#wtf do millennials really want?

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Millennials, the upcoming generation of leaders (currently aged between approximately 20-35 years) who senior managers are somewhat anxious about.

Frustrations include: “how to engage, motivate and retain them?”, “how can these youngsters expect to come to work and sit on Facebook?”, “they have an air of entitlement and feel the rules shouldn’t apply to them”

I would like frame this age group not as a new species of strange beasts, but rather as the by-product of where we are at today. As time and evolution would have it, today’s 30 year olds are not going about the art of life in the same way that 30 year olds were 30 years ago.

The common ground here is that we all essentially want the same thing (thankfully) – that is, to create a life worth living, while surviving.

And to do this in the best possible way means to contribute to the broader system of life through having a positive impact in the work that we do. Coming from the recognition that we have a connected, shared agenda allows us to transcend our superficial differences that are showing up in how we navigate through daily operations.

When old-school ‘leaders’ (I mean the ones who manage people and situations from a controlling and fearful position) re-adjust their position to one that is better suited to where we are at in 2015, they will find that there are certain practices that can be made redundant, effective immediately. Namely- any practice that is being done, or task that is being ordered just for the sake of keeping the systems and processes in place. A deeper inquiry will need to go into the purpose behind every action, to understand what ends the action is really supporting. This curiosity is showing up as a dominant characteristic of Millennials, who want to be aware of why they need to do a certain task, and how it impacts the broader aims. If the task does not seem to have a purpose then indeed they would “rather be surfing”, or surfing Facebook- where they at least get some sense of superficial acknowledgement and validation that their actions in life mean something (the validation sickness that currently exists with Millennials in their use of social media, neediness to be ‘liked’, the selfie and #hashtag phenomena etc is another story to talk about).

Taking into account the current rate of change, range of choices available, and the general direction the world seems to be headed- there is simply no time for doing anything half-heartedly or irrelevant. There is also little point in using people just as a means to an end, when the end has not been cross-checked for 2015 relevance.

If you can imagine this landscape, of re-defined relevance, you will see that it would be rather radical, and there would be a lot of energy freed up for people to execute their creative expression and potential. There will be an immense amount of trust and letting go of control that would accompany this process, and, it will most probably not be effective immediately (although it could be, but knowing our conditioned nature it will probably rely on circumstance to force us into this great letting go).

So, to return to the point of this short piece… what do to Millennials really want?

To be relevant.

To have a connection with the matter at hand, to be in the direct presence of life and contributing to something that fits with their meaning-making of the world. If the work at hand has an incongruence with their values, or if they feel disconnected from what the purpose behind the work is, it will be a struggle to retain them long-term.

The sense for fun, adventure and creativity is also showing up as high on the value chain. While some would rather “earn less and live more”, and others “earn more to live better”- whatever the variation in priorities, this generation is recalibrating what it means to be part of the work force and how to play in the game of life.

*If you fall into a ‘different generational cohort’, you will identify that indeed, we ALL want to be relevant. And, this question that keeps popping up around what millennials want can be made irrelevant once we see we want the same thing. The thing now is- what is the best way to BE relevant? and millennials are asking- what exactly is it going to look like, to be a relevant humans in todays world.





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