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Celebrating millennials: natural collaborators who work with purpose


When you think of millennials, what comes to mind? Perhaps a couch-surfing, trophy-collecting ‘me’ generation who wants it all and wants it now?

While this is the story countless surveys would have us believe, I’ve come to realise that such a depiction of this generation is way off the mark. In my experience as an MD, millennials want to learn, collaborate and achieve career success while at the same time balancing and enjoying life. They have ideas to share and the digital literacy to change the way we work. And we should take heed.

Given that it’s 30 years since we first heard the term ‘millennial’, it seems an ideal time to celebrate this generation’s unique qualities. In his recent blog my colleague Darren Buchanan shares his perspective on this generation’s excitement for their work, learning and progression. To this, I’d like to add a few additional points that we can also celebrate.

A job with purpose

For me, this starts with their desire for a meaningful job that gives them a sense of purpose. Let’s not forget that much of this generation entered the workforce during a time of global economic uncertainty and cost consciousness, and are therefore searching for a meaningful job in place of stability and large salary increases. They want to understand what they are working towards and know that it matters. That’s why I ensure all our employees, including our millennials, have a clear understanding of how their role helps our organisation achieve its objectives.

Career aspirations

This sense of purpose extends to their career aspirations, with millennials making sure their current role will help them achieve their next step up. While some people see this as self-centred, I view it as a sign of their motivation and a challenge to employers to ensure we promote clear and transparent career paths. So long as millennials know what skills and results they need to achieve in order to earn their next promotion, their career ambitions will motivate high performance.

Yes there is perhaps a sense of urgency about when these promotions will occur, but again with clear and transparent career paths millennials know that promotion is based on merit rather than a certain amount of time in a role.

They’ll ask ‘why’

Perhaps it is this focus on results that also drives millennials to question why things are done the way they are – particularly if there’s a better way to do them. I’m sure we’d all agree that improvements make sense. I’ve found that if there’s a quicker more efficient way of performing a certain task, millennials are often the ones coming up with the solution – or at least posing questions that motivate us to improve the way it’s done.

Natural collaborators

At the same time, millennials are natural collaborators who join online learning groups and share content. Virtual as well as physical tools now allow workplaces to become more collaborative and create working cultures where expressing and sharing ideas are inherent to the way we work. In our rapidly changing world of work, this ability to collaborate to adapt is a huge advantage – and one we should all embrace.

What qualities of this unique generation would you celebrate?