We don’t need to change the workplace for MILLENNIALS, we need to change the workplace for EVERYONE

We’re at peak millennial

So it’s official. We’re at peak millennial. There’s never been more articles written about how millennials are ‘transforming the workplace’.

But here’s the catch. Just about everything I’ve read on how millennials are ‘reshaping the workplace’ is complete rubbish.

Try some of these timeless classics that have popped up in the press over the past months:

And the fun doesn’t stop there…

And if that wasn’t enough, try this high quality quiz from Time:


Quiz from Time

None of these headlines have anything to do with millennials

In making a generalisation about millennials, it’s worth starting by asking whether the same statement could be made about the rest of the workforce.

This is probably my favourite example:

News article

I’m not joking. This is really a headline in “breaking news”. And for me, it’s one of the best illustrations that people are just using the “millennials” trend to repackage universal truths about work. Because really, who doesn’t want money without the hard work?

In fact it reminds me of some other great headlines, like:

  • People like money!
  • Ice-cream back in fashion!
We do need to reshape the workforce. But for everyone, not just millennials.

At the core of all these articles is the suggestion that we need to reshape the workforce for millennials. Here’s some of the common themes:

  • Workplaces everywhere need more flexibility (to deal with millennials)
  • Better results come from mentoring, not management (for millennials)
  • It’s time for better work-life integration (as demanded by millennials)
  • Context of the bigger picture helps drive engagement (for millennials)
  • It’s time to rebuild the way we give feedback (to millennials)
  • We need to rethink the role of authority and hierarchical structure (because millennials don’t like it)

I agree with most of these statements. But only when you exclude the brackets.

We do need to radically reshape the way we work. But we don’t need to just do it for millenials. We need to do it for everyone.

There’s a number of big reasons that we need to reshape the work. We need to reshape work because we’re facing a productivity crisis. We need to reshape work because knowledge work has never been more complex. We need to reshape work because input and output have never been more disconnected. And we need to reshape work because technology is rapidly redefining what work can be.

But all of these reasons affect the entire workforce. And yes, these trends are accelerating at the same time as millennials are joining the workforce. But they are not happening because millennials are joining the workforce. As my Statistics 101 lecturer from many years ago would remind us all: Correlation does not equal causation.

We do need to have hard conversations about the future of work. But reshaping the workplace isn’t going to happen whilst we’re caught up on the millennials bandwagon. They’ve arrived at the party at the right time. But the future of work is a conversation for all of us.

Have you seen any silly articles on millennials that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments what other funny headlines you’ve seen…

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