I have been asking myself a very simple question for a long time: when did it become accepted practice to commoditise (to turn something into a raw material that can be bought and sold) values (the regard that something is important, worthy, and useful)?
As a design student I came across brand values the first time in Marketing 101 at university. The learned claim it to be a study of the action/business/practice of promoting and selling products or services. In order to do the ‘business’ you inevitably get involved in market research and the result of this research and subsequent ‘strategy’ is what is loosely referred to as communication a.k.a. advertising.
The plot thickens.
In order to effectively market, promote and sell a product or service, the field furthers itself via a speciality called behavioural economics: primarily the mathematical modeling of how decisions are made by individuals.
Bounded rationality, the cornerstone of behavioural economics, is:
- The business and understanding of the tractability of a decision, aka the problem;
- The cognitive limitations of the individual’s mind, aka the target market, etc; and
- The timing in and through which the decision must be made.
In other words, it entails figuring out and reducing into numbers how the market, customers, employees, you and I make decisions as we live our lives and explicitly how it impacts your business’ bottom line.
Are you uncomfortable yet? Because if being a number on a ledger and under ‘investigation’ does not make you feel dehumanised, the problem is bigger than what we think.
Let’s bring the story home.
As an example of the dilemma that business finds itself in with the millennial workforce, let us talk about myth number three around Millennials in the workplace which you can debunk: millennials are ‘tough to manage’ and ‘lazy’.
This is, in my opinion, a symptom of expectations around collaboration in the workplace. It is the how your business shares ideas, thinks towards realising a common goal and acts through teamwork to this higher level of accomplishment.
What makes the water murkier is that your business is increasingly becoming more geographically distributed and the business’ efforts and activities removed, coordinated and integrated with, what I hope to be, enablement through technology.
I am painting the background of marketing and the influence of technology for you because as a leader in your business, the decision-maker, bounded rationality leans toward your behavior becoming that of a satisfier, and therein lies the conundrum – seeking the satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one. It means that in your effort to accommodate or motivate the Eco-Boomers/ Millennials (the satisfactory solution), you contribute to their perceived entitlement as you continually connect in a disingenuous manner. And that is where the myth is proven untrue. It is not the Millennials that are lazy and tough to manage, but rather your bias, expectations and reluctance to re-learn engagement.
This begs the question then, what is the optimal solution? I would venture that it has something to do with how you lead your business. How you commoditised its values which led to a lack of connection and subsequently fostered a lack of collaboration.
Behavioural modelling typically integrates insights from psychology, neuroscience, micro-economics and in so doing covers a range of concepts, constructs and methods. I advocate the use of these resources but not at the expense of connection. It means that you need to learn about new worlds, cultures, behaviours, preferences, prejudices and sciences. It means that, like millennials, you should have a ‘wanderlust’ for the world and its people because the principle of the matter is that people come first, always. It also means that learning never stops. It means that the optimal solution is the blend of the old and the new world to where the entire workforce would want to emigrate.
As much as behavioral modeling can be a tool for destruction you can use this mechanism to find out what drives the ‘public choice’ in your millennial workforce as you take them with you on your journey.
I leave you with three prevalent themes which you can investigate and use to enable collaboration with your Millennial workforce:
- 95% of decisions are made using mental shortcuts. Find out what the mental shortcuts are to which your millennial workforce reverts and re-engineer your collaboration strategy accordingly.
- The millennial workforce in your business has framed a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes which informs (one collection is doing the informing so it is also singular) their mental emotional filters and which in turn supports or blocks their contribution to collaboration. Pin-point who and what represents that for them in your business and correct it with courageous conversations.
- There is a pattern of non-rational decision making that exists in your millennial workforce which prohibits your optimal solution from manifesting. First investigate whether you are solving the first principle in the business or if you are paying attention to the symptoms of the pattern. Then engage and enhance, test, learn, correct and amplify.
I humbly ask again, who do you need to become to rethink how you do collaboration and work with millennials in the workplace?
By Matt White: Author, Speaker, Brand Specialist, Customer and Employee Engagement Expert, and Executive META Coach