September 5, 2012

Millennials Ready for Work? Absolutely!

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millennials at perforce

My job entails a lot of reading about technology and the people that work with it. An essay titled Here's How To Deal With Millennials Who Aren't Ready To Face Real Challenges on businessinsider.com caught my eye recently.

The gist of the article is that Millennials (persons born between roughly 1980 to 2000) are not well equipped to contribute successfully in current work environments. Aside from the tradition of every older generation to bemoan the inadequacies of a younger generation, the article broadly stereotypes the behavior of an entire generation of workers.  It must be a competitive advantage for any company to sidestep this narrow view of millions of potential employees. And where there are conflicts, isn’t it our role as companies and managers to provide an environment where people can be successful?

Perforce, I am proud to say, has long embraced the value of generational diversity with an active internship program that has brought key talent to the company. Some of those internships were a decade ago now, and have produced seasoned leaders within the company.

We’ve had a very different experience than the businessinsider.com article describes with the so-called Millennials at Perforce. We’ve learned a lot from our youngest employees, and found them to be highly productive, good at building cooperative work relationships, willing to ask hard questions, and willing to question beliefs when appropriate.

While there are many potential reasons for these skills being well developed, I’ll call out the growing opportunities to work in open source prior to joining the workforce as an important learning tool. Open source work creates early exposure to organizational and political issues around technology, not to mention the values and rewards of giving freely to a community.  As a side note, I’ve written and spoken about some ways to adapt open source principles to a corporate environment in my 2011 Perforce conference blog and talk, Creating a Culture of Contribution.

It’s not all about youth, though. At Perforce, generational diversity strengthens us both directions, to the older as well as the younger. Similar to the stereotype-busting experiences with our younger employees, we’ve found that notions that employees with longer resumes are not as adapt as working with new technology to be a myth as well. That’s a competitive advantage for us, as it casts the widest net over the talent pool.

What stereotypes do you hold at your company about age and technology, and how could they be holding you back?