Our Experts | Anna Lemmon
The time has come- according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of the U.S. Bureau data, millennials have surpassed Gen Xers, becoming the largest segment in the workforce. Now, one in three working adults are between the ages of 18-34, making a whopping estimated 53.5 million millennials in the workforce.
What does this mean for all of the workers not in this generation? The previous generations who typically adhere to workplace norms, do their jobs without complaint and go home; the generation that is comfortable with tradition. For the previous generations, this might mean discomfort and change – new policies, new traditions and new workers who seem like your young know-it-all teenagers at home.
But the thing is, this is the most promising, diverse workforce America has ever seen.
The tech boom.
Older generations have historically posed as the younger generations’ mentors. They are wise, well-trained and full of life experiences to share. However, now a generation is entering the workforce that grew up with technology. They are most comfortable holding a phone or tablet, typing at a sleek laptop or taking selfies. They are comfortable using technology, growing with technology and even developing technology. The sheer amount of computational access they’ve had all their lives is unparalleled.
This generation has grown up waiting for the latest product models to be released, uploading, consuming, browsing, liking and sharing. They have more native knowledge of technology than any other generation, and are pretty savvy at adapting. The Pew Research Center also states that 61 percent of millennials have attended college, compared to only 46 percent of Baby Boomers. There is a lot to learn from them, and understandably, this can be intimidating.
It’s time to throw the old norms out the window.
Gen Xers have a lot to learn from their younger counterparts, and instead of seeing it as a threat, they should see it as an opportunity. They not only should, but need to make peace with the new workers and learn something from them they didn’t know before. In return, teach them something they don’t know either. Create a mutual support system
It may seem strange to consider a millennial a mentor, but you have to trust that they do have something to offer. This generation is the most unique to enter the workforce to date. They have challenged the old way of doing things and are going to drastically change workplace traditions, like working in an office, slowly climbing the corporate ladder and having very limited amounts of paid time off. These changes have already started and will only continue to bloom into an entirely new system.
Millennials are happy to help.
Various studies have shown that millennials are more interested in the value of their work than their salary and benefits. They want to contribute to something meaningful that they care about. They also value family and community, showing a greater interest in being leaders in their communities than other generations. With this being the case, they would be happy to help their older workers develop new skills and grow in their work community. They want satisfaction and leadership from their work, and what is more satisfying than helping others learn and grow?
Not only that, but millennials have been guided and mentored their entire lives, by parents, teachers, coaches – everyone. They are used to getting feedback, being pushed in the right direction and praised. This is normal for them, so it in turn is normal for them to do the same for their co-workers when given the opportunity.
And they still want help, too.
Seeking knowledge from a millennial mentor doesn’t need to be awkward, because they still value their elders, too. One Forbes article suggests that millennials seek mentors more than previous generations because they are used to getting advice and feedback constantly, and from multiple people (much to the help of social media). While older workers get tips on new devices and software, millennials still want to please everyone and value advice from workers who have been in their shoes.
It’s safe to say that millennials are probably in every business now, in every office and on every team. It’s time to put differences aside and learn from one another. Have you embraced reverse mentoring?