Is your business ready to embrace the millennial mindset?
Much is meant in mockery – the description of the millennials, their sense of entitlement and their unrealistic career expectations. I’m not quite sure from where this stereotype emerged. It describes the generation who were born into the internet powered, globalised economy who all go to college and university and expect a career at the end of it. The youngsters (now not so young) who are still not old enough to know they don’t know everything. But to me, this is not a new phenomenon. When I hear this generation described in derogatory terms I recognise the description in my younger self. I was naïvely self-confident when I first went out to work as were my peers. We were mocked and put back in our place from time to time like every new generation of workers but I, like many others, refused to lose the naivety or the self-confidence because it allowed us to think differently and change the world.
I clearly remember in the mid 1990s being barely old enough to be credible, addressing an audience of captains of industry having between them centuries of professional experience and explaining to them how e-commerce would change their businesses. It was in a private room at the Ritz hotel in Mayfair – a prestigious venue in London – and the chairman of a very large UK retailer protested in horrified tones. “We have only just trained our customers to do their own picking from the shelves and you’re telling us we’re going to have to go backwards and deliver to their door?” “Yes” I said.
Self-confident and naive I was – but I was right.
I brought up the subject of the millennial mindset at another prestigious venue a few weeks ago – Canon’s solution centre in London that showcases some of the most exciting technologies around today. I was talking on the topic of P2P transformation – how purchase to pay will be transformed in the coming years with the help of some emerging technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation and Block Chain. These technologies are going to change the supply chain and P2P landscape forever. It will become unrecognisable and in order to take advantage of the opportunities, business need to be ready to embrace the mindset that will be essential for these changes to take effect. Just as the mindset to embrace e-commerce in the 1990s was one that could take on the unthinkable, so the mindset for P2P in the 2020s needs to one that can do the same. Accounts Payable won’t be the boring, dusty, back office function that it used to be – it will be a vibrant technology enabled strategic function that will attract ambitious, young, career minded people. That is quite a change – a welcome one, but a very big change.
The thing about millennials is they are no longer a joke. They are the influencers and fresh thinkers who expect the technology in the work place to match the technology in their pockets. Employing and retaining talented people in their twenties and thirties will mean offering them opportunities that meet their expectations however unrealistic or naïve you think they are. Give them paper processes or decades old technology to work with and they’ll simply go elsewhere and any organisation that wants to thrive needs to understand the importance of embracing the millennial mindset.
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin