Being born in 1973 puts me in “Generation X,” although I've never been one to really embrace a generational label like that. It doesn't mean much to me.
I'm clearly not a “Millennial,” the generation born after 1980, as I've got a lot of grey hair (I count as the “resident gray hair” at KaiNexus, not that the term gets thrown around there as it does sometimes in startup land).
It makes me wrinkle up my forehead (which already has enough wrinkles) when I read articles about what Millennials want in the workplace. It usually just sounds like things that people of any age would want or have desired. But are workplaces finally providing these things because the Millennials demand them?
I saw this article in the WSJ yesterday about the NFL's St. Louis Rams: “How the Rams Built a Laboratory for Millennials.”
The team has the youngest roster in the league, with an average age of about 24. So, coaches and management have tried some different approaches. They have an “innovative plan for teaching millennials.”
“Our players learn better with two phones and music going and with an iPad on the side,” [head coach Jeff Fisher] said. “That's new.”
Oh, so Millennials like music in the workplace? That's new? I remember factory workers in the mid 90s fighting with management about being able to play a boombox or wear a Sony Walkman while working. I guess they were multitasking, even without smart phones. That doesn't seem new.
“The next frontier in football is understanding the mind and figuring out how you can test and teach,” he said.
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That's been a workplace frontier and effort for a while now. The World War II “Training Within Industry” program was designed, in part, to teach better methods for how to train employees to do their jobs. That approach is applicable and being used in healthcare today, by the way. Rather than assuming that supervisors naturally know how to teach a job, the “Job Instruction” method in TWI makes training a teachable skill and method. Starbucks uses TWI also, and not just for Millennials.
They also need to know “why” to everything: If you explain a concept to them on the field, they need to know the reason behind it. Millennial players questioning everything is something that's helped the Rams, the team says, because it forces coaches and executives to examine their own methods (Why are we doing this?).
Trust me, “questioning everything” is not new. People have been doing that in the workplace forever, whether they were just curious or if they were being a smart aleck. Unfortunately, most organizations are good at squashing that ability to speak up and question things.
And the idea of knowing why… again that's an old desire. It's not just a recent discovery of Simon Sinek and the outstanding book Start with Why (my friends at Gemba Academy have a podcast interview with him coming soon). Why are we doing something? Why are we starting this company? That's an old tale… are you breaking rocks or building a cathedral?
The TWI method and Lean “standardized work” methods explain WHY to employees. The “Job Breakdown Sheet” isn't just a list of tasks to do, with timing about how long they should normally take.
A Job Breakdown Sheet also lists “key points” and “REASONS WHY,” explaining why things should be done a certain way. See examples here.
That's a method that has been useful since the 1940s. I saw it being used at GM in the mid 90s, as it was a practice copied from Toyota, who was taught TWI after the war and incorporated it into Lean.
Don't get me wrong…. I'm not bashing Millennials for wanting to know the reasons why they should do their jobs a certain way. I'm just saying they're not unique in that need or desire.