Recently, I have had the opportunity to pitch my new business idea to a group of business leaders. My business is an education center, or a learning lab environment, that will focus on the development of social skills i.e. effective communication, collaboration, building trust, critical thinking, problem solving, and conflict resolution. The twist is that I will be facilitating these skills to both youth and adults by having them work on projects together. During this pitch, one person latched onto a particular topic that has come up again and again and that is the incoming generation into the workforce. “What’s up with kids today? Millennials are the worst.”
Millennials are already in the workforce and have been for the past 10 to 15 years. In that time, a shift has started to occur where those Millennials are changing the way people work. They are starting their own businesses and getting contracted out by larger companies that once housed these positions internally. With the advances of technology, a startup’s reach is global making them successful in their endeavors. With this group of people leaving the traditional workspace, businesses are starting to look at why they are choosing to branch out on their own, why they are choosing risk over stability. Through surveys and testing, words like employee engagement, emotional intelligence, innovation, communication, and collaboration have become buzzwords. Gaps in the educational system and workforce readiness have been identified. The question now is “What’s next?” What are we doing to fix this?
I do believe that the real concern is for the youngest of generations, Generation Z. Those that are still working their way through secondary and post-secondary school. Those that may have part-time jobs or internships. It is a generation that knows only of a world with technology and it is shows as they sit hunched over next to their friend texting to other friends in complete silence. Now, an observer might say at this point that adults have been known to do this too and to that I say, that’s the point of this article.
Let’s step back for a second and consider human development. We are not born with morals and values, we learn them. We first learn right from wrong from our parents, guardians, and family members. Afterwards, we go to school and begin learning them from teachers. During the years of puberty, our peers provide us with our moral compass, and we hope that our children are friends with others who have been brought up with good morals and values. Every step of the way we collect data and store it when finally, as an adult, we become an accumulation of our life experiences, our environment. Depending on our life experiences we struggle or learn to cope and then we contribute to the life cycle by being examples for the younger generations.
So, for those who are asking the question, “What’s wrong with kids today?” I ask, no implore you to remember that these kids are a product of their environment and that includes you. There is a very apparent generational gap between the Baby Boomers and Generation Z where both parties are participating in a metaphorical eye roll. In true middle child fashion, as a Millennial in the middle, I ask both sides to unclench their fists long enough to figure out a way to work together. Resolution can only be achieved by putting aside our egos and realizing both sides have a role to play, a responsibility in “fixing” this problem. Now is the time to start bridging that generational gap to understanding and empathy. Both sides have so much to offer and learn from one another. I can see it, can you?