pi!

The bit that really excites me is that they co-create, they share ideas that crowdsurf and they use kick-starters to fund their ideas. This is a powerful group of erudite individuals who will never adopt legacy ways of working – they want to seize the opportunities and become Bitcoin millionaires.

So what’s wrong with a generation who are high achievers, that care about the planet, about people, who embrace diversity and who challenge us to think and act differently?

I only wish I was one of them!

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