Face The Strange: Changing to Meet this Generation
Are you looking for the latest amazing new program you can implement in your company to attract the next generation? After all, this generation is rather weird, an enigma dancing in a mist of wonder wrapped in the cloche of invisibility eating avocado toast; but you see them as your hope, your future, and you so want to attract them, right? You know you do, after all…
How much have you spent on books trying to learn to do just that?
How many articles have you read to understand how they think, including this one?
How many consultants have you brought into your company share their wisdom, only to realize you spent a butt load of cash, and got jack for it?
How many conversations have you had about what to do?
How many meetings have you sat through trying to figure out how you can attract new applicants for open positions?
You might’ve even thought about increasing the salaries offered; changing the house, or even offering better benefits. Heck, I bet you even thought about buying skinny jeans, a plaid shirt and a cool pair of new glasses; only to realize you’d look like a lollipop in skinny jeans and the really cool glasses won’t hold a tri-focal lens.
Well, I’ve great news for you. If you’ve been looking for that one new, amazing, vision centered program that will attract the elusive Millennials/Gen-Z by the droves, here it is:
THERE ISN’T ONE.
SNAP, who just got burned?
Think of it this way, Millennials/Gen-Zs aren’t looking for an attractive model: that, “come and see how cool we are” model died years ago. If you think you can attract the next generation with a slick ad campaign, or catchy slogan, or smooth vision statement you’re so wrong. This generation is immune to the marking games that brought older generations running to your company in years past. In fact, being slick to the next generation is like trying to run a Windows95 program on a new iMac.
So, what can you do?
Is there an answer?
Is it possible?
Before I share, let me ask you some very important questions:
Do you want to change your company?
I mean, do you truly want to change?
Are you willing to change?
I mean, are you willing to truly change everything you think about your business and vison?
Is change part of your DNA?
Are you more action than talking?
For many companies what I’m going to suggest will be hard, very hard – if not impossible. But it is not a magic pill. You need to realize this is a sum-total change. You’re either in it, or you’re not. This isn’t change based on small increments over the next five to ten years. I’m talking straight up, down and dirty change, knees on the ground change. If you try to piecemeal this, and simply try to force your old ways into new wineskins it’ll blow-up in your face.
Before I start, you need to keep in mind, this generation is not a uniformed monolithic culture. Some will think differently, but in my experience most, if not all, would agree with me.
Now, let’s see if I can shine a little light on what needs to change.
1.) You need to have an honest, open desire to change:
If there’s one thing that’ll turn off this generation, it’s your inability to change: change is part of their DNA. This generation doesn’t understand your desire to hold to the past or old traditions. They’re not tied to tradition, they’re not tied to programs, activities or events just because they’ve been done in the past. This generation is going to come-up with new, crazy, creative ideas on their own, and you need to welcome those ideas, and not shut it down. You can make all kinds of excuses as to why traditions are important, but your arguments are mute.
Many companies hold traditions so close; they miss the opportunity to do something new, something amazing – something wild. Let me be honest, if you’re not changing, you’re dying. This generation has a strong desire to change the world and if they see you’re not willing to change, you lost them.
Don’t just change to change. Listen, then change.
2.) You need to dream big:
It doesn’t matter how big, or small, your company is, if you don’t have big dreams you lost from the get-go. I’m always dismayed when a company has no dream, no vision, no connection to the future. If all your company can do is look back at the good old days, you’ll miss out on what is possible in the future, worse yet, you miss on what is happen right now, around you. Big dreams require quick moves, the ability to turn on a dime, to decide to change directions at a second’s notice. Long decision making will kill big dreams; gather the data, analyze the information, and move.
This generation is looking for your dream and the ability to be part of and implement your dream, and to add their DNA to your dream.
Without a dream, a vision, a future, you have noting for this generation to invest in. Don’t limit your dreams. Your dream needs to be big, crazy, even if it seems impossible.
3.) Don’t be afraid to fail:
Keep this as a mantra in your thinking: failing is not being a failure. This generation does not fear failure. Look at the past 25 years and see all the failure they lived through; they can find the win in failure.
No matter what, take the chance, reach out for the impossible, and if you fail – have a great party to celebrate the try, learn from it, and try again. This generation gets the idea that big dreams sometimes have setbacks, and those setbacks don’t kill the dream. If you fear failure, they will smell it on you, and run for the hills.
4.) They want a voice:
If you believe this generation will allow their age from having a set a the “grown-up table,” you’re so wrong. If your company will not invite this generation to speak their mind, they will leave and find a place, any place, where they will feel their voice will be heard.
You need to understand; this generation isn’t looking for you to empower them because they know you don’t have the power. You may have the authority, but they don’t care about your authority. Statements like, “I’m the leaders” is like pointing to the door and telling them to leave.
This generation is looking for a task, not a title; titles mean nothing. They’re looking for the freedom to do, to take on a project, to move ahead and fail or succeed. With that in mind, never micro-manage, if you do, they’ll feel like a child and they’ll leave. If you think they cannot do the task because of their age, or experience, you’ll never get them to do anything. You may see them as know it alls, but that is not how they see themselves. They see themselves as someone who wants to know more, and they want their voice to be heard.
5.) Focus on how you communicate:
A lessons I learned a while back was to ask to end every introduction, What is your preferred method of communication? If they say text, text them; if they say messenger, message; if say email, email them; if they say phone call, laugh and inform they we don’t live in the 20st century – not really – email them. Use their preferred method of communications.
How many times have you received an email with the subject line that reads, “Let’s set-up a meeting this week” only to open and find the body of the email reads, “Let’s set-up a meeting this week.”
6.) You must be 100% transparent and authentic:
For many companies this is hard, but it’s not an option. This generation values transparency and authenticity because they seldom see either. So, what does it mean to be authentic? Just be you. If you’re a 45 year-old who lives in your moms basement and likes playing Dungeons and Dragons, be that 45 year-old, don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just be you. This generation is not looking to make fun of you for who you are, and they do not want you to make fun of them who they are. Keep in mind, they’ve seen the heroes of the past fall from grace, so if you be you, they be good with it. They’re looking for real, honest, open people willing to share who they are, scars, warts and all.
This also includes being 100% transparent. Many companies hiding behind a wall of secrets; things don’t need to be hidden. Just be honest and open with people. Being transparent and authentic goes a long way to building trust. When companies operate outside of transparency, silos are built and that will drive this generation crazy.
7.) Redefine your understanding of mentoring:
I’m willing to bet your company has a mentor program something like this: when new teammates join, they’re assigned a mentor. Usually a person of the same gender, or ethnic background, who is a manager or higher. This mentor sets up a weekly meeting [usually in their office, or breakroom] to address questions the new teammate may have. It usually lasts a year – and this is the losers way of mentoring.
This generation likes mentoring, but not the way you may think. This generation wants to learn from older generations, or long term teammates. They want to seek out people who can give them support and help to them succeed. What they’re not looking for is to be assigned a mentor. They want the freedom to ask different people the same questions and come to a conclusion on their own. They’re no looking to be told what to do, they’re looking for ideas; they seek wisdom, they seek out the sage, they’re not looking for a mom or dad to tell them what to do. If you are a manager, any level, or an executive get ready for them to knock on your door to ask a question. If they feel they are unable to ask anyone, anything… well, just look at number 6.
8.) Embrace the culture:
If your company separates itself from the outside world, you’ll never appeal to this generation. They believe most companies are pulling away from the needs of the world and living behind the fortress walls. You see, this generation is looking to engage the world around them and find ways to help. While older generations tend to be pessimistic towards the events of the world, this generation is optimistic; they want to help. If your company has no idea what’s happening around it, you’re not only missing the opportunity to help people in need, but you’re also not even seen by this generation. This generation is increasingly optimistic about the surrounding culture because they honestly want to help others.
9.) Think community, and then think community again:
Community is a non-negotiable part of this generation. They value a community that’ll move them beyond the surface issues of life and asks the hard questions we all struggle with. They aren’t looking for new drinking buddies [some are], they’re looking to be challenged. That’s not to say Social Community isn’t important to this generation, because it is.
This generation is grounded and focused by community. They know that community will challenge them to reach heights they could never reach alone. This generation want to go deeper, and they want their lives to have meaning, they believe this can only happen in a deep, authentic, community of co-workers.
10.) Think Diversity:
If, when you look around your company and all you see are people that look like you, you missed. This generation value racial, generational, gender, sexuality and socio-economic diversity. they see the narrative of life reflected when all groups can be brought together, and most are crazy enough to believe this can be accomplished. Keep in mind, this is the most racially, sexually, ethnically diverse generation ever. They see traditional boundaries as limiting who they are, and who they can become.
If you see these as impossible, or you’re just not the person to carry out the changes needed, all is good. There is comfort in being safe, and that’s something you’ll have to work out on your own.