When most people think about mentors, they tend to envisage a senior professional imparting wisdom to a younger protégé. While this practice is undoubtedly beneficial to the growth and development of junior team members, we wholeheartedly believe that there are also lessons that senior staff can learn from younger employees.
Considering the seismic shift in culture that has taken place in the last two decades and the technology that has driven it, Millennials and members of Generation Z have come to the workplace with new attitudes, expectations, experiences and habits, many of which have disrupted the traditional workplace model to create better environments and drive efficiencies at every level. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top eight lessons you can learn from younger team members that we believe can benefit your business:
1. Diversity doesn’t come in strands
Millennials and Gen Z recognise and make a pronounced effort to improve diversity at work because they have been raised with a multi-cultural mindset. Thanks to the rise of the internet and 21st century globalisation, younger generations have an innate sense of mass-interconnectivity; their constant exposure to a melting pot of cultures through social media means they see diversity through an intersectional lens. Leaders could undoubtedly stand to learn from this approach, and by adopting an intersectional discrimination policy, they can create a culture of care and respect.
2. It’s what’s inside that counts
Swanky offices will always serve to impress new candidates, but the rise of Millennials in the workforce has turned the spotlight to the working environment, encouraging leaders to deliberate the kind of culture they want to promote. Considering we spend such a large portion of the week at work, an inclusive environment and sense of community can go a long way in attracting and retaining a diverse and highly productive workforce. Listening to the suggestions and thoughts of your younger team members can help you to gain insight into the areas that could be improved to make this a reality.
3. Mental health matters
Considering the economic downturn that formed the backdrop of their formative years, it’s no surprise that Millennials are often labelled the anxious generation. While the topic of well-being in the workplace may not have been on the agenda in times gone by, Millennials have made great strides in tackling the stigma surrounding mental health, ensuring it stays at the forefront of employer priorities. It goes without saying that the wellbeing of your workforce is non-negotiable in the success of your operations. The younger generations are inspiring leaders to address mental health at work for those with existing issues, those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole through support groups, schemes and initiatives.
4. Impatience is a virtue
Millennials are often branded as impatient; their need for instant gratification giving them a bed reputation as ‘job hoppers’. In most cases, Millennials impatience is born from a desire to enhance their skillsets and achieve lofty ambitions. With 42 per cent of Millennials deeming learning and development the single most important benefit when deciding where to work, employers would be wise to embrace the enthusiasm of their younger team members and nurture their potential rather than dismissing their impatience as a negative attribute.
5. Ethics are everything
According to research carried out by Global Tolerance, 42 per cent of Millennials want to work for organisations that make a positive difference in the world. Moreover, 44 per cent thought meaningful work that helped others was more important than a high salary and 36 per cent would work harder if their company benefitted society. With purpose overtaking pay for younger generations and social consciousness on the rise, businesses are increasingly giving consideration to the value they can add to society and how this reflects on their employer brand.
6. Digital communication improves efficiency
Raised during the digital era, members of generations Y and Z have come to expect instant access to information: if they want an answer, they simply Google it. Likewise, in the workplace, Millennials and Gen Z don’t schedule a meeting to get an answer – they take advantage of digital communication to send messages in a group channel. Call them tech-addicted, but it is this dependence on digital tools and drive to find quicker solutions that has seen Millennials disrupt the traditional working environment and push for infrastructural change across almost every industry.
7. Transparency equals respect
Research has repeatedly shown how Millennials and Gen Z employees want a leader they can trust; they want a boss they feel comfortable talking to and someone who isn’t afraid to show their vulnerabilities. When an employee is kept in the loop of developments within the company and senior management operate with transparency with regard to the overarching goals of the company, they are naturally much more likely to put their trust in their employer.
8. You don’t have to be at work to work
In a recent study from Pwc, findings revealed how Millennials work well with clear instructions and concrete targets. The report suggested that managers should therefore not focus on where a task is completed but the quality of the work produced. If an employee is hitting their targets and are more productive at work, it shouldn’t matter that they aren’t desk-bound for eight hours a-day. Many organisations seeking to attract top Millennial talent are taking advantage of digital collaboration tools and embracing flexible working policies to foster a culture that centres around trust and value rather than time-keeping.