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The top 3 things a Gen X employee can learn from millennials in the workplace, by Dennis Powers - Cheeky Monkey Media

The Top 3 Things a Gen X Employee Can Learn From Millennials In The Workplace

I work for a growing business solutions provider. We make our client’s businesses and organizations better using technology.

As the oldest member of the team (only by a couple of years, in my defense), and because we work in a “have fun, but get the work done” environment, there are comments and names like “Dad” thrown in my direction – but never in a negative or hurtful manner.

At the start of this year, we hired 3 young Millennial team members. They were added to my team to work in sales and marketing capacities.

Our company is great at many things, and hiring the right team members for our culture is something we’re exceptionally good at. Our new team members fit in perfectly and immediately began contributing to our continued growth and success.

I know that one of the secrets to my continued success is to never stop learning.

  • I learn from experiences (good and bad)

  • I read regularly

  • I constantly surround myself with people that I can learn from.

I also have the benefit of being the father to two amazing Millennials, and I learn something new and of value to my life professionally and personally from them all the time.

So, I knew that these three new team members straight out of their colleges and universities would teach me something of value, I just needed to be open to receiving the fresh nuggets of information they would be willing to share.

Here’s what this Gen X-er has learned from the Millennials in our workplace over the last six months:

1. Being authentic, honest, ethical, social and community-conscious are key to building business relationships more than ever today.

Now you may say, “This is nothing new,” but I’ve learned that Millennials instinctively take this to a new level, above what we Gen X-ers do. I’ll share a case in point:

I was on a sales call where my Millennial associate was helping present the solution and scope of work that would solve our client’s business problem. This was our final presentation and we had been conceptualizing this solution with the client for the past couple of weeks so nothing that we were sharing was new except the budget.

In preliminary budget conversations, we hadn’t calculated project management and admin costs into our estimates. Our mistake.

In that presentation, we were going to be surprising the client with a cost for his solution that was 20% more than he was expecting… Something we weren’t looking forward to.

As we were setting up for the call, my associate said that we should address the pricing issue head-on off the top of the call. I asked why?

He told me that he wanted us to develop an open, honest and transparent relationship with our clients.

While I felt that we had maintained open, transparent and honest relationships with all our customers, we can draw the line anywhere as to how open, honest and transparent we are.

For some of us, the right amount is learned, but I believe Millennials know this instinctively, especially when doing business with other Millennials.

I had to concede internally that we would typically delay discussing the pricing issue with the client until after we confirmed we have identified the right solution and how it will help move the needle for his business. We were being strategic with our transparency, while my Millennial associate wanted to be authentically transparent and more vulnerable.

I decided to let my associate lead off the call. He addressed the pricing issue off the top, prefacing it by saying that it was important that we’re open, honest and transparent, and that we had made a mistake estimating his budget earlier.

The client thanked us for addressing the issue first and for our honesty and transparency, which was essentially a positive start to the presentation.

The presentation was excellent.

2. Being entrepreneurial and innovative, even if you’re an employee you can drive positive change in an organization.

I consider myself entrepreneurial (I’ve started and exited a small business), but I’m the first to admit that when you’re head down trying to drive sales and do your part to help grow a company it’s difficult to lift your head up above the business and find ways to work smarter and be more effective. Case in point:

Unsatisfied with the results from our current sales and marketing materials, our new Millennial team members took it upon themselves to strategize, plan and completely revamp our sales and marketing material.

I was very impressed with the hard work they put into the project and with their ability to present the new material to us and then train us on how best to use the new material.

We continue to measure and tweak and build upon the good work they did and were very impressed with the initiative they took to make this positive change to our business.

3. There’s a passion for learning… And then there’s a passion for learning.

As I mentioned earlier, I like to continually keep learning, but Millennials are passionate about learning! Where they find information, how quickly and how much they consume and it, amazes me, and I’m thankful with how freely they share what they learn and the sources they learn from.

Some of the most innovative and controversial thought leaders that I learn from today have been shared with me by one of my Millennial sales associates.

Just today before this article was completed, we were in our weekly sales huddle when our CEO issued a challenge to the team to continually tweak and optimize our sales and marketing emails. Well, before we had sat down at our desks after that meeting, our Millennial marketing associate had sent us a link to training information on writing better sales and marketing emails.

So, be open to the new Millennial hires in your workplace you Gen X-ers. Be open to learning from and supporting them in their new careers. You’ll learn a lot from them that will help your career and will help you in staying relevant to Millennials who are surpassing Baby Boomers as the largest generation.


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