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The Modern Workplace: Looking Beyond Misconceptions About Millennials

June 23, 2017

Millennials and the modern workplace

There are a lot of misconceptions about Millennials in the workplace, but one thing is certain: This generation grew up in a world characterized by an unprecedented pace of innovation. The amount of change between generations has created a challenge for companies, which must determine how the digital revolution affects modern talent and the modern workplace, says Crystal Kadakia, the founder of Invati Consulting and author of The Millennial Myth: Transforming Misunderstanding into Workplace Breakthroughs (Berrett-Koehler, 2017).

In an Edgewise podcast with AMA, Kadakia advises managers to replace the stereotyped view of Millennials with a “curious viewpoint,” one aimed at understanding the drivers of Millennial behaviors and adapting to the digital age.

Leaders who step back will see a “deeper underlying problem,” Kadakia said. “The corporate world is really lagging behind society when it comes to adapting to a digital world. Millennials are kind of a symptom…. Things we don’t like about digital, we tend to blame Millennials instead of taking on this challenge head-on.”

Millennials as a window into modern talent

Kadakia offers these pointers on adapting to the changing workforce:

Get beyond the myths about Millennials. Members of older generations may use managerial styles with Millennials that “mimic parenting,” instead of treating them as adult employees. Kadakia believes that leaders need to connect people’s jobs to the mission of the organization and provide guidance that will unleash their performance. And that means understanding Millennial behaviors.

For example, people often complain that Millennials need a lot of feedback and want a “pat on the back.” But this is a misconception, said Kadakia. From the Millennials’ perspective, feedback is important in a business world that moves quickly. “The idea of frequent feedback…is more about course correction, and it being a necessary part of being agile in a world that is fast paced,” she said.

Experiment to reshape the workplace culture. The rate of innovation in recent decades influences people’s work styles, communication preferences, motivational triggers, and more. Therefore, said Kadakia, companies must be willing to try out new ways of working in the digital world.

She points to Abbott Labs as a company that uses a “continuous improvement mindset” to evaluate how it delivers training and coaches and mentors employees. Technology company NCR is doing extensive research on what engages Millennials and looking at environmental issues such as the location of its buildings and workplace design.

“Given that so much of our work is online today, when you think about those offline environments, what’s the purpose of [them]? How can we use them in a way that generates productivity and engagement? What might that look like?” Kadakia said.

Kadakia suggests that leaders must put aside the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset to drive success. “You’re always going to want to be the Netflix, not the Blockbuster,” she said. “That takes a much more experimental way of thinking, and the courage to push the boundaries on ‘What does success look like today and how do we get there?’”

Listen to the complete podcast with Crystal Kadakia.

For information on a variety of topics, visit AMA’s archive of Edgewise podcasts.

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American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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