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Work is a team sport

Gone are the days when the most valued words in an organization were, “It’s ATCO” (all taken care of). Generation Xer’s and even Boomers were focused on taking work from those above them and just getting it done — independently. But a new generation is entering the workforce, shaking things up with their arrival. 

While everyone in the workplace has the ability to work on teams, the Millennial Generation (also known as Generation Y or Generation Next) have been raised with “team.” It began when they were taking their first steps and were cheered aloud by their families. It continued as families with two working parents or a single parent interacted like teams with each person fulfilling their role. The Millennials have done group projects in school, participated in team sports at an unprecedented level, and embraced on-line social networks. 

In a recent survey by Select Minds Research, 77% of Millennials stated that collaboration was the most important driver of work satisfaction; and, 28% reported leaving a job because they felt isolated or disconnected from the larger organization. Yet the older generations have often said, “We need to figure out how to get them to conform to the workplace. Welcome to how “real life” works.” I will argue that it is more productive to take the approach of discovery.

Organizations can discover ways to jumpstart the desire of Millennials to reinvent work as a team sport by creating ways for new Millennial hires to connect with all generations in the workplace. Two ideas that I’ve encountered are to create multi-generation special interest groups and young leader groups.

Both of these ideas have been used to good effect with unexpected outcomes that exceeded everyone’s expectations. The special interest group has created an external team that interfaces regularly with the community, supporting a wide variety of community events and presenting a professional face for the organization that has not been seen in the past. One of the new leader groups that I’m familiar with is now presenting their ideas about engaging the next generation around the U.S. — with full support from upper management. 

Millennials are inventing teams in ways that Generation Y and Boomers have not been able to imagine. Engaging the new generation and any new workforce entrant brings opportunities to change processes and challenge the status quo. The resulting innovations, ideas, and skills have the potential to benefit organizations and communities who are willing to embrace their desire to collaborate.

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