Human Capital Strategy & KPIs

The CFO's Newest Battle: Challenging the Millennial Myths

By Nick Araco posted 03-10-2019 12:58 PM

As our CFO Alliance Members continue to gather around North America to discuss THE CFO’S TALENT MANDATE - LINKING TALENT TO VALUE IN 2019, with groups of finance leaders gathering this past week in Denver, CO, in Chicago, and in Oak Brook, IL, it has become increasingly clear that the rapid pace of digital and technology innovation has greatly impacted generational performance in the workplace.  At the same time, sterotypes about millennials in the workplace have also become the new norm.  However, as Crystal Kadakia, author of The Millennial Myth points out many of the behaviors being tagged to millennials (By the way, millennials are typically defined as people born between either 1978 or 1982 and 2000 - and will make up half of the workforce by 2020) are not 'millennial behavior,' but are actually shared markers for the culture in many of today's workplaces.  

So, to all of us who at some point in time have pointed a figure at a millennial in our workforce and said 'Ughhh, millennials,' I challenge you to think about things differently.  I know that I, and an increasng number of CFO Alliance Members believe that if we simply choose to view the millennial generation only as defined by their stereotypes without truly understanding all that they have to offer in the workplace, there is a high likelihood that we will also fail to engage the future generations as well. And, that does not bode well for us and the enterprises that we are attempting to lead and serve.

Several questions have been raised in The CFO Alliance Community that I will pose to you for consideration.  How can we attempt to re-think our approach and understanding of the millennial workforce? Are we really all that different?  Are they actually just being more transparent and honest than we are about what matters most to them - and are not afraid to say it and live by it.  

Well, let's consider one of the critical points that Kadakia raises in her book.  Shouldn't we all be focused on finding fulfillment in the work that we do each day, and share concerns about how the work that we do each day benefits the broader community and the world at large? We, like millennials, in some degree are seeking purpose, beyond profits.

In addition, while millennials seem to require extra time and effort from you, as leaders, to provide them with ongoing direction, feedback and explanation behind decisions that are made, one could say that a millennial's' seemingly constant desire for feedback could actually be a sign of loyalty to you and to the organization they work for.   As Kadakia points out, their need for feedback "serves a single critical purpose:  it allows one to course correct.  Remember, this generation has grown up in an age of constant technological advancements and innovation.  Millennials have always had to adapt to build skills rapidly.  If we, and the enterprises we lead and serve can embrace and harness that agility that millennials tend to have, then we, and they, could certainly lead more profitable, engaged and productive workplaces (and lives) than our competitors.  As Kadakia say, "organizations that help [millennials] discover and leverage their strengths and passions, while having a clear commitment to valuing employees, have a distinct advantage with talent."  

So, maybe, Kadakia is right when she says that it's agility, not hand-holding. It's seeking purpose, not being disloyal.  It's respect redefined, not authority issues.  It's productivity redefined, not being lazy.  It's entrepreneurial, not being entitled that define the millennial workforce -- and that in order to lead in 2019 and beyond, we must be transparent and collaborative leaders who do not fall prey to the dangers of preexisting bias like this. More to follow in this...