If I say that for an organization the concept of millennials is “As useless a concept as creating organization structures based on zodiac signs” then it would be not an overstatement.
Categorizing people as Millennials is a classic case of over generalization and over simplification of something as complex as human beings, leading to misguided interventions.
Every individual on this earth is beautifully different. Everyone differ in terms of their motivating needs, behavioural traits, cognitive ability and personality. There is no broad set of similarities that can be established within a generation and nor it can be established scientifically that one generation was behaviourally & cognitively different from any other generation especially from organization’s perspective.
What sets millennials apart are the aspects that has distinguished any one generation from the other. Between one generation to the other there is a change in the technology, ease of access to resources and over all political, economical & business environment. But these are all external changes and advancements – nothing is changing in terms of our DNA and core psychology.
What is happening is we are confusing external set of changes with the changes in personality and innate needs of newer generations. In reality, the former is changing but the latter is not. The other day in a conference I heard panellist talking about providing e-learning options, access to information through smart phones, building apps, internal social networks etc. as special measures to attract millennials! Are we kidding ourselves? These are just ‘hygiene factors’ or ‘must haves’ to keep pace with technology and time. Basic natural upgradations can not be the measures to attract and more importantly retain young talent.
One of our clients in manufacturing sector, employed a senior level manager for their retail operations. This was a new position and required taking lot of initiatives. After a few months the company realised that the Retail Manger did not perform as expected. Infact he was a total failure though he was excellent in 3 rounds of interview, had a great track record in other companies and good references when he joined them. So the top management of the company felt that they need to look for a “young dynamic” guy for this position – someone from the millennial category. Idea was that the younger generation person though inexperienced but will be able to make bold, quick decisions and move fast.
Using statistical analysis and tools like Predictive Index when we analysed the incumbent Retail Manger as an individual and the requirements of the job, we got very interesting insights. We discovered that from personality perspective there was complete mismatch between the abilities of the non-performing Retail Manager and the requirements of the job.
The job required the incumbent to be appreciably independent, someone who is comfortable in making decisions. It required the person to be a multitasker and be able to work quickly through things.
On the other hand, The Retail Manager was not a decision maker, he was someone who was not comfortable in taking any sort of risk. If pushed to corner for making a decision, he will end up procrastinating it for one reason or the other.
Now this was ‘his’ behavioural trait and has nothing to do with the ‘generation’ he belonged to. We have seen similar personality profiles in so-called millennials too. The issue was hence not about the millennials vs non-millennials but was about mismatch in the desired traits and what the individual exhibited.
This small example shows the importance of understanding and acting upon the real fundamental differentiators and not on the illusionary categorizations.