The Value of Millennial Groupthink

Photo Credit: Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015

Like everyone else I know in the events industry, I work with millennials — at One Smooth Stone, at client sites, and basically everywhere. Millennials long ago became a thing. Since 2013, millennials have easily outpaced those for baby boomers as a Google Trend.

Recently a colleague of mine gave me some advice about millennials: to manage them effectively, you have to understand that they don’t just hold their own performance accountable, but they also hold the performance of their teammates accountable. They want to know how they stand in their careers, but they also want complete transparency regarding the performance of their peers. I guess you would call this mentality the new groupthink.

Intrigued by what I heard, I searched for some insights into millennials in the workplace, and I was quickly overwhelmed by the research available. It turns out that we don’t just work with millennials, we analyze the heck of out them:

  • In a 36-page report, the Bentley University Center for Women and Business says that “Most college-educated Millennials share a negative view of their peers’ work ethic, but women are more likely to say their peers simply aren’t willing to cede control of their personal lives to the demands of a job.” Oh, and “Career success is important, but personal values take precedence over professional goals. The importance of these values only increases with age.”
  • Meantime, the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, researched by Achieve, tells me that “Beyond compensation and benefits, Millennials are more likely to stay at their company when they perceive their talents and passions being used and fulfilled. The next biggest factor in retention was bonds with co-workers, followed by belief in the company’s mission and purpose.”

Even the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is writing reports about millennials. In a 21-page report, the organization urges executives to “Give them freedom. Gen X and the Millennials are often self-reliant and don’t always look to a leader for direction. Their goal is to complete tasks in the most efficient way possible, while still doing them well. So don’t force them to work under a management style that boomers often preferred, with the boss giving orders. Give them the freedom to make their own decisions.”

All the advice sounds well and good, but I’m up to my eyeballs in running a company and managing events. I don’t have the time to wade through reports to understand more about why millennials care about the performance of their peers (although the concepts I did uncover gave me better insight into millennials in other ways). So I took a far less scientific but more revealing approach: I talked to a few millennials in the office.

I repeated what I had heard about millennials taking an active interest in the performance of their peers. “That’s because millennials are more likely to learn in groups,” my millennial colleagues told me. “In school we were assigned projects in groups and were assessed as groups. People who didn’t carry their weight let the entire team down, which encourages everyone on the team to care about the performance of everyone on the team.”

The logic makes sense, and the educational style certainly differs from the more self-directed forms of learning in high school and college that I experienced. (Yes, I am not a millennial.)

The millennial style of groupthink suits the events industry perfectly. Events are the ultimate team effort, requiring collaboration from people with diverse backgrounds, temperaments and skills. One weak link in the chain can cause an entire team’s performance to suffer, and when a team doesn’t measure up in our industry, the audience feels the mistakes.

I’m hardly an expert on managing millennials, but I’m glad I spent some time talking to the millennials at One Smooth Stone. Call my experience a small focus group. Based on what I’m seeing, I’d say that when today’s millennials are calling the shots, the events industry will be in very good shape, indeed.

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on June 25, 2015. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com

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