There is enough talk about how to deal with millennial / Gen-Y team members and how to manage them. But not many of us representing Gen-X are talking about what we have learnt from them in recent past. So I thought to take an opportunity and express my gratitude towards my millennial friends and acknowledge what I have learnt from them and how I have evolved as a manager, mentor and more than that as a friend with them. Obviously these millennial I am talking about are all Tech savvy and representing IT industry. They are enthusiastic, passionate, hard-working and carry big dreams with them. I have learnt many things but just to note few, here is a list of top 10 things.
1. Be Bold, have an opinion, argument or point of view and express it without fear: In my days, senior most member of the team or boss was ultimate authority in taking decisions. No matter what, team would never argue or question the rationale. (Of course it is to do with culture as well). But the millennial are smart and bold to question rationale, carry point of view, express without fear and make put forward their point.
What did I do and learnt: Have patience, listen carefully, don’t argue, don’t push your point and let them finish expressing their point of view. I get different perspective and new way of thinking and addressing a problem, even if they are off-track, what matters is getting to know their “think-different approach”. I learnt to be expressive as well and blend gray haired experience with fresh ideas to resolve problems we have been solving in traditional ways. Thank you millennial for being bold and sharing your opinions with me.
2. Be a multi-tasker – I am sure, you must have noticed them listening to music, playing with mobiles, browsing facebook and still doing programming with great concentration. How can they do that? Also most of them who worked with me could do multiple tasks with ease – designing, programming, testing, documenting and leading the teams on multiple projects.
What did I do and learnt: I did closely work with few of them on critical tasks and understood how they manage their time and tasks. Most of them break down the tasks further at much granular level and assemble the deliverables by borrowing pieces from co-workers and other teams. I found that they do not carry NIH (not invented here) syndrome and understand the power of collective wisdom and intelligence. I found beg-borrow style of assembling deliverables effective and help build real collaborative environment around me.
3. Be Social – Millennial are relatively more social than Gen-X. Possible reason – their generation is well supported by digital channels and Social Media. Even if they do not meet and talk on regular basis, they know what is happening in their friends and relatives life through social media. At work front they expect means to have social interaction with their peers and friends. Many organizations do not have social media access but need to learn this social need and empower them to communicate through best possible means. This social behavior also helps them improve productivity and resolve potential issues on their way.
What did I do and learnt from them – I observed and learnt benefits from their social interactions and decided to participate in internal and external social media networks. On internal front, I could get access to different colleagues and their perspectives. On external social networks I could get access to my friends from different walks of life to share technical / non-technical aspects. It helped me broaden my views.
4. Manage your hobbies – Most of Gen-X Technologist’s life revolves around organizational activities, corporate rat race, work-life balance, deadlines, estimates and budgets. There is no space for word called “hobby”. I understand that Gen-Y do not have those responsibilities on their shoulders yet, but found almost all of them carry some or other hobby. At workspace they carry music, participate in cultural activities, play sports, and try their best to nurture their hobbies. Why we cannot carry at least music to office? More than anything, most of us feel that others will find us putting earphones and listening to music in office little odd…
What did I do and learnt: Along with work-life balance, there is a need to have some hobby in our life. I encouraged them to continue their hobbies and also participated in few of the cultural activities along with them. Also picked up my long forgotten drawing again. Found it relaxing for sure!
5. Be agile – Processes have place in the organization but millennial are deliverables driven than lengthy processes driven. They want to understand problem statement and act on it ASAP without wasting (?) too much of time on unnecessary (?) discussions.
What did I do and learnt – Obviously being agile is context specific. Wherever I agree to be agile in delivering results than following processes, I encouraged them to act fast. I did my best in basic documentation and knowledge harvesting though. Along with them I followed agile practices in my corporate life as much as I could (and also following it today as well).
6. Be perfectionist – I know that too much of perfection brings stress in our lives but I found most of the millennial are perfection oriented. Possible reasons could be availability of resources and knowledge sources to achieve this perfection, passion to achieve perfection and too much of competition amongst themselves to prove their presence in team. They like to put their mark on each small / big deliverables and carry pride doing this.
What did I do and learnt: I encourage perfection but not to the extent which would cross deadlines or break the person. I explained required perfection to them and taught making trade-offs between possible perfection in allotted time. While teaching them these techniques, I myself learnt subtle points around being perfectionist and avoiding unnecessary stress.
7. Be Tech savvy – They are true representatives of “Digital Generation” where they are consumers and masters of social media, mobile, cloud, analytics, digital gadgets, online transactions, mobile payments, P2P transactions… How so quickly can they understand and master digital devices? They know new features of facebook, linkedin, Google+, they know new features of iPhone, Android devices and they know how they can use these devices for both office and personal purposes… BYOD is becoming reality indeed.
What did I do and learnt – I understand that these guys are really smart. One – they believe and follow collective wisdom and share knowledge with each other through any and every possible mean. Second – they are not shy asking others how specific phone feature works… I am not expert on these aspects yet but don’t find it odd asking Gen-Y on specific doubts.
8. Be adoptive – They adopt the eco-system quickly. Whether it is change in location, team, city, country and technology, they react fast but adopt the change faster. One of the possible reason could be they find no point being attached to one thing. They understand the dynamism around them and mold themselves to changes around them rapidly.
What did I do and learnt – I have been trying to pick few of these attributes and inculcate in myself. It is tough but not impossible. Being adoptive is the mantra for successful life 🙂
9. Be Curious – Did you find it irritating when 23 year old person keep arguing and questioning your decision in meeting? Please don’t get frustrated as it is one of the most significant characteristic of the millennial. They want to know anything and everything about task you are discussing or assigning to the person. They need to know Why, What and How? They need clarity, they need to know pre and post conditions of the work they are doing and need to know all aspects which you think useless. They are what they are – real curious.
What did I do and learnt – I kept / keep patience (as much as I can). I provide them detail information and ask them to write down questions before they come to meeting. In case, I find few questions vague, I ask for offline discussion and answer those after the meeting. I admire their curiousness though. That has always helped me thinking in 360 degrees and be prepared with known and unknown circumstances and be ready with something which is not in my radar today.
10. Be demanding – Most of them demand better remunerations, perks, facilities, etc. and they are vocal in asking that. They are confident and understand value of themselves. They know how to market and sell them in today’s industry. They can put you in spot and sometimes may threaten you with resignations. You need to keep their morale high, you need to keep them motivated within given constraints and boundaries. KRAs and Goals are important aspects to keep them motivated and easy for you to set right expectations.
What did I do and learnt – I discuss formally and informally to let them know organization policies and constraints. Understand their aspirations and do my best to provide them environment as much as I can to fulfill those aspirations. Also I maintain friendly relations with them so they can come and express their points with me in open environment. More I talk with them, more I understand them and once I understand them, I can expect their demands and manage those in my capacity. While dealing with them I also learn how and what I can demand from them as well 🙂
So in summary, thank you millennial for all your wonderful teachings to me! I am enjoying working and learning with you!!
Note: All these blog posts and views mentioned in my personal blog are my own and NOT of my current and previous employers. I am NOT representing any of my organizations through this blog. This blog is just for sharing my findings based on publicly available information related to interesting things happening in Technology area.