As someone who manages a team, one of the most interesting sessions I attended at this year’s SXSW Interactive was “Generation Mash-Up: Y Bother?” The discussion was about bridging the gap among the generations as they collide in the workplace – highlighting how they are different and what you can learn and appreciate from each.
Interestingly, the interaction among the panelists demonstrated the generation gap right there on the stage. We heard from Joanna Coles, Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan; Pete Cashmore, Founder / CEO of Mashable; and Olivier Fleurot, CEO of MSLGROUP. Coles and Fleurot are both driving forces in extremely competitive industries they’ve led for years. Cashmore founded Mashable at age 19, and it’s now one of the most popular technology news sources in the world. The interactions, communication styles, and even body language of the panelists were very different, and together they demonstrated that no matter what your age or experience level, you have the ability to be extremely successful in your own right.
Something Cashmore said that’s stuck with me is that “the ability for people to create personal brands has changed everything.” What only big companies could do before – create a brand – people can now do for themselves, using a variety of platforms. These spaces give them a voice, the ability to create their own content and connect with others, even celebrities or other people they might never have had access to otherwise. It’s natural that this has aided younger employees in coming to expect that same level of expression and communication in all aspects of their lives.
As Millennials enter the workforce with these personal brand and entrepreneurial mindsets, companies need to find ways to foster the “intrapreneurs” – entrepreneurial people working at more established companies.
Not only do we have to make room for Millennials, we also have to understand that even the Millennial generation is divided and will likely continue to divide in the future. A sub-generation will likely emerge, as the younger Millennials are growing up in a culture with even more extremes of change. We need to prepare for the fact that they’ll have different needs and perspectives than the older Millennials.
But the larger point is that when our differing expectations combine in the workplace, everyone can win, if we respect each other and listen and lean on the best things everyone brings to the table, whether that’s an innate understanding of technology or a wealth of business / life experience.
It was a great panel offering a lot to think about. You can pick up some other insights from this cool real-time graphic wrap-up that Image Think did during the “Y Bother?” session.
For more coverage from our team at SXSW 2014, see Redesigning the Workplace for Talent Development, Designing for Every Screen, No Screen and Between Devices and Should Brands be Part of the Real-Time Conversation?