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The Power Of Millennial Alignment - 11/9/2016 -

Instead of complaining about the newest generation in the workforce, association communications teams should be listening and learning from them.

By Anne Zender

Employers can’t afford to overlook the Millennial generation and the lessons they have  to teach, says Jamie Notter, founding partner of WorkXO and author of When Millennials  Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business.Millennials  are  important, he says, because there are so many of them, and they are shining a light on what the future of business is going to look like."

In a June presentation to AM&P members, Notter notes that he’s heard a lot of complaining about the Millennial generation for the last decade, but that this conversation is not serving anyone well."We're constantly saying they don't get it, they are inappropriate, they are not paying their dues,"he says. "We need to stop the freaking out, and we need to start being curious about them. They have a lot to teach us."

Notter, who has been studying Millennials and the workforce for a decade or more, says he found that organizations that were"doing amazing things”and had strong cultures were better aligned with the Millennial generation approach."These organizations are light years ahead of everyone else" and have higher levels of engagement, he says.

The organizations had four things in common: They were digital, clear, fluid, and fast, Notter says.

In being"digital,” they embraced technology and social media. Organizations must be mindful that technology should be customized for customers and employees. For example, he points to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, which designed its work space and culture around the needs of employees, not management. This has led to higher levels of engagement and more accomplishment.

"Clear” means being transparent and sharing information as a strategic activity to improve the quality of decision making, Notter says. One organization posts project management tasks and responsibilities up on the office walls so that everyone can see how things are going.People are allowed to make their own decisions without status updates or email. "In a complex world, you can't know who needs to know ahead of time, so you make it visible," and the end result is better work and more customers, Notter says.

Regarding"fluid,”organizations need hierarchy, but it should not be too rigid. One healthcare organization puts this to work by allowing people who know the most about the needs of the patient make the decisions about care — not the people in the hierarchy.

"Fast” means being able to leap ahead, he says.One company came up with a plan for a new product line in three days, using the staff to do their own research and development.This mode of working requires employers to give up traditional management control and replace it with something they have trust in.

To maximize the wisdom of Millennials, employers should be working to build these four qualities into their culture, Notter concludes.Millennials place a great deal of value on organizational culture; they feel it is "as or more important than pay and benefits,"he says.

Associations don't have to be perfect in all of these areas, but they should be moving in that direction. "You have to be able to manage this inside your culture and be intentional about it,” he says."Build digital, clear, fluid,and fast into your culture...and use what Millennials are teaching us."

Anne Zender (Anne.Zender@AHIMA.org) is senior director of periodicals at the American Health Information Management Association in Chicago.AM&P gratefully thanks her for volunteering to cover this presentation for members unable to attend. For more Annual Meeting coverage, see the October/November 2016 issue of Signature magazine.


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