Are We and the Millennials Ready for Change?

18 Oct

For years, we have debated the need for change (HR and Business) in a monotonously repetitive way and finally change seems to be in the air. Not, however, based on agreement or consensus between the debating parties, but more, it seems, based on what we believe the millennials expect in a working relationship.   This is somewhat unprecedented, that we care so much about what the new generations want, that we are prepared to abandon principles and ways of doing things that we (many of us) have clung to for decades.

At least this way, people do not have to admit that they were wrong (or debate whether they were) but develop and prepare for change based what the millennials want. The possible explanation is that we did it right for our time and we are now changing it, not for us, but for new generations (a new business model) whose needs are different.  

A cynic may claim that the needs of earlier generations were equally profound, but in the past, they were suppressed.  This time around, there is more acceptance that the millennials will set the pattern for the future. That is hard to dispute, as earlier generations inevitably fade out of sight. The old generations (as throughout history) are being replaced by new generations (including millennials) and this time we are promoting change earlier than usual, possibly before the millennials change their mind or mellow and adapt to their “designated” role in society.

Whatever the reason, it is time for change and we are more ready for change and that is good. Do you agree? The millennial style business will be more efficient and more inclusive (so they say) and one aspect of the desired change that is strongly publicized is the need for frequent and real time performance feedback. How will this affect the traditional way we conduct business?


  • The traditional HR performance management program will be dropped or extensively reformatted – used more for coaching than evaluation? Do you agree?
  • Real time evaluation (by the direct supervisor) will be based on real time work performed and using relevant work criteria aligned to the goals of the functional unit
  • There will be ongoing disclosure between the supervisor and employee concerning performance level and both will have access to relevant online data and tracking processes


  • Whatever may be said about millennials wanting ongoing feedback (and coaching) it will only be welcomed from a manager/supervisor who is respected. If annual feedback is resented, more frequent feedback from a similar style supervisor will be even more resented
  • Millennials giving feedback to other millennials is no guarantee of greater success. Once people from any generation establish their place within society and adopt related values, earlier homogeneous qualities may rapidly dissipate


  • If work measures are as objective as possible, employees are more likely to accept them as valid. Supervisor opinion about the attitude or personality of an individual (as at present) could be challenged as intrusive or subjective and resented rather than welcomed as helpful. Most supervisors do not have the skills to make such judgements
  • Objectivity based on work criteria established at the outset (and clearly measurable) is essential partly due to the projected greater proportion of the workforce who will be contract and temporary employees. There is not time to delay work evaluation and base it on cumulative factors and personal assessments rather than real time work performance

These are just a few thoughts about current changes in the workplace. Do you think that change is being prompted primarily by the reported different needs of millennials, or is it change that most people accept as necessary and particularly because of technological change and our related greater capability to meet business needs without overcomplicating?   One aspect I have not addressed is recruiting. For certain positions, the process may be more analytical and complex than at present, but for the majority it could be primarily online with limited personal intervention – a fast and efficient system, particularly for contract and transitional positions. What do you think?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.




8 Responses to “Are We and the Millennials Ready for Change?”

  1. Luisa Carou Ferreiro (@luisa_carou) October 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Totally agree with every word. Great thoughts! Little hesitant on the recruiting part but you might be right? With the adequate tools used by adequate leaders and recruiters, faster is a probability. Mm, More root causes there than just a new generation! 😉

    • ianclive October 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      Hi Luisa,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Recruiting is certainly an area that can change drastically and it may be based more on a new, more effective way of management, that caters for and embraces a greater diversity of employees than at present and makes recruiting less complex. For example, if better management allows us to get the best out of employees while they feel quite engaged (committed) at the same time. The winning formula! Let’s see what happens!

      Thank you so much Luisa. I really appreciate your great comments!


  2. Jon Windust October 20, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    This is very much in line with my thinking Ian. I have been using these practices for a number of years. They are important not just for millennials, but all generations.

    In terms of how this came about, was it something about the new generation or some other factor, I believe it is technological change. New technologies remove some of the need for hierarchical control. Skill and the right answers are more valued than position power. Technology also raises the bar in terms of people’s expectations. Millennials have grown up with new tech and their expectations are in line with a faster more instantly responsive world.

    Everyone benefits from the new approach. Once experienced, I believe all generations will value it.

    • ianclive November 11, 2014 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Jon,

      Sincere apologies for not responding earlier to your comments. You make great points about the impact of technological change on hierarchical control and the change in expectations of millennials in our more instantly responsive world.

      I agree with your comments and thank you, belatedly, for expanding this discussion in such a helpful way.


  3. Chuck November 11, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    Great read. Always interesting to see what is going on in corporate world and in particular, the tension between workers and said businesses. I recently read a great post on Entrepreneur Magazine titled “The Harsh Truth: Your Employees Don’t Care About Your Business the Way You Do” ( and I must say I found that quite an illuminating read. The gist basically was that employees and employers have values/interests that are basically in conflict! Very true.

    Personally, I left corporate world and I now work for myself. I was never the 9-5 type anyway. I’m 28 y/o if that sheds any light, and if I can speak for myself, perhaps a few others, personally I couldn’t see how my brains, my “true” usefulness would be best utilized in a corporate setting. I mean, I didn’t spend over 5 years in college to wind up another cog in the machine so to speak. Irrespective of money matters. Okay, a million dollar paycheck might change things a little bit ;), but the overall sentiment still stands. Just so many restrictions on freedom to be in “your element” and do things the way you KNOW you can work done (legally of course). Maybe this speaks to poor management, who knows. I fear many people’s potential may be wasted trying to make a square peg fit into a round as is inevitably the case in the job hunting process. It’s basically find a job, then find aspects of your personality that fit with that job, possibly compromising others in the process. Anyhow, enough of my diatribe, thanks for the piece.

    Oh, btw why set the body type in bold? It decreases readability. Bump up the font size instead and leave the bold to headlines no?


    • ianclive November 11, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      Hi Chuck,

      Thank you for your very interesting comments and observations. Thank you also for the link to the “The Harsh Truth: Your Employees Don’t Care About Your Business the Way You Do” article. What is stated is obviously true and it is equally true that: “The Harsh Truth: Your Employer Does Not Care About You the Way You Do”. That is reality and has always been. Employment in general is not a matching of beliefs or mutual concerns, but a professional commitment by both parties based on an offer of payment for work performed. Depending on the individual and work environment it can be fun and personally rewarding but the basic contract is about a means of income to support the personal interests of employees outside of work e.g. accommodation, car, travel, interests and entertainment, taking care of a family, etc. etc. Employees SHOULD be thinking about finishing work for the day and getting on with their own agenda. People are best able to live their values in their personal lives rather than at work, but choice of work can be important depending on the level of income needed to fulfill personal life goals.

      A self-employed person, in many ways follows corporate values in the same way as an employee in a 9 to 5 environment, the difference is that they are his or her values to the extent possible. A 9 to 5 person may not be particularly enthused about the work, but there is a clear start and finish after which the person can devote time to his/her personal life and with a regular income to support whatever costs money. The average self-employed person may not only have less money, but also less time to enjoy life if he/she has to spend a great amount of time marketing the personal business (possibly including evenings) just to get enough income to survive. With less opportunities for permanent work, many people unsuited to self-employment and the sales/marketing component may be forced to try to go it alone and many aspects of personal freedom may be somewhat limited.

      Just some thoughts. Thank you very much, Chuck, for your excellent and thought provoking comments.

      Very best wishes,


      p.s. I have used another font, but am not sure how it will transpose.

