Posted August 16, 2021 by Mark Perna
Valuing workers for their merit rather than their age; is it so revolutionary an idea? The rising generation of Millennial leaders has every reason to make it happen. Mark’s article, “Why Millennials Have A Chance To Create A More Generation-Agnostic Workplace” published at Forbes.com on July 20, 2021.
With 56 million individuals that comprise over a third of the American workforce, Millennials are a force to be reckoned with. They’re followed by Generation-X that includes 53 million working individuals and the Baby Boomer generation that boasts 41 million individuals active in the labor force.
As a “silver tsunami” of Boomer talent retires, Millennials’ share in the labor population is expected to rise to a stunning 75% by 2025. Millennials will fill positions at every level within companies, with many already moving into senior leadership roles. Last year, Zapier reported that 62% of Millennials in the workforce already have direct reports.
Many Millennial managers are finding themselves leading not just peers and younger workers, but also colleagues from older generations. This can create a challenging dynamic at the best of times—which last year, of course, was anything but.
I recently connected with Myles Hunter, CEO at TutorMe, about his experience as a Millennial manager and how to foster a work culture that is less focused on generational divisions. Here’s what he had to share.
Though the multigenerational workplace has its challenges, it’s also a tremendous asset. “It brings a lot of diversity to the conversation when you have different generations working together,” says Hunter. “The older generations bring a wealth of experience to the table, while the younger generations can bring new perspectives.”
The goal, says Hunter, is to become a generation-agnostic workforce—where, far from seeing one another’s age as a potential liability, coworkers almost don’t notice it at all.
Reaching that goal means getting all the generations to recognize the value of what the others bring. That’s why phrases like the viral “OK, Boomer” and Boomers’ swift comeback “OK, Zoomer” have no place in a generation-agnostic workforce.
Millennial managers are finding themselves ahead of the curve in many workplace trends. Inc.com cites a pre-pandemic study by Cisco that found that 87% of Millennial executives already believed that video has a significant and positive impact on an organization.
Flexible work is another area where Millennials saw into the future. Prior to the pandemic, fully 75% were already arguing that successful businesses allow flexibility instead of forcing employees to adhere to a rigid workday. Another 74 percent said that companies should support employees outside of work. Thanks to the pandemic, the rest of the workforce is starting to embrace these views as well.
Though they struggled to make the transition to remote work last year, Millennials have since embraced this new way of working that allows them to integrate—rather than balance—their personal and professional lives.
Millennials often face an uphill battle at work, where they may be hounded by negative stereotypes about their generation and especially their work ethic. The laziness label is particularly egregious, with ManPowergroup Global reporting last year that over a quarter of this generation works two or more jobs. Seventy-three percent work more than 40 hours per week, and almost a quarter work more than 50 hours. “You can’t change your age, so the best you can do is just work really hard,” says Hunter.
Age alone isn’t enough to bolster an argument, but Millennial managers often see it used that way. “Sometimes people use an argument from authority or seniority,” says Hunter. “Conclusions based solely on these fallacies can be seen as more true than they actually are.” Instead, Hunter says, teams should work together to reach conclusions supported by sound reasoning. “Wisdom is not necessarily a function of age.”
Interviewing and screening older-gen applicants is another challenge for the Millennial manager, says Hunter. “I’m typically interviewing people who are older than me, and I presume some unconsciously take my age into account when they’re assessing whether it’s the right fit for them,” he says. “Just a few weeks, ago, someone I was interviewing asked me point-blank how old I was. I assume the question was rooted in curiosity, but it’s not particularly relevant in my eyes.”
In the wake of the pandemic, the workplace had already changed faster than anyone ever expected. Now, the rising tide of Millennial leadership will only transform it further. Like it or not, this generation is poised to step into the shoes of their retiring Boomer counterparts—and the workforce will never be the same.
Millennials, who have had their share of stereotypes and preconceptions to push back against, are the ideal generation to lead the charge toward a more generation-agnostic work culture. And there’s never been a better moment to do it.
As Millennials increasingly take on leadership positions at work, Hunter has a few more words of wisdom. “Avoid corporate politics and let your work speak for itself,” he says. “Lead by example, and don’t have your team do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.”
And finally, Hunter says, be generation-agnostic. “Value those who do well at work, no matter if they’re older or younger than you,” he says. “Put your preconceptions aside and value people for their actual merit and nothing else.”