The truly good news is that they are much more collaborative than either the baby boomers or the X generation. They have grown up not dating, but doing everything in groups—always a pack of three to seven of them together going to the mall, to the movies, even doing homework. They have grown up making collective decisions about what to do, where to go and how to do it, all facilitated by texting each other. They have gone through an education system that is much more collaborative than decades ago. This is a great attribute for today and the future as the nature of work increasingly requires creative collaboration and making fast, consensus decisions. Generally speaking, five millennials can come to a decision much faster than five baby boomers, and that makes them better able to navigate the ever-accelerating, ever-shifting workplace.
Millennials also are generally much more technologically skilled than their parents. How many times when they were growing up did their parents turn to them for tech support? They are intuitively more comfortable with technology—particularly anything having to do with computers and the Internet—than their parents because they have grown up with it. Their parents had learn it as adults.
A few months ago, when speaking about this to a group of CEOs, one particular CEO laughingly interrupted me to tell his fellow CEOs a true story about his company. He said that his chief technology officer, who was 47, had told him that to migrate his company from one major software platform to another would take two weeks and cost $6,000. He looked at his fellow CEOs and said: "Do you know what I did? I gave a 22-year-old $100 and a case of beer, and he got it done in a day!"
The millennials have two qualities essential for the workplace of the next 20 years: fast collaborative decision making and a high comfort with and knowledge of technology. As a futurist, I predict that future historians will view the millennials as the generation of leaders and managers that faced and successfully solved many of the large problems we are leaving to them. To paraphrase a famous song by the Who: Our kids are all right!
You've met the millennials! Now, read about the next generation younger than the millennials—the digital natives.
Do you have any parental experiences you care to share about raising your now 20-something children? Share your comment below!