How Do You Solve a Problem Like Millennials?
I’ve seen so many articles over the past few years about the confusing menace that are Millennials, and it’s hard to understand the trepidation with which we’re often approached. Indeed sometimes it feels as if I’m a wild animal or museum piece, with experts trying to piece together the inner workings of my brain from behind a glass window.
Congratulations for coming!
My particular favourite article is from the American Management Association (AMA), which includes tips for managing Millennials such as ‘keep [us] from self-destructing’ and be aware that we’re unable to take bad news. However, the best tip by far is that ‘unlike…Baby Boomers, who had to compete for every award, Generation Y got trophies for just showing up’.
So it turns out we’re fragile children who need rewards for everything we do because otherwise, we’ll fall apart. Got it? Good. The problem is it’s simply not true. For one I came second in Year 6 100m and got nothing, despite the fact that Jack clearly jumped the gun and should’ve been disqualified. But I’m not bitter…
Cheating robbed me of the sacred year 6 100m champion crown.
What do Millennials want?
I want to start my answer with the caveat that, of course, my answers do not represent all of us. But from talking to my Millennial friends and others I’ve met at University and otherwise, I’m confident that I speak for many of us.
Also, I’m not saying that all articles about Generation Y are patronising and untrue; even the AMA article makes some good points. It’s true that, more than any other generation, we want to know the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’. It’s also true that we care deeply about our work-life balance and feeling fulfilled. But the point I feel is particularly pertinent is that we are far more comfortable and accustomed to collaborative learning.
After speaking to a number of Baby Boomers and some Generation X-ers, it’s clear that pre-Millenial education was, for the most part, an individual exercise. You were tested by exams, which meant it was up to you to retain the information and utilise it individually. That’s not the environment I grew up in. We had course-work and countless presentations, speaking of which…
The Guy Who Does Nothing…
Ask any Millenial what they think about group projects. I bet you £100 they let out a groan and tell you they always end up with the guy who doesn’t do anything but takes the same grade as them. If they say they enjoy group work, it’s because they’re that guy. Yet all these group presentations, reports and performances have given us an automatic response to obstacles we face; asking other people. Not only that but because we’ve grown up around technology we’re accustomed to asking artificial intelligence, too.
We might have hated group projects at school and University, but they made us good as collaborative learning
If I don’t know the answer to a question I can ask Siri, or Google it. When I needed an article for my dissertation I’d use Google Scholar. We’re happy to accept when we don’t know something and ask for help – from human or artificial intelligence. Furthermore, because we know where to access information, we have a thirst and determination for knowledge. It doesn’t matter if the question is what show I’ve seen that actor in before or how I can make my website more interactive.
This is important for two reasons. One, our thirst for knowledge helps explain why investing in workplace learning is so important to us. Two, our preference to work with others to defeat obstacles helps explain why collaborative learning experiences should be a key part of these development programmes.
Is It A Competition?
Reaching individual goals doesn’t mean working alone. For example at University, I proofread reports for friends doing subjects I had no interest in, and they proofread mine. We’re innately more comfortable working out solutions together and giving feedback on performance than any other generation. This means collaborative learning experiences for Millennials are hotbeds for new ideas and solutions. I’ve been in workplaces where older members of staff have become more and more involved in discussions and brainstorms to solve their problems because of a sharing culture developed by millennials. It’s an infectious and positive influence on creativity.
The problem with some of the older generations (the kind that writes the AMA article) is that they see life as a competition; it’s a dog-eat-dog world where someone wins and someone loses. They can’t compute that we see things differently. We weren’t rewarded for turning up, we were rewarded for working effectively with others to reach our goals. That’s why using collaborative learning in L&D programmes for Millennials is essential and impactful.
FreshBiz is the perfect activity to encourage collaborative learning, learn more here.