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  • Writer's pictureBianca Smith

Corporate SA’s adaptation to Millennials.

I am an interesting case in that I am not quite a “Millennial” neither am I part of “the old school”. You see, I celebrate my 41st birthday this year and that makes me too young to relate to my Parents generation and seemingly too old to completely consider myself a Millennial. So I guess I am stuck somewhere in between and it is brilliant! I have the inclination to leverage platforms such as this like the Millennials but I have experience in working in the “old school” corporates and at one point in my life, I did aspire to only have one job for my whole life.

Perhaps my point will be made more effectively if I demonstrate my perception of the differences between these two different working classes.

  • “Old School” working class consisted of many males whilst women decided to stay home and care for the family. This is different now with Millennials rubbishing this perception of gender appropriate roles and opting to have more equality between males and females both at home and at work;

  • “Old Schools” worked out or a single occupant office or defined workplace whilst “Millennials” only know open-plan workspaces. Open plan workspaces didn’t exist 20 years ago;

  • “Old Schools” worked almost exclusively during the working hours because technology at the time didn’t allow remote working much. Millennials on the other hand tend to not keep working hours and prefer the freedom to decide. Millennials in fact work much longer hours and working rom home of the weekend appears to be a norm as opposed to an exception;

  • “Old Schools” tended to have fewer employers. Rather success to them was demonstrated through their loyalty to an organization and rising through those ranks. Millennials by contrast move employers on average every two years.

  • “Old Schools” represented their organization in all that they do, even socially. Millennials by contrast have a desire to represent their own beliefs and values in their personal time as opposed to merging their identity with that of their employer;

  • “Old Schools” demonstrated respect through their diligence in following instructions. Millennials demonstrate respect by challenging beliefs to achieve an optimal result and to better understand;

  • “Old Schools” worked through collaboration by exception. Millennials work through collaboration as a norm;

Hopefully I have demonstrated the point that between the 60 years plus and the 30 years of today, things have changed in the workforce. In my opinion, the reasons for this change include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Technology improvements;

  2. Mental health awareness; and

  3. Successful social justice campaigns.

These reasons or rather root causes will not be changing moving forward. Instead they will become more a more demonstrated as time goes on. For this reason, the millennial workforce will constantly evolve away from the “old schools”. So reasonably, we see an existing and evolving workforce whereby “old school” beliefs have no place in organizations of the future.

In my personal blog, I have recently detailed how I lost my job because I couldn’t physically be in the office whilst I had to homeschool my daughter during level 4 COVID-19 restrictions.

The CEO of this company proudly announced that he is old school” and will not change. I fear for these organizations because they will not succeed in reversing these changes that we see in the workforce. I believe that if organizations do not adapt to the changing workforce, they will be left behind. Their values and way of working will be viewed as archaic and they will not achieve the minimum efficiencies required to exist in their respective industries.

I do assume that some industries can withstand this change in workforce but it very limited – I can imagine that only organizations that are fully automated could operate on a basis where the millennials may impact them the least. All other industries will not be so fortunate.

So based on my experience, there is one specific warning sign to organizations that they need to change the culture, way of working and values to accommodate the millennials – your attrition rate is increasing resulting in a loss of institutional memory within your organization, despite efforts of making positions more attractive. As an example, the CEO that fired me last week is the only person in his organization that is 16 years old, who is in the employ of the organization for more than a year! As a result, all institutional memory remains with him. He finds finds himself in a n operational crisis whereby he can not delegate to anyone and thus does not trust the work-products of his team, although they all aspire to be loyal. His business will not grow. His strategy will not be achieved. He is likely to stagnate and at worse, regress.

Its disheartening to see this because the millennial workforce will not regress. Rather, with technology changing with the deliberate intent to increase efficiency, the workforce will remain in a state of evolution thus forcing organizations to change the same. Efficiencies and effectiveness will continue to improve as we get older. The question of organization is simple – how do they harness that?

Here are my thoughts based on my hybrid work experience of having a foot in both work forces:

  1. I need to feel respected especially, I need to be respected for my unique way in which I respond to all my responsibilities and obligations. These include my personal life and my work life. For this, there is a certain amount of flexibility required on the part of my employer so that I have the space to attend to both work and personal lives responsibilities. Success in achieving this balance gives my life a sense of purpose.

  2. My employer needs to trust and believe that I value my employment. As such, I will prioritize my work product and my success within the organization;

  3. Employers need to encourage employees to have a well defined personal life which is complimented by their work. I do not and will not assume the identity of my employee on their terms. If I choose my work to form part of my identity, it will be my choice.

  4. Employers must respect that fact that we may not share values. As your employee, I am obliged to comply, adhere and respect your values whilst I am at work. It could be that choose otherwise in my personal space and that should be encouraged – differences make debate and debate create optimized outcomes. For example, Mining companies can not shun employees who have a firm believe in a greener future.

I can only hope that “old school” organizations wake up and adapt. I hope that they realize that the “old schools” are in their retirement phase in life and that any organization that intends to been here for the future generations, need to embrace the “millennials”.

In my next blog, I intend to discuss this again but in line with the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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