      • Chuck November 12, 2014 at 3:38 am #

        Thanks very much for your response Ian, some great points you raise, in particular, the hours one can put in as a startup. I believe though there is a significant difference in that you basically “do your own thing”. Many of the points you raise interest me deeply as well, mostly this:

        Employment in general is not a matching of beliefs or mutual concerns, but a professional commitment by both parties based on an offer of payment for work performed. Depending on the individual and work environment it can be fun and personally rewarding but the basic contract is about a means of income to support the personal interests of employees outside of work

        Now, I have my own agenda as does anyone else ;), but this mindset can be very telling. It is a bit of a broken system no? Maybe time to rethink? I guess what I’m getting at is that with both parties highly, combative, adversarial even, how much productivity is being lost?

        Personally, this is only in my case, I have had to shake as much as I can centuries, millenia of thought processes and norms as it relates to “work” and “career”. I was having quite a great conversation with a buddy of mine twice my senior over a couple of drinks one Sunday afternoon and he mentioned some things that really stuck with. Basically he was recounting stories of how in his time, he was “taught” that the way you “get ahead” in life is get a degree, or trade etc. then go find a rock solid job in a blue chip company (for life usually). As I sat and thought about this, I’m thinking to myself, what about encouraging kids to become entrepreneurs and innovators? Where has that gone? Now I won’t go on label his generation as ones to blame, they were and are doing what they’ve always known. But, I also do know there is a tendency to pass on “this is the way we’ve always done it” to younger generations and any deviations from that perceived norm are either outright met with hostility such as “you’re wasting your life” or ridicule “a hippy, doesn’t know an honest days work etc. etc.” Clearly these views can be dismantled quite easily. Technology for instance is making many traditional jobs obsolete and so even the greater need for entrepreneurialism and innovation.

        I should shed some more light on my personal situation, I’m an engineer (electronics and & renewables/photovoltaics), and a programmer. The work I do know for my clients, All I need is a computer, an Internet connection, pen and paper, and a calculator especially to draft and iterate on preliminary designs and solutions. That is all. I can work from anywhere and no need to be bound to any specific location. Which brings me on to another point that ties in with entrenched ways of thinking/doing things (hopefully doesn’t derail the convo too much) and that is of telecommuting, working remotely etc. Still, why so much resistance? Way on a tangent also, but look at things like MOOCs, even more resistance. I think you see what I’m getting at.

        Cheers Ian

  4. ianclive November 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi Chuck,

    Thank you for such a great conversation. You may be surprised, but I agree with most of your points and like the way you describe your work and attitude towards your work. I also strongly believe that “education” should include independent thinking which would encompass such things as decision-making and examination of values that influence our views on life e.g. religion, science, sexuality, materialism, work ethic, commitment within society. We should encourage freethinking and choice rather than automatically accepting (or rejecting) values of our parents or community. This could lead into more practical consideration of entrepreneurism, telecommuting/working remotely, or other forms of alternative activity or work/life focus. The difficulty, of course, is that any attempt to change entrenched values will be fiercely fought by those whose interests (and power base) are served by the perpetuation of traditional values and relevant role-play.

    My focus on professional relationships at work (performing work/receiving pay) is focused on ensuring harmony and great productivity and I am not in any way linking such professional relationships to the greater probability of combat and adversity. The greatest adversity and reluctance to perform is when employees perceive a work environment as unfair and particularly hypocritical with emphasis on values that are illusion and judging employees on how they appear rather than what they achieve. The emphasis has to be on reality and if a company talks about employees as its best asset and seeks enthusiasm and engagement, it must be sincere and back up its claims with action that reinforces stated beliefs.

    There is less conflict with a professional employment relationship as it is agreement between two adult parties and acceptance of key points of expectations/rewards rather than an employee having to satisfy subjective things (looking right, acting perky etc.) that have nothing to do with the work. It is better, in my opinion, for a boss to be somewhat distant than to pretend to care and obviously not care and barely conceal dislike/disdain for certain people.

    Just a few thoughts! Thanks, again, Chuck for your great observations that make so much sense.


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