Understanding Millenials

It is amazing how the pursuit of knowledge increases our search to find answers to events that take place around us. As I become immersed in this program, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, I realize the complexities that inform the steps we take to resolve our challenges. The decision to pursue this program at an advanced level was grounded in complementing the experiences I gained as a Human Resources Practitioner at the executive level. It is expected that when one moves into this realm, the focus is on strategically aligning the vision of the organization with that of the human talent. I cannot speak for all in the field of Human Resources, but there has to be more intense discussions at an organized level with respect to transforming Human Resources from a passive to an active participant at the executive table.

Retrieved from Google Images, February 16, 2014

I have had the opportunity to attend conferences and meetings with other like minded professionals in the field. The conversations are usually robust and the presenters inspire in those hours, a renewed interest to develop leaders in the discipline. There is excitement abound and that excitement is palpable. Ideas become catalysts for new projects that will solidify the practice and engage those who still see the function as purely a paper related role. Human Resource leaders are encouraged to earn designations and certifications to assure hiring parties that they can add value to the office. Being certified as SPHR or PHR is a requirement for most organizations in the North American environment. I have no fight with that. But is our focus more on certification or the competence of the individual being hired?

Certification is important. Like with any discipline, one must remain current with the immense data that hits year after year. Equally important is attending those seminars, conferences, professional/career meetings, to not just sharpen our awareness of innovations in the field, but to also challenge us to be innovators as well. I detest (yes, it’s a strong word), the view that we have always done it this way so it’s the best way. Yes, the traditional way may continue to meet the standard but aren’t you just a bit curious as to what would happen if we added another layer to the current way business is conducted?  We need to ask questions and the responses should inform how we improve what we currently know.

In a recent discussion with a Dean at a prestigious university, the topic of how Millenials differ from previous generations emerged. I was not at all shocked at her observations because these shifts happen at every generational turn. As a Generation Xer, my parents as well as other adults in their age group bemoaned the fact that many of us did not represent the values that were foundations for success. Our tertiary level aspirations motivated many of us to go into traditional roles and others still wanted to define their own destiny. Sounds pretty much like what my parents and others in their time did. Hearing the concern expressed by the Dean, I began to think of a project that Human Resources practitioners as well as sympathizers to the discipline, that could be developed to aid those who had a difficulty understanding what motivates Millenials and how to address that before they became employees.

Times are different. Our world has transformed to coded strings of ones and zeros, captured in small devices. From the CEO of large corporations to the junior high student, our constant companion is a smart phone or a tablet. In such a world, the concept of face to face interaction is fast becoming a chore for many. Social dysfunction and an inability to write with academic precision are outcomes of the digital age.

Those in Academia as well as Human Resources need to partner and explore creative means of  readying our current crop of potential hires for enterprises. Our goal should not be an attempt to stifle their identity and their emerging values. Instead our goal should be to help them contribute in a positive way their impact on the organization.

Transformation of any entity accompanies narratives of success. The failures are tools that can help to improve dysfunction. We have to encourage dialogue about how and why we fail. For many it is difficult as in some societies, it is frowned upon to reference any form of failure. Failure is construed to be a weakness. But if we accompany stories of failure with the individuals own narratives of success then we construct a visible image for those who struggle with similar challenges. We must be prepared in this act to bare our souls, like any intervention that attempts to create change.

Be mindful that we will be hiring Millenials. Also recognize that many of us will have Millenials as bosses. Now is the time to engage. The future has to be in part, shaped by what we do today. Our failure to seize opportunities that allow us to understand the drivers of each generation will leave us perplexed as to how to address the needs of our talent base. As every practitioner knows, a great deal of time is spent “putting out fires” or in other words settling disputes and managing conflicts. Our environment makes us more reactive and diminishes the time that could be spent enhancing the strategic intent of the organization.

I am now in the process of developing a guide to assist business folks, not only those committed to developing and testing HR practices, but those managers who have other portfolios. The goal is to help them engage their team. To achieve active engagement, there is an expectation that the leader must demonstrate behaviors that inspire trust. Trust in my experience, removes skepticism and opens the door for true engagement, irrespective of where we fall on the Generation Spectrum*.

Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013

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