Experience Required? Of Generations, Culture and Resilience
By Benedicte Flouriot
They have been called self-absorbed and entitled. They have been dubbed job hoppers and lacking work ethic. More than a few times, they have simply been called “the worst generation.”
That said, older generations have always stereotyped and ridiculed younger generations; there is nothing new here. What is new is the number of generations sharing the workplace—and that the youngest have immense strengths in addition to a thing or two to learn.
While the Millennials have taken a lot of flack in the workplace, they can be credited with forever changing our workplace culture. What then is the truth beyond these stereotypes? While Millennials defy such stereotypes daily, one area of particular concern is resilience.
Millennials to Define 2020 Workplace
However, much rests upon Millennial shoulders in years to come, and a very real demographic shift is already underway that has many organizations concerned. According to a study by PriceWaterhouse Cooper, Millennials will account for 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020. As such, they will define the culture of the 21st century workplace and organizations need to be prepared by taking the lead now.
In the face of growing adversity, the issue of Millennial resilience needs to be addressed. Many recent studies show that there has been a decrease in the ability of young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life. The lack of resilience is interfering with the emotional and personal development of these young people, and therefore affecting their performance at school and in their first jobs.
Helicopter Parents and Failed Systems
The younger generation does not have the same resilience factor as the previous ones, partly due to helicopter parents, a schooling system failing to prepare them for the inevitable disappointments, failures and pitfalls in real life. The question is: are they less resilient or are they just responding to difficult situations in a different way?
Any human can be resilient. This is not a trait that you have or do not, but instead a behaviour that can be learned and developed. Everyone is resourceful and capable of resilience—and there is much that organizations can do to support Millennials in their development. More importantly, it is key for organizations to do so—to spend time, money and energy on developing this trait in their future and current employees.
The “Bounce Back” Advantage
In short, resilient employees adapt well in the face of adversity, recovering quickly from difficult experiences. To an employer, this “bounce back” ability is invaluable. You want your problems to be fixed and your challenges to be overcome. You want to avoid any potential storm and provide a calm climate to your clients, suppliers and partners at all times. Non-resilient employees are as apt to “skip the ship” in such storm as they are to freeze without knowing what to do.
This makes resilience as desirable a core competency as imaginable when building a team, whether from within or the ground up—and is not Millennials alone who are challenged. Interestingly, the adversities which allow resilient individuals to shine often do so by allowing them the opportunity to develop their other competencies further. If there were no difficulties, there would be no new competency, stasis would reign and people would stagnate. Adversity inspires exploration and innovation when properly presented.
By not investing in your employees’ resilience, you are basically endorsing incompetency and over time, this will impact your organization growth, employee retention and overall success.
Courting and Building Resilience From the Start
Here are a few tips for sourcing and sustaining resilience in the workplace that apply to every new hire regardless of generations—and are of particular importance regarding Millennials:
- Consider altering your interview process. Use behavioural questions to get a better idea of your candidate’s personality and to assess their resilience and emotional stability. i.e. Describe a situation in which you needed to work under pressure for a long time. Tell me about a time when you sought feedback from others. Tell me about a time that you experienced failure.
- Give them access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help them identify and clarify issues they are facing, solve their problems and to develop coping skills. This will give them the responsibility and ability to deal with many problems on their own.
- Show them who they are. There are many psychometric tests and tools that can help your employees better understand how they operate at work. Provide them with the right tools for self-discovery, create confidence in their strengths and abilities, and help them develop a positive view of themselves.
- Assign them a mentor—a go-to person who is not their manager. A mentor serves as a role model who they can trust, offering encouragements and reassurance. When adversity strikes at work, a mentor can be a great emotional support while giving practical advice. Good relationships such as with the mentor/mentee are a major resilience factor.
- Be a leader, not a boss. Assign your employees meaningful responsibilities that will demand their attention and make them think critically. Adapt your management to each employee, as they are all different.
- Forget about yearly appraisals and inspire respectful, mutual—but critical—dialogue on a daily basis. This will create space for transparent and spontaneous conversations.
- Share you vision with clear directions. Give them the possibility to improve by telling them what you exactly expect from them. Make them grow by sharing honest feedback and what needs to be done.
Resilience is core to any enduring culture and developing resilience is a personal journey for every generation—Millennials certainly included. So, while we may all have have work to do on the resilience front, organizations will witness much faster results if you support and drive those efforts.
Benedicte Flouriot is a career and leadership coach, working with clients across industries and continents to find the career they were meant for and ways to excel within it.
(PeopleTalk Winter 2017)