Unleashing Millennial Potential – Collaboration not Competition!


“You can accomplish more in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Next whatever you choose to call them, you need to understand who they are and what they want their workplace to look like. They want a collaborative workplace. In fact, in a recent survey, 88% identified collaboration over competition, as a key decision point for employment.

Without question, the workplace has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. We have seen traditional hierarchies supported by cubicles and closed office doors replaced in the extreme by free dry cleaning services, ping pong tables and sushi bars. Today, with budgets shrinking, many of the off-the-wall perks are going away. Many cutting-edge employers are coming to the realization that if their recruitment strategies center around perks alone, their young hires will leave quickly to the next new thing. This evolution of the workplace, and understanding the drivers behind it, holds a key to inspiring and mobilizing the power of our Millennial tribe!

Colleagues working
Colleagues working

As I think back, I recall my middle management version of collaboration being underpinned by Post-it notes, whiteboards and “blue-sky” sessions. Today, in search of true collaborative communities, our Millennial friends are looking to use Skype crowd discussions, smart boards and internal social media platforms. It falls on us as leaders to find the means by which the collaborative culture, sought after by Millennials, becomes a reality in our organizations. From personal experience, this proves to be even more challenging within the public sector context where I spent most of my career.

More challenging? Yes.

Impossible? No!

For this cultural transformation to be successful, it is absolutely paramount that we engage our target stakeholders, our Millennial tribe, in the decision-making process. The truth is, I’ve seen the opposite fail terribly. If efforts to move to more collaborative environments are to be successful, leaders need to ensure that as we explore the possibilities of collaboration, we do so with input from those we intend to be collaborative.

So how do we go about the creation of that collaborative environment our Millennial employees crave? And how do we, at the same time, ensure that it is embraced, utilized and productive? Before we look at specific ideas around collaboration, we need to emphasize that as novel and innovative as collaborative tools may be, their ability to produce results is only as good as the culture of collaboration we have instilled in our teams and organization. Nested in that framework of a collaborative culture is where the real success is found.

Answers are Answers—Do not anticipate the source!

Millennials are more connected than any other generation before them. For them, it is through the use of their varied social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, that they connect with a varied network far and wide. But even more telling, is the way in which Millennials utilize that varied network to address challenges.

As an example: during any given workday, issues arise  across organizations. Regardless of which challenges are being faced, there are answers and remedies to be found through the friends and connections fostered on our various social media platforms. As leaders, we need to ensure that our Millennial cohort has access to those platforms and the answers contained on them. A question can be posed and an answer quickly received from another person, whether situated across the hallway, the building or the world. It is that collaborative approach which intertwines young and old, experienced or not, to produce real-time actionable responses to issues and challenges.

It is important to clarify that we are not suggesting that our corporate strategy for issue resolution should revolve around Google and self-professed Internet-based subject matter “experts.” What I am suggesting is that the consensus-based results of a social media– driven exploration can then be managed and massaged within the current context of one’s organization. A Millennial student working on a summer term put it this way:

There is a great deal of information and opinion available on the Internet today. It is all interesting, but we know not all of it is accurate. What is most important is to be able to validate what is being said, within the context of the current organization.

If you are a leader or aspire to be, the majority of your team will be comprised of millennials. What steps will you take to create a collaborative environment in order to unleash your teams’ potential?


This post is an excerpt from Bruce’s newly published book Leadership Hack: Leading the Millennial Tribe – currently available on Amazon

Never Miss a Post Again

Themodernleader album art 1

Subscribe to get our latest content by email - we will deliver new content right to your inbox!

Powered by ConvertKit

After 20 years of progressive leadership within the Canadian Public Service, as an executive and thought leader, Bruce has turned his attention to full time writing, speaking, training and business advisory services. Focusing his work on his long term passion for leadership development, has led to an ongoing focus on exploring current leadership topics through his leadership blog TheModernLeader.ca, and his newly released book - Leadership Hack: Leading the Millennial Tribe. Bruce holds two masters degrees, along with a professional designation in project management. Bruce calls Ottawa, Ontario Canada home, where he shares his life with his wife Susan, and his two university aged daughters.

Discussion5 Comments

  1. A a millennial myself I can relate to this. I do really feel that a work environment that is more fun and engaging leads to more collaboration and better staff productivity.

  2. This was an interesting read. I never heard of actually putting more interest in people in order to reach business goals. It makes sense though. I am in my mid 40’s and I finally made the move to branch out on my own. Knowing I will have to work with mainly millennials puts a lot in to perspective. I guess I have to open myself up more to the current trends and how they view things so they can be successful for me.

  3. It is very true about them being connected. I find those who are socially aware online as well as offline work the best. You want a group with people who are able to be social and upfront equally as strong in both scenarios. My business is growing and I am noticing what the right kind of millennial can offer me. I did not grow up with social networking where many of them did.

  4. I find that the millennials have things that have made it possible for my business to expand and grow. As more men and women retire, I have younger faces coming in and I know for certain this will mean change. A lot of what is done now is done online, specially networking. They have become an asset to my business and the success of this business and I feel other companies need to be ready and willing to open the door to them.

  5. Certainly millennials have a different approach to working. Their generation is used to having information and solutions at their fingertips, of having additional support on projects achievable through crowd sourcing and testing and refining easily implemented from a wide audience – all of which traditionally would’ve cost a huge amount of both time and resources. The issue I see for leaders id the need to balance empowering millennials to utilise their skills while impressing upon them the need to be wary of sources and cautious of the quality of material and work sourced online. I think the recent fake news scandal perfectly highlights this – millennials far from being the cynical, internet savvy people we were led to believe actually put far too much faith in whatever the internet serves up to them. The leadership qualities necessary to harness their undoubted assets needs to combine the vision to see the benefits while remaining meticulous on details

Leave A Reply