By Chet Yarbrough
By Jason Ryan Dorsey
Narrated by Joshua Swanson
Jason Ryan Dorsey’s book is an insightful look at the 1977 to 1995 American’ cohort known as the “Y” or “Millennial” generation. Three observations by Dorsey are that Millennials: 1)are not tech savvy but are tech dependent; 2) are participants in the work place that includes, for the first time in history, four different employee generations; and 3) that money is not “Y” generation’s primary motivation for work.
Accepting Dorsey’s observations requires reassessment of how employees are managed in the 21st century. Tomorrows’ leaders will come from the 86 million Millennials, a bigger population cohort than Baby Boomers (those born from 1946 to 1964, the so-called demographic “pig in a python”).
A universal constant in organization leadership and management is the nature of humankind. Human nature does not change. Even though every generation is raised in a different environment that influences how each views the world, human nature is immutable.
Human beings, from the beginning of time, have been motivated by three things. One is wealth, defined by money or possessions; two is power, defined by control of lives; and three is prestige, defined by social standing. The only difference is in the weight each is given by a particular generation. All three motivations are present in every generation.
Millennials love technological gadgets; not because they know how they work but because they know how to use them. Today’s managers, regardless of their generation, acknowledge many productivity improvements are from technology. Today’s organizations need to capitalize on Millennial’s interest in technology. This is a win-win proposition because technological improvement is a motivational tool for retaining “Y” generation employees that will also boost organization’ productivity.
Dorsey notes, for the first time in history, four different generations may work in the same organization. Many, if not most, 21st century organizations are managed by what Dorsey calls Matures (WWII generation and older), Boomers, and “X” generation leaders. All three are trying to figure out how to get the best out of a rising “Y” generation that does not seem to buy in to a generally agreed management philosophy. Here is where organizations seem to be in a funk.
According to Chip Espinoza, Mick Ukleja, and Craig Rausch in their book, “Managing the Millennials”, Matures (these authors call them Builders), Boomers, and “X” generation managers have learned how to work with each other but are having trouble with “Y” generation employees that do not seem to care about work.
Dorsey explains that “Y” generation employees value time like money. Life style issues are important to all generations but work-time is viewed differently by each. Matures look at work-time as security for staying with one employer for most of their career. Boomers look at work-time as a vehicle for proving their commitment to producing desired results that will lead to success in other jobs with other employers. “X” generation managers see their organization’ role as an integral part of a balanced life.
Questions rise about “Work to Live” vs. “Live to Work” when it comes to the “Y” generation. Without meaning to overgeneralize, Dorsey infers Millennials opt for a “Work to Live” life. To a millennial, job security is a fiction, careers are ephemeral, and life balance is overrated.
Dorsey’s solution is to bridge the gap by recognizing that “Y” generations’ focus is on outcomes rather than processes. Working weekends, longer hours, skipping vacations, etc. are de-motivators for most employees but particularly for Millennials that enter the work force as a generation that has been financially supported through school and only lately become aware of work requirements in a capitalist society. Because of Millennials’ life experience, Dorsey suggests that Matures, Boomer, and “X” generation managers become more flexible with time at work by focusing on outcomes needed for organizational success.
This refocus on outcomes rather than process is an organizational effort that can benefit all employees in an organization. It is not to suggest work times can be eliminated but that work times may be a focused management consideration when determining corporate objectives. To Millennials, time is money, one of life’s three basic motivations. Viewed in that light, time-off when outcomes are satisfied, are reward for jobs well done.
Dorsey also notes that Millennials have lived a life of positive reinforcement from parents, teachers, et/ al. that has engendered a sense of entitlement. Millennials earned a reputation as the “me” generation that requires more frequent management feedback on performance than is presently practiced in most American companies. Rather than quarterly or annual reviews of performance, Dorsey suggests monthly reviews; not lengthy written, file stuffing exercises but brief ten minute interviews that may include constructive criticism and/or honest praise when warranted.
Dorsey has many suggestions about what can be done to motivate and retain “Y” generation employees. He creates a sense of urgency by noting that they are the future of an American way of life. Dorsey’s fundamental observation is that managers need to understand what motivates their employees and adapt their organizations to accommodate future needs in a way that continues to achieve organizational objectives. Human nature has not changed; i.e. it is simply valued by different degrees of need for money, power, and prestige. Nothing Dorsey recommends violates standard management practices suggested by great teachers and consultants like Peter Drucker and William Edwards Demming. (Of course, that may be the prejudice of a baby boomer’ survivor.)
Matures’, Boomer, and “X” generation’ managers have to learn how to suspend their ideas about what works in an organization and listen to Millennials to mutually develop a view of organizational needs that will continue to improve American’ prosperity and stability. The underlying motivation of all generations is found in human nature. Understanding human nature; meeting generational needs and desires, make the difference between organization’ success and failure.
Matures and Boomers are on the cusp of retirement. The “X” generation is too small to dominate the American system of organization management and leadership. Millennials are tomorrows leaders and managers. Current organization managers and leaders need to help Millennials grow into their futures. Millennials are the energy of America’s engine of future prosperity.
60 Minutes Review of Millennials: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3486473n