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How to Do Team Building With These Young Millennials

How to Do Team Building With These Young Millennials

During a recent Toronto team building session, while waiting for teams to reach a Pit Stop, I was asked this question by the senior executive (I’ll call him Sam for this purpose) in charge of the event. The way Sam described his concern was:

During the past 6 months, we’ve hired over 60 campus recruits for various business units. Several of our managers have noticed that these younger workers are starting to come to work with outrageous hair, tattoos, crazy body piercings and weird clothes. How can we put a stop to this without risking the loss of these very bright… but very strange looking… young workers?”

We soon found ourselves totally engrossed in a conversation that was both informative and surprising. I — being a boomer, and Sam — being a GenX — come from quite different experiences in the work world… particularly in dealing with generational issues.

I suggested that we had to begin with an historical look at how dress codes have challenged organizations for decades – from scandalously short “flapper” dresses during the 1920s, to ironed straight hair in the 60s, to body piercing in the 90s. It will likely be a never-ending source of generational tension. So we all might want to do your homework before thinking of launching any dress code battles.

For instance, did you know that for the first time in organizational history, we have FIVE generations working side by side? This has never happened before, so it’s no surprise that managers are feeling challenged by this generational mix within their teams.

According to an interesting article in these GenZ workers (who are now in their 20s to the early 30s) will soon represent the biggest chunk of the American workforce. The article reports that some experts suggest that it’s time for older generations to spend less time judging and more time trying to connect with the millennials.- especially the often-grouchy Generation Xers, (who are mid-30s to late 40s) and whom seems to have the most impatient relationship with its younger siblings.

Forbes’ article references work by Jamie Gutfriend of CAA’s Intelligence Group which is a division of the Creative Artists Agency that focuses on analysis of youth-focused consumer preferences and trends, who state “a full 86 million millennials will be in the workplace by 2020-representing a full 40% of the total working population.”

The Intelligence Group studies report some critical data about GenZ that all organizations need to integrate into their HR policies:

  • “64% of them say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss,
  • 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
  • 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  • 74% want flexible work schedules.
  • 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.”

When Sam and I concluded our conversation, my best advice to him was to objectively assess whether the “weirdness” is truly a problem for his work environment, his safety policies or his client service. He should try to find ways to work around the issue, and avoid an all-out confrontation. You won’t win, and you probably do have the best candidates in those jobs. You’ll be losing top talent during a time when this age group is positioned to begin taking over the labor market, one retired baby boomer at a time. You might win this battle, but definitely not the looming talent war.

Photo by diffus_

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