How the Millennial Mind-Set Could Affect the Workforce—for the Better

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Sometimes great things come at a cost that at first glance seems too high to pay. The “I’m OK no matter what” mind-set could be hurting some Millennials’ potential to achieve. Yet their confidence also leads them to believe that every problem comes with its own set of solutions, and they’ve been taught to partner and collaborate to succeed. They’ve been instilled with the belief that it is in fact possible for everyone to win. If you get a group of Millennials together to deliberate, they end up with an agreement; if you ask a bunch of Boomers to try to work out their problems, they just end up with some very sophisticated blaming techniques. (“I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m just saying that your ideas won’t work under these conditions!”) Just turn on your TV and watch the news; it’s full of gray-haired people in disagreement.

Most people in their 20s don’t need to be as right—or make others as wrong—as previous generations. They are also much less prejudiced and much more tolerant. This collaborative impulse will likely improve economies worldwide. But it’s the desire to focus on working smart rather than working hard that will change the world forever. Freed from the belief that effort and long hours are the foundation of innovation, they are uncovering new technologies to make more time in life for fun and to make their jobs meaningful and enjoyable.

People who don’t like their jobs don’t do a good job. That’s a fact, not a theory. For Gen Y to reach its potential (at work and in the world), they must find engagement in their workplace. According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, 70 percent of all employees are not engaged at work. Disengaged employees are much less productive, which has led more than a few top business consultants to consider disengagement the biggest issue in corporate America. In short, hard work is not as productive as liking your work, because your commitment and awareness are lower. Working long hours with maximum effort while you are emotionally disengaged also increases your chances of making mistakes, according to Evolve Performance Group, a research firm that has surveyed thousands of employees in 46 countries and 28 languages.

Even more interesting, Harvard Business Review’s “Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance” outlines some basic keys to engagement: (1) knowing my boss cares about me; (2) seeing a clear path to leadership; and (3) knowing how my job helps the company be successful. Frequently cited by Millennials, these engagement factors are all about feeling valuable in order to perform better at work—not about performing better so they can feel valued. That’s something to consider. Gallup surveys have shown this for 70 years, but still leaders have touted long hours, hard work, and inflexible conditions—until recently, as we’ve seen Gen Y CEOs changing the model. What do you think the engagement levels are at Facebook and Google?

When Gen Yers come of age, based on what we have seen so far, they could be the most productive workforce in history. It’s just that they might do it by showing up at 10 a.m., leaving at 5 p.m. (with a long lunch in there somewhere), and maybe fitting in some work late at night. The future never really looks exactly right to older generations. But it may be that it took this many generations for mankind to figure out that hard work is what you do when you don’t really know how to succeed.

Garrison Wynn is the author of The REAL Truth About Success and The Cow Bell Principle. He has been a contributor for the Washington Post and speaks on personal influence at conventions worldwide. Visit his Web site, www.Garrisonwynn.com.

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