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Millennials and Lean: a match made in heaven?

Millennials and Lean

June 3, 2016

In last week’s blog we referenced the demographic changes happening in the workplace, with large swathes of baby boomers retiring as a new generation of millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) begin to forge their careers. But what does this generational shift mean for employers, especially those pursuing a Lean agenda? How well-suited are millennials and Lean?

It is estimated that by 2020 millennials will form 50 percent of the global workforce so will inevitably have a significant influence on how corporate culture and strategy evolve. What do the key characteristics of millennials’ working practices and social attitudes tell us about their compatibility with Lean?

A world view

Millennials have grown up in a connected world. They have much greater knowledge of working conditions globally and across industries, they are better-travelled and, thanks to social media and the internet, have a global perspective on almost everything, as well as contacts around the world. This horizontal viewpoint and openness to different cultures means that they naturally assimilate others’ ideas and are less hung up on the old constraints of traditional vertical hierarchies. These traits are highly compatible with Lean business practices where the individual’s contribution to a multi-functional team is vital.

Value-based motivation

Millennials aspire to work for a company whose brand they can be proud of, where there is a clear vision and a plan for achieving it. They value purpose and are more environmentally-conscious than previous generations. A Lean, green business agenda focused on waste reduction, continuous improvement and entrepreneurialism resonates strongly with this cohort.

Connect and inspire

Millennials thrive in a culture where there is a clear plan for accomplishing tasks, strong leadership and shared goals. When GE commissioned a group of millennials, called the Global New Directions group, to help them understand what kind of an organisational culture they would like to see, “They told us they were ready for a more horizontal, agile, ‘connect and inspire’ model as compared to the ‘command and control’ model the boomers are used to.”

Personal fulfilment

Millennials seek rapid career advancement and personal fulfilment. In a strong economy, they will change jobs to achieve their goals of personal development and career advancement. They want to make a difference and be recognised for the positive impact they have in the workplace.

These are just some of the reasons why I believe that Lean is an ideal business philosophy for the millennial workforce. Traditional corporate structures and Generation Y are not always compatible but millennials and Lean might just be a match made in heaven.

As ever, I’d be interested in hearing your views, so get in touch. [email protected]

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