Working With Those Wonderful Millennials

As a consultant, working with a number of large brokerage and support organization clients across the country, I have an opportunity to interact and collaborate with a dozen or so different staff structures on a wide range of projects that stretch from research, to development, to event planning and execution.

Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware of (1) how many members of the millennial generation I have been working with, (2) how often their interpretation of the work experience differs from my Boomer version of the same and (3) how frequently my judgmental behaviors regarding these folks are just plain wrong.

By way of convenient example over the past month I was engaged in producing a strategic business conference for a large client. During the sixty days leading up to the conference, many days and hundreds of hours were spent creating what I very much hoped would be a really spectacular event. At almost every step of the way I found myself chomping at the bit as a depressing number of my millennial co-workers failed to meet my “expectations” or managed to annoy me with what I interpreted as childish and immature work habits.

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But then came the event itself. It not only exceeded my expectations but also managed to “wow” the client’s management team and virtually every one of the 80 or so attendees. Virtually every one of the 18 program segments, the very sophisticated coupling exercises that tied them all together, and the highly diverse cast of 9 nationally recognized experts (that ranged from national CEO’s to top researchers and recognized designers) performed without a hitch. The entire production was a thing of beauty. I have received more positive comments and compliments regarding this program than for any other program over the past five years.

So, on the morning after the show, I undertook to figure out why I had been so wrong and how this millennial-rich crew had managed to pull out what I thought was an impossible success.

The new truths and realities that I have discovered to date are alarming. First of all for those who are tracking the directions and trends of our real estate industry it has become increasingly obvious that more and more functions previously performed by commissioned personnel will, moving forward, be the responsibility of employed individuals.

One’s first review of the new Zillow Group consumer data will confirm the fact that those who carry that “I don’t need no stinking boss” sign around are not going to play as significant a role in the overall scheme of things over the near term future as they had in the past. Caring and engagement will increasingly spell success or failure for brokerages and support entities.

Where does this discovery take us?

The first realization that crossed my mind was that I had been just plain wrong with respect to my expectations of how this crew was going to perform. The second truth came like a flash of lightening as I realized that in their own way this group had outperformed any expectation I had manifested and in fact had outperformed any single performance that I had ever manifested.

Based upon these truths I made the decision to go back to the drawing board with respect to my impressions or, as the case turned out, my prejudices regarding millennial work habits. After three days of thought and research I began to restructure my impressions and reform my attitudes about these folks. The following represents the initials stages of my new state of mind.

These folks aren’t kids playing at being competent; they are young adults, new leaders and developing managers. They have some amazing skill sets that are frankly far more sophisticated than anything we boomers were demonstrating at the same age. Because of their numbers and their unique skills and cultural perspectives they will soon be the primary architects of the new work environment, and as such will fill the space with a whole new wisdom and approach. Individuals such as myself would do well to learn from them and/or get out of their way.

Millennials have thoughts and passions about matters that we boomers never even knew existed. What boomer ever considered the ramifications of social responsibility and work life integration?

Yes there are some issues to be resolved with respect to the subject of workplace engagement. Yet one cannot help but wonder if this isn’t because Boomers and X’ers interpret engagement almost no sense of priority or balance. I am increasingly of the opinion that the level of engagement for many Millennials may just be a bit difference, but no less effective.

One of the things that will move the “engagement” meter are the professional development opportunities that employers make available to their younger workers. These opportunities must be more than rewards for making nice with the boss or giving lip service to company priorities. Organizations that fail to develop specific, consistent and dependable engagement opportunities will find themselves in a constant state of turnover. The millennial worker seems to have developed a sixth sense about these matters. They cannot be faked.

As the demographics and priorities of the national employment environment continue to shift, identifying, retaining and recruiting the “right” employee will become increasingly difficult. Millennials interact with one another with respect to these matters with relative ease and frequency. The fact that an entity doesn’t care enough to create an acceptable work environment will have been noted by most would-be hires even before the interview begins. The passionate engaging individual will simply not bother.

The dynamic discussed above will impact the industry in many ways but one of the most important is that it will redefine the traditional concepts of management leaderships. The hierarchical nature of traditional leadership will give way to new ideas about collaboration, cooperation and accountability.

Finally one must be conscious of the role of transparency in this new system. As stated above, employees will be more and more willing to discuss the nature of the employment environment fostered by employers. Beyond what the employees think, there will be more and more customers and clients that will want to do business with organizations that practice “smart hire” and “common sense” personnel and over all other management philosophies. More over this trend will also spread to how firms and organizations are seen within the greater community in which they operate. Brokerages will discover that agents will avoid working for firms that aren’t sensitive or that treat their employees badly. All of these factors are part of a new societal attitude that is finding a home in many contemporary settings including the workplace.

So, if you are a boomer or X’er who is in control of a millennial infused workplace, you would do well to learn everything you can about this new expectation and the power that it is willing to exert.

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