Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Do Businesses Need the Millennials to Implement Change?

I’ve been noticing a trend lately among certain business writers where they suggest that changes to the current business model will occur mainly as a consequence of the Millennial generation (or Gen Y) joining the workforce. From their vantage point, the social attitudes and upbringing of this next generation of workers will force companies to change how they do business, changes which will somehow ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes which brought forth the Great Recession upon our economic shores.

While it’s nice to view the next generation of workers with this sense of optimism in regards to the contributions they can make to our organizations, the reality is that such drastic changes are unlikely to happen simply because Millennials are joining the workforce. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any of us taking too well to having a new team member coming in and immediately telling us what we’re doing wrong and how we should be doing things. Those in leadership positions know only too well how behaving in such a manner is a sure way to encourage either disengagement or the departure of participants from your team.

Of course, it’s not the first time various business thinkers have cautioned business owners to brace for the coming tidal wave brought forth by the arrival of a new generation into the workplace. When the Gen X generation joined the workforce, there were many who were espousing the same message that we now hear about the Millennials – that companies need to embrace doing things differently in order to engage a generation that’s more interested in living their lives than simply working on it, a concept that often resulted in the Gen X generation being branded as lazy or lacking any real work ethic.

Granted, in the case of the Millennial generation, what’s also being attributed to them is a drive toward corporate transparency and open-ended collaboration as a result of their affinity for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Ironically, in recent years, these sites have undergone their own transformation with most of their growth and rising popularity being credited to users from the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. This increasing use of social media by other demographic groups demonstrates that the drive for openness and transparency is not exclusive to the Millennials, but a trait that all generational groups are willing to embrace and utilize on a regular basis.

So, what then can we make of all this hype over how the Millennials will change the business world? I think one thing that becomes clear is that many of us are simply suffering from a fear of change. And that’s where I think the Millennials come in – for some they represent that magic pill that will somehow correct the ship’s course and help get things back on track.

Of course, change is not that simple or that easy and frankly, we shouldn’t even be that glib about it. After all, change is not a switch you turn on like a light bulb; it’s an investment. An investment into our collective futures and the drive to improve conditions, be it our organization’s health or the well-being of the community around us.

As such, it’s not acceptable to intentionally bench ourselves on the sidelines and passively cheer on the Millennials to make the changes we all hope to see in our organizations and workplaces. And it’s certainly not fair to dump such a mess on their shoulders because they still exhibit that go-getter sense which we may find currently lacking within ourselves.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we don’t need to wait for the Millenials to walk into our businesses for us to see the change we need or want, since all of us have the capacity to be agents of change. All that’s needed is a willingness to roll up our sleeves and giving it a try.

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  1. On September 7th, 2010 at 1:07 PM Drew Hawkins said:

    Your last sentence “All that’s needed is a willingness to roll up our sleeves and giving it a try” sums it up. It’s all about willingness. I’ve been seeing a lot of talk and little action on change.

    Change is hard and millenials interact and communicate somewhat differently. Gen X’ers have been the largest growth in the social space but that’s mainly because there wasn’t a lot of room for growth in the millenial department (since 96% of us are already out there in some form or fashion).

    I don’t believe Millenials will be the conduits for some sort of business “renaissance” or anything like that. However some tools and methods will change over time as people my age move from entry level/mid management positions to running the show.

    How companies prepare now for those upcoming changes will make all the difference. It’ll take a joint effort from current and future leaders to make effective changes. Millenials can’t get big headed and try to run the show out of the gate but at the same time, older generations shouldn’t cast aside millenial ideas for “lack of experience.”

  2. On September 7th, 2010 at 5:05 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    That’s a good point you bring up, Drew.

    Since writing this piece, someone sent me an article where there was a discussion of how companies are now having to deal with three different generations in their workplace as if one should expect many obstacles as a consequence of this reality. But as you pointed out, what’s needed here is a focus on collaboration and pooling the respective aptitudes, abilities, knowledge and experience that each group brings to their organizations and directing it toward a shared goal.

    It’s easy to start dividing individuals into groups and then start bemoaning the various issues we’ll face as a result. But this is where an organization’s leadership needs to get involved by drawing attention more to how this diversity can help them move forward instead of being stuck in neutral.

    Thanks again, Drew for your thoughtful comment.

  3. On September 8th, 2010 at 5:02 PM Mansi Bhatia said:

    Very aptly put, Tanveer.

    Instead of slotting them into one general category of Millennials and expecting them to drive change in an organization, leadership needs to see them as individuals who may or may not bring new ideas to the table.

    Not all millenials I know are as keen on social networks as Generation X would like to believe. Not all millenials, consequently, have earth-shattering ideas on how to engage target audiences their age.

    They’re just like any other new employee … finding their way about the organization and contributing in ways that best utilize their strengths. Let’s not focus on when one’s employees were born — let’s harness brilliant ideas regardless of the ideator’s age.

  4. On September 8th, 2010 at 11:33 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Mansi; glad you enjoyed this piece. It’s unfortunate that humans still have a proclivity for casting generalizations about various segments of our population based on little more than our outside perceptions rather than first-hand experience or knowledge. And it certainly doesn’t help when you have business writers out there trying to push this message that change is on the way simply because a new generation of workers is about to arrive on the scene. Such messages only serve to keep people from putting their focus on the work that needs to be done right now to get things going again.

    I agree with your ending statement that we should stop focusing on such trivial matters as when someone was born and instead look at what talents and skills they bring that leaders can help to nurture and build. As the old saying goes, we are far more than the sum of our individual pieces.

    Thanks again, Mansi for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  5. On October 22nd, 2010 at 12:14 PM @edjvt said:

    Great piece of work as always Mr. Naseer.

    I think it’s a difficult fact try to change the way things are driven in some businesses. People usually have fear to deal with changes and if these changes are too drastic it’s even worse.

    In my opinion, some companies and businesses need to mix experience of those who have been there for some years (Gen X) with the new and fresh ideas and attitudes of those who want to be an important part of the change (Gen Y).


  6. On October 22nd, 2010 at 3:27 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Edgard. You're right that what's needed here is collaboration, instead of a myopic focus on the handling of any one particular demographic group. It also requires an understanding of the importance of communicating the value of any change being not just for a select few, but for the benefit of the collective whole. By defining a shared purpose behind any measures for change, it will be a lot easier to find early adopters who can help push and promote these measures within the organization. It will also provide the realization that such change adopters already exist within the team, and need not be looked upon as being an exclusive domain of the Millennials.

    Thanks again, Edgard for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

  7. On January 21st, 2012 at 1:30 AM Tabby said:

    Social networks are far from just a "millenials" thing.. everyone I know has one. This includes parents, grand parents, ect. We just use them in different ways. The majority of the older people spend their time on applications and games. The younger people are more concerned with updates, tagging, photos, ect. Anybody believing that social media is not important for their business is fooling themselves.

    That's not to say you should abandon all practices of the past, but the world is always changing and you need to be ready for new ideas. Otherwise they'll sneak up on you, and you'll b left in the dust.

  8. On September 9th, 2013 at 11:16 PM LaRae Quy said:

    I'll confess that I've seen nothing that indicates the Millennials are going to be an exceptional generation of leaders…like any other generation, they will come into the marketplace with their own ideas and hubris, but whether or not they excel or produce a real change of leadership remains to be seen. The answer has always been, and will always be, a willingness to roll up our sleeves and giving all new ideas a try.

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