Cross Gen at the Workplace Series – Point of view 1 – Katharina Stopf
My name is Katharina Stopf and I am part of the SAP S/4HANA Product Management and Co-Innovation team and take responsibility for Co-Innovation engagements with Professional Service Industry clients. I am in that role since October 2015. As a millennial, I have heard quite many stereotypes about my generation. From having no work ethic, lacking loyalty, to wanting everything at once, and missing direct communication skills, just to mention a few.
Combine different points of view in a series about cross generations at the workplace is the perfect way for me to address a few of these stereotypes from my perspective.
There are certainly various things that have changed over the last decades, as for instance the constant availability of information, communication methods, especially with mobile devices and the internet, but personally I believe that this has not only influenced me, or generally spoken millennials, but also previous generations.
One good example for me is the myth that millennials are not as loyal as previous generations were. In the context of the Digital Transformation, the environment changes much faster and business changes consequently as well. But the impact of this change is not only to businesses but also its employees. Studies show today that while a few decades back people often only had one profession in their life. This was in line with the fact, that one company produced the same or similar products along the work life span of an employee. Today employees need to adjust their profession along with the changing markets. Therefore, I expect that I will have to change my job role a few times in my lifetime due to these circumstances. If millennials are changing jobs more frequently, in my opinion the cause for that is not their missing sense of loyalty, but the reaction to the changes in the markets. Born into this everchanging time, Millennials might feel better equipped for this kind of agility, though the motivation is coming from outside, not from insight.
This brings me to one of the next stereotypes. Apparently for us it is not all about the money. I have to say that I am happy every time my salary is transferred to my bank account, and I can’t deny that I am looking forward to the day when I will finally have my own company car. I will definitely not miss public transportation J. But for me it is true that there are other things that get me out of bed early in the morning. One are the people I work with. To have a great team, people I get along with, is really a fundamental part of getting even through the most stressful days. Keep in mind how much time you spend at work. And this, in my eyes, does not significantly deviate from colleagues of other generations.
Work life balance
Something else I need in my job, is the opportunity to grow. Keep on learning and developing my skills. And then there is work-life-balance, a factor that is mentioned very frequently today. A certain flexibility at work in my eyes brings the needed balance to the changed working environment, especially considering that we mostly don’t leave work at the office these days. Having a business mobile phone has certain advantages, but it also means, you also carry your work around with you everywhere you go. You are reachable at any time, can follow the incoming emails, even if it is outside of office hours and have a constant connection to your work related social media platforms. I think it is a wanted win-win for both sides and a fair exchange to gain some flexibility at work with a good work-life-balance.
We are all social media addicted
As we just touched on the topic of social media, we can move to the idea that all millennials are addicted to social media and do not know how to communicate properly face to face. Personally, an iPhone 6 was the first smart phone that I got for myself and I didn’t have a Twitter account until I started out in the SAP S/4HANA Cloud Product Management Team. I don’t use Instagram or Snapchat and I don’t use Facebook much either anymore.
Back in my childhood, one of my favorite things to do was spending time at my grandparent’s farm with my brother, for example helping with the harvest during the summers, as my mother and her siblings did when they were younger. Even when my family got its first computer, I have to admit that my interest wasn’t very high. But time changed that of course. Especially when instant messaging became more and more common. Even today, I use IMs to quickly check something with a colleague. However