(What Every Parent, Teacher, and Student Should Know)
The New Rules
The Millennial Generation (born between 1982 and 2001) started entering the job market in about 2004.
Since then they have grown as a percentage of those in the work force (this will continue until at least 2027), and they have recently started moving into significant leadership roles (this will continue until around 2048).
This shift is remaking the culture of work in some remarkable ways.
If you plan to have a job, a career, or own a business—or have children with such plans—any time between now and the year 2050, knowing the changing rules of the new economy is vitally important.
Here are some of the most important, as outlined by Abby Ellin in Psychology Today (March/April 2014):
- Workers and leaders increasingly think respect must be earned, regardless of age, title, or position.
- Workers and leaders increasingly demand autonomy for when and where they work. They want to work in the middle of the night, on weekends, or whenever they choose—and to take time off whenever they want. As long as their work is high quality, they think this should be the norm. This flexibility is much more important to them than the level of their salaries, titles, or benefits.
- Workers and leaders increasingly want “an important job that gives them a sense of purpose and also has a positive impact on society.”
- Higher numbers of workers and leaders are increasingly entrepreneurial—willing to do it better than the company they just left.
- Workers and leaders are increasingly distrustful of hierarchy and position. In the email/social media age, they except equal treatment and access for everyone.
- Workers increasingly see good careers as those that can be mostly done from their laptops.
- Workers and leaders increasingly want their ideas to have real and immediate influence. If they aren’t listened to, they frequently quit and move on.
- Workers and leaders increasingly want to stay very closely connected to their families and friends, throughout life. They don’t see moves or job changes as interfering with this. Relationships are just a laptop away.
- Workers and leaders are increasingly quick to quit and move to another job, or no job at all while they look for something better. They don’t stay if they don’t like the job, the environment, the flexibility, etc.
- Workers and leaders are increasingly more interested in information for the task at hand than in broad training or education. They believe they can find the information they need whenever they need it, in a short time period online, so they don’t clutter up their minds with lots of expertise that isn’t necessary right now.
- Workers are increasingly likely to see themselves as leaders, and leaders are increasingly likely to see themselves as workers. The differences between the two are blurring.
- Worker-leaders increasingly see innovation as the key to success, and they see free time as the most important period of creativity, innovation, initiative and ingenuity.
Not Just Contrary
Whether or not these traits last after the majority of Millennials have families, mortgages, and children to support remains to be seen.
Many articles and reports take a pessimistic view of this, calling Millennials entitled, disrespectful, unfocused, arrogant, disloyal, selfish, impatient, etc. But much of this may amount to typical older-generation concerns about the “young people these days.”
This is a pattern that has been repeated for generations.
Ellin’s view seems to be that the Millennial values are here to stay, that they are, in fact, an excellent match for the current Information Age.
“…Millennials’ behavior is totally functional for the world they inherited. They don’t respond to traditional hierarchical organization? Sorry, there’s no longer enough time for that. The economy demands constant innovation, and the ruling-by-iron-fist model is not nimble enough for reacting quickly. Millennials are simply trying to do better.”
These changes are now a reality, and they promise to increase for at least the next decade or two. Anyone hiring people during this time, or seeking a job in this environment, should understand these emerging new realities.
The Covert Curriculum
Though some people seem surprised by this shift in the economy, Alvin Toffler predicted these changes in 1980 in his classic book The Third Wave. He wrote:
“Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the ‘overt curriculum.’ But beneath it lay an invisible or ‘covert curriculum’ that was far more basic. It consisted—and still does in most industrial nations—of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work.
“Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time, especially assembly-line hands. It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning. And it demanded men and women prepared to slave away at machines or in offices, performing brutally repetitious operations.”
Sandra Tsing Loh called this “high class drone work,” the work done by many professionals and executives today—the very work some parents encourage their children to seek through private school and Ivy League education. In the new economy, it is becoming less desirable.
“To prepare youth for the job market, educators designed standardized curricula. Men like