The 1997 Apple Campaign Think Different was a celebration of those who change things and move the human race forward and gave those of us who felt like misfits, hope. For me, the copy launching the campaign reads as a prophecy of the Millennial Generation — their mindset, behavior, and the societal shifts we are experiencing because of them.
The Millennials are different. They not only think different, they act different, and for some reason some of us now don’t like different? Rather ironic as we all thought we were different when we were their age. More to the point, it appears some of us don’t want to deal with different because it requires us to change. Well, I hate to be the one to say it, but that is your monkey, not theirs, and smacks of misguided self interest.
You need to get over it, otherwise our legacy as Leaders will not be one that is viewed in a positive light. This generation of young adults is coming to power whether you like them or not (with an equally large generation Z quickly following in their footsteps), and as the Apple ad so aptly said, The one thing you can’t do is ignore them.
As the Leaders of America’s organizations, companies, and corporations we need to step up, do our jobs, and be Owls and Dolphins. Owls have the capacity to see and act on the big picture. Dolphins are the best communicators and connectors. We need to figure out how to cultivate and reward entrepreneurial spirit, diversity (in all senses of the word), interest in social impact, desire for direct interaction, making things better, and their digital and mobile savviness.
But, I hear you say — why should I invest in them if they’re going to up and leave after a few years? So some will leave after a few years! This is not a new phenomenon. I certainly left a good number of companies — misfit, remember. The longest tenure I had at any one company was 6 years. The average tenure at a company, today, is about 3 years. And, it will only get shorter if we don’t do something. Worse, we could find ourselves trying to explain why our businesses can’t recruit the talent we need. 66% of Millennials say they don’t want to work for a company or corporation.
So my question to you is what are you going to do to attract and retain today’s young adults? Here are 5 ideas to get you started:
1) Recognize and connect with their sense of community, their values, and belief in culture. (Jack Skeels, MediaPost.)
2) Admit change never happens from the top down. Change begins as “local actions” (The Lifecycle of Emergence, Berkana Institute). In other words, start small. This is an evolutionary process not a coup d’état .
3) Skill up! This applies to everyone, irrespective of title or seniority. A more transparent and inclusive organization demands we all develop or polish our human-centric (life) skills, the so called soft skills. We all spend too much time behind our screens and this behavior has diminished our ability to communicate and connect face-to-face.
4) Integrate a Lifewide Learning approach as part of the culture. This is about personal growth, not personnel development. Today’s young adults are acutely aware that their education did not prepare them for life after school.
5) Provide transparency based on a culturally relevant narrative and an evidence based system. Ultimately, it is about measuring success — the company’s, the individuals and teams internally and, social impact externally.
Cultivating the next generation of leaders and innovators is a legacy I can certainly live with. Can you? Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Gaynor Strachan Chun is Co-Founder of TCoY: The Culture of You. A company focused on helping youth, young adults, and the next generation of leaders develop the skills needs to better navigate life’s big transition and our changing culture and workplace. To do so, we create and curate, self-directed learning courses, interactive curriculum for education platforms and professional development labs/workshops for workplaces. TCoY is an inter-generational, inter-disciplinary, diverse team with extensive expertise in media, entertainment, youth studies, and graduate education.