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How innovation can help you conquer the Millennials

March 8, 2017


Born in the early 1980s through to the early 1990s, the Millennials or Generation Y are taking the place of Generation X, the baby boomers, born between the early 1960s and late 70s. They will be 70% of the workforce in the developed world by 2025. With them comes a new set of values and new challenges for organizations worldwide.

On the one hand, their expectations and goals are quite different from their parents’. On the other, the rhythms and paradigm of life itself have changed. Life, work, production and politics have become independent of time and space. Industries are being disrupted, start-ups are eating away business models and the average company these days lasts about a third of the lifespan of 50 years ago.

The hierarchical structures defined in the industrial society are being replaced by active network systems and evolutive organizational models. The experience economy is spreading rapidly. We are not trying to solve the chaos anymore, we are only struggling to manage it.

Yet any organization’s most valuable resource remains its people. Being so, the capacity to get and inspire the best, most innovative and competent employees and to attract the leaders of tomorrow is still the ultimate key for your company’s success.

The real dilemma
Seeking to survive and adapt to market rapid changing conditions, large companies need more employees with creative and innovative ideas, but these profiles seem to be less and less prone to work there. How can companies manage their corporate culture to attract and retain increasingly demanding employees? What tools and methods can they use to keep teams motivated and engaged?

In a not so distance past, loyalty was key to both employers and the workforce. Then job security became a main goal. If you had the opportunity to work in a corporate company, and if you worked hard, you would have found yourself a lifetime job. But nowadays ‘loyalty’, ‘job security’ or ‘lifetime job’ concepts just seem too detached from companies and employees’ realities – particularly from the Millennials and their cohorts Generation Z.

The generation that follows
Generation Zers were born mid-1990s to early 2000s, a period of crisis and terrorism, global recession and climate change. They share similarities with the Millennials:

  • Both feel under-utilized and believe they are not being developed as leaders or using their full potential in large scale organizations.
  • They think that businesses should be more ethical and society more focused.
  • Personal values have the greatest influence on their decision-making. They would like to be a part of the decision-making process.
  • They believe that values that support long-term business success are the treatment of people, ethics and customer focus.
  • They would simply advise against placing too much emphasis on short-term profit maximization rather than neglecting long-term strategy.

Nearly 2 billion people globally, Gen Zers are more realistic, connected, educated and sophisticated. They are global, social, visual and technological, but more private than the Millennials, and don’t want to be tracked like their older sibling. This explains why Apps like Snapchat are growing.

They are also purely entrepreneurial and planning to be pioneers, not merely settlers in a career. What’s more, Gen Zers are hyper aware of their surroundings, meaning you have 20 seconds only to capture their interest. How can present organizations cope with this?

Innovate to engage, engage to innovate
A Gallup report shows that US companies lose $350 billion in revenue every year due to employee disengagement. Data also shows that employees want to be more innovative at work and want to take more responsibility, telling us that fostering creative environment and innovation initiatives will also nurture motivation, engagement and productivity.

Those leading creative Gen Y and Gen Zers must then prepare to become hands on, coaching style managers, who promote innovation while customizing and calibrating employees’ direction and feedback.

As innovation becomes the natural way of doing business for these generations, organizations must focus on gathering and maximizing their potential. The greater challenge lies in managing this process in an efficient, collaborative and transparent way, using technology as a bridge to make their voices and contributions a real part of the corporate evolutionary path.

In other words, if you allow employees, as individuals, to participate and have a word in building the company’s future together, you can simultaneously find new solutions and opportunities for your business and make your employees feel a part of the company strategy.

Innovation management can help you continuously find new answers, as change becomes constant. It also promotes a collaborative culture, for individuals and the community, answering directly to the main needs and motivations of both Millennials and Generation Z. This means you have not only to promote an innovative thinking in your organization, but also to learn how to get a feel and touch in your corporate culture which inspires and retains these new generations.

Aylin Olsun
Managing partner of ASO Company, Aylin Olsun is a leading consultant on leadership and innovation in Turkey, as well as a blogger and speaker. She previously worked as Chief Human Resource Officer and Human Resource and Internal Marketing VP at well-known multinational companies in Turkey and Central Asian countries for over 15 years.

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