Feb 28

Millennials: Fast and fearless – Local – Ohio

What would the world be like if millennials ran the show?

In their own word: Chaotic.

It can’t be helped, according to eight representatives of the generation brought together in a Beacon Journal focus group.

Millennials (currently ages 18-35) were raised in an accelerated society. There’s no time for long, methodical processes. By the time some committee finishes its analysis, the next big thing will already have gone to market.

So when something needs to be done, just tell them what the outcome should be, then avert your gaze. It could get ugly.

While their parents learned to work very systematically through steps 1-10, “we might jump to number 10 and then come back and get friends to fill in 6, 7, 8 — and actually, things get accomplished faster than being caught up in the process,” said Cristina Gonzalez Alcala, 30, a research associate.

The focus groups were funded by the Knight Foundation and facilitated by Alice Rodgers of Rodgers Marketing Research to explore the issue of who will lead the community as baby boomers age out of the workforce. Boomers and Generation X were also asked to define themselves and share how they view each other.

While the millennials admitted to being chaotic, they said their style breeds innovation. They are the first Americans who didn’t need to adapt to a digital world — they were born into it. So just trust that they know what they’re doing.

Adrienne Bradley, a 31-year-old nonprofit program director, said her generation is thinking: “I know I’m going to please them. I know they’re going to love what I do. I just don’t want to be confined in this box.”

One thing that frees them to jump in feet first is their acceptance of failure as part of the process. Older generations may equate failure to shame, but millennials take to heart the mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

“You do things wrong. That’s how you grow. That’s how you learn,” said Kendra Philon, a 33-year-old certified public accountant.

“I think of us as enthusiastically naive,” Gonzalez Alcala added. “We just think we can own the world and not worry about it.”

They are superior collaborators. Lack of fear means having no qualms about admitting personal limitations.

Unlike generations whose pride demanded they solve problems on their own, “we feel comfortable with bringing other people in that have strengths where we maybe have a weakness,” said Lashawrida Fellows, 34, a human resources manager.

The millennials say they know their confidence can resemble cockiness. Their eagerness can come across as carelessness. Their speed can read as aggression. Their disdain for rules can seem disrespectful.

But there are reasons they behave differently than earlier generations.

For instance, their parents had a reason for sticking with a single employer for decades. There was the promise of a pension, perks that come with union seniority, and a business culture built around the idea of employees staying until retirement.

Those concepts largely don’t exist in modern America. So if a job isn’t meeting their personal needs, why stick it out?

“We’re loyal to a cause, not the organization. So if your organization is working toward that cause, but we see inefficiency or resistance to ideas, we might jump to another different organization that allows us to grow,” Gonzalez Alcala said.

Some of their drive is fueled by a socially connected world that can make them worry they’re not moving fast enough — or serve to motivate and inspire them.

Gone are the days when you had to wait for a class or family reunion to see how you measure up. Now milestones are publicly proclaimed daily.

“Everyone posts the happy stuff on Facebook, so you see how well everybody is doing and how people are moving up really quickly in their career, and I think, ‘I want that, too.’ A little competitive drive never hurt anyone,” Bradley said.

Millennials see room for improvement in the pace of their lives.

They tend to be so busy juggling different interests, they often drop the ball. Good luck trying to plan an evening with a group of them, one focus group member said. Expect some to show up late, and others, not at all.

They also admit to their ever-present need to stay connected.

“I hate that I can get a table with six of my friends and at one point everyone is on their phone,” Bradley said. “Let’s have a conversation. I did not come out to hang out with you on Facebook.”

And while they were raised in a world where the answer to everything can be accessed immediately by a smartphone, Theron Brown, a 28-year-old musician, said he sees that as “a gift and a curse.”

Generations that came before had to learn how to learn, a process that helps “internalize” information and promotes long-term retention, he said.

“Whereas, we just look it up,” Brown said. “It’s just information. Got it. Gone. Onto the next thing.”

What boomers say

Statistically, the parents of most millennials are baby boomers.

So what do mom and dad think about junior? There is both pride and concern.

“My hope for the world is that generation,” said a 67-year-old dad who admires his two 20-something daughters and their “vision to help.”

Research backs up the notion that millennials are more civically engaged than their immediate predecessor, Generation X.

But that doesn’t stop boomers from worrying that their youngsters have ants in their pants.

National surveys of millennials indicate job-hopping is the new norm: Millennials expect to have 15 to 20 employers in their lifetime.

One boomer with a daughter in her 20s affectionately called her his “problem child,” typical of the generation’s inability to stay focused.

“They’ll start in one direction and you wave something shiny in front of them and they’re gone in a completely different direction,” he said.

A mother nodded in agreement, thinking of her own 23-year-old who changed her college major twice and then considered chucking it all to become a flight attendant so she could travel.

“And I’m like, you have a semester left of school, don’t do it!” she said.

The idea of flitting from job to job when the going gets tough is a foreign concept to an older generation that was taught to hang in there and create change from within.

“They are very bright people, very technically savvy, all the great things that you should have right now,” said another mother and consultant, “but it’s ‘I want that today.’ Not by earning it or working up the ranks.”

One thing they love about today’s young adults is greater acceptance of diversity. Boomers marched for civil rights half a century ago, but admit to being fairly homogenous in their own social and work groups.

It’s their children who brought home prom pictures of same-sex couples.

“You go to the Gen Xers, you’re not going to see same sex couples in those pictures, which I think is a major shift,” said a clergyman.

Boomers agree with the self-assessment by the millennials that they are too attached to texting, Instagram, SnapChat and other high-tech forms of communication. But perhaps surprisingly, they don’t think the generation has lost interpersonal skills because of it.

One mom said her son has yelled at his parents for using their cellphones at the dinner table.

“Our kids have great communication skills. And I think most of them do because they’re involved in a lot more than we were.”

Another boomer laughed: “My grandma said the telephone was going to be a problem.”

Gen X on millennials

While more civically engaged, millennials are less likely to vote. And that is slowing the pace of change in the country, Gen Xers say.

A modern world needs a modern voice, and Gen X would like to see their younger peers join them at the ballot box. Otherwise, boomers — a committed voting generation — will continue to “run the world,” one focus group member said.

Gen X representatives were torn over whether their younger peers can communicate efficiently.

“They don’t know how to do a face-to-face conversation. They can’t talk on the telephone. They send thank-you notes via text. They Facebook. Email is archaic to them,” said a bank executive. “So I look at millennials as a generation that they’re going to be loners because they don’t know how to communicate.”

Others think young adults simply communicate differently and that it works for them.

“I got my first computer when I was in middle school. It was very primitive and I didn’t even know what email was until after college,” said an accounting firm partner. “So I think that generation being exposed so early has big implications on how they see the world.”

There is broad consensus that millennials are as ethereal as the wind.

“I think if they are not immersed in something right away, they’re out,” one Gen Xer said.

But there was also agreement that as leaders, they would be more inclusive, collaborative, fast and fearless.

“We have a very well-developed leadership program staffed with millennials,” said an IT manager for a local manufacturer. “And they’re motivated, they’re smart, they don’t have a problem taking on something new. They want the experience and they want to grow.”

Stereotypes aside, millennial leaders may prove better at “taking on all the pressures,” keeping up with fast-paced technology, and “still living in a world that values accountability,” a Gen X partner in a law firm said. “The capacity is there.”

Source: Millennials: Fast and fearless – Local – Ohio

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