The home phone or landline in my house used to ring so often at night. It seemed that the call was always for someone else rather than whoever answered the call. They would have to shout, “The phone’s for you!!!!” Nowadays, when we place a call, it is almost always answered by the one we are calling. The day we pulled the plug on the family phone, it felt weird. It made me wonder, what other “plugs” have been pulled?
Millennials or GenY have overtaken Boomers as the largest generation. They have grown up in a world that is digitally connected in one way and totally unconnected from many traditional ways in the other. Cell phones and social media have been a force in our hands that have unplugged the home phone, the newspaper and, in a lot of ways the local news cast. Access to information has been greatly decentralized allowing for greater individual autonomy. How does this affect the workplace that millennials are inheriting?
If you ask most young workers entering the job market, they would tell you they favor collaboration and shared decision making over top down leadership. This one aspect may concern companies desiring to stick to traditional corporate models. The thing is though, that while this wave of young workers may push for companies to pull the plug on workplace hierarchy, they will inevitably plug in these organizations to a new model that can harness the changes digital tech is bringing with it.
Some time ago, we sent out a poll to faculty and students at our institution asking them where they got their daily news and information and … where they thought the other group did. The millennial students guessed correctly that faculty (basically their parents) were regular newspaper and cable news subscribers. The interesting thing was that most faculty guessed that students were also consuming their daily information from the traditional outlets when in fact … social media and web channels are where students got information about global and local happenings. This process of unplugging tradition, replacing it with or plugging in new ways can be unsettling, but it is something that we need to navigate as we lead millennials.
In his article titled “How Tech Savvy Millennials Humanize Your Workplace” for Fortune.com, Art Papas states, "Millenial or Gen Y mindset rather than a demographic, says there has to be a way to make this easier, faster, more flexible and efficient. Mobile, adaptable - everything I need and nothing I don’t. A way to make the way we interact with the word more personal, inclusive and intuitive. “ 2017 technologies from drones to smart-cars to apps like Slack and Snapchat will continue to fuel this gradual but dramatic unplugging of whatever is less than immediate in our communication and work together.
What this means in working with millennials is that we must be keyed into what channels they use for communication and how important it is for them to feel a certain ownership of what they are tasked to do. Lest you worry that all chaos is coming, there is still a need for a voice of balance and good tech stewardship in our leadership models. A good detective may be able to uncover “who pulled the plug” on traditional leadership models and communication practices but the more pressing question is, “What is being plugged in?” More than ever, the opportunity is here to not only teach a new generation, but also to take what seems innate to them and apply it to our swiftly changing digital landscape. Simply put, this changes everything. How will you adapt?