The Millennial Communication Divide at Work

This will not be another blog rehashing all the millennial cliches out there. If you want that, just do a Google search on how millennials are "destroying" the workplace and you will have a plethora of articles. 

Most of us know the stats, millennials are changing the workplace. Rather than staying with one company for decades and working toward a linear path, they want to be purposeful, desire flexible work schedules, and seek consistent coaching and feedback (Forbes). In short, they do not work like previous generations.

Instead of just looking at those stats, let's really examine how the workplace is changing because of millennials and what can be done for all generations to "win" and companies to be profitable.

Over the next few weeks, we will walk through some of the fundamentals of attracting, retaining, and developing millennials. As said above, we will not look at stats which are readily available. My intention is to relay the information I have gathered from the years I spent teaching at the University of Houston, Houston Community College, and lengthy discussions with baby boomer executives from small to large businesses. 

Before we can really examine how to attract, retain, and develop we must realize there is a massive disconnect in the workforce between millennials and previous generations. Our goal is to better understand this issue and move towards solutions over the next few weeks. 

Let's begin. 

What Happened to Creativity?

I distinctly remember my conversation with a Director of Marketing at a Fortune 20 tech company. We were discussing millennials, specifically fresh-outs, i.e. those who just graduated and were brought into the company. 

She enjoyed new talent and appreciated their technical skill set. The problem she had when managing them came down to communication and creative problem-solving. She provided an example:

  • If I tell a millennial to do A, B, and C, they do it with excellence and usually faster than previous generations.
  • However, if I tell them we are starting at A and want to get to C, now go and figure out B, they will be stuck for weeks. Most of the time they won't even ask for help. 

Here is a vital issue which is plaguing companies. Millennials are known as incredibly tech savvy with many skills. Of course they are, our entire education system is set up for students to regurgitate information quickly and flawlessly. Don't get me started on this, my master's thesis along with years of academic research was on education reform and I could discuss the topic for hours.

Let's just say creative thinking has been taken out of most school curriculum. If you would like more information or detailed statistics on education reform please contact me, or if you would like to watch one of the best TED Talks on the subject, see Sir Ken Robinson's brilliant explanation at the end of this article.

The point is many young people do not possess creative problem-solving at a high level. This issue is compounded when they do not know how to articulate their lack of creativity, i.e. if they don't know it's a problem, then how do they know to become better? 

I saw this issue routinely as a college instructor. My classes were based on the Socratic teaching method. Essentially, this means I asked questions to my students and had them respond. This developed a problem-solving reflex as I would not provide the answers, they had to teach the answers to me.

Moreover, I would assign projects which were a struggle for many students. As an example, we would read anthropological ethnographies and students were tasked with writing an analysis. No summaries were allowed, instead, students had to tell me if the ethnography contained good research methods, was well-written, and if they enjoyed it along with reasoning to back up their claims. 

Students would be paralyzed as they had been taught to write summaries for their entire academic life and I wanted a true analysis. At first, students would complain, and then it would happen. Their creativity would come to life and they would write essays which displayed an ability to make analytical connections. 

This is exactly what companies are looking for in millennial workers. They need a generation who can see a problem, look at the variables, find a solution (or solutions), and articulate their reasoning. 

Communicating creative solutions to problems is an essential skill to possesses in the modern workforce. Yet, how does an older generation help with creativity and how do young people develop the necessary skills to be creative and effectively communicate?

Who Do We Blame?

If you are a boomer or gen x'er, you probably read the above and agreed. You might be thinking, this is completely correct! Millennials don't solve problems and even if they do, they can't say how they fixed the issue. 

On the other hand, you might be a millennial and relate to a poor education system which treated you as just another cog in the machine. Perhaps you were never taught how to think creatively and talk through problems. Even with all your technical skills, you were not instructed on the nuances of logic, reasoning, and creative problem-solving.

I am not one to place blame. There is a massive problem with the education system and it needs to be overhauled, yet that will not help a young person who has already graduated or a more experienced manager/executive who needs workers to create solutions.

What we need are actionable steps. Specifically, a process to help people become more creative in their thought process which will allow companies to grow and individuals to flourish. This is one of the reasons BizLatte was formed. Our vision is to re-brand the millennial generation. 

We do this through insights in our blogs, free e-guides, 1-on-1 coaching, and business consulting. What most people don't know is we work with companies for millennial engagement and integration. We bridge an obvious divide through a tested process which aligns multiple generations for the betterment of individuals and the companies they represent.

If you would like to know more about the above services contact us as we enjoy connecting with new people and solving real problems. 

You might not be ready for one of our services but you know there is a major gap growing in the workforce. Stay tuned to future articles as next week we will explore even more and begin to build solutions to attract, retain, and develop millennials. We should all want to see each generation succeed, it is the only way for our businesses and economy to thrive. 

Matt Avery


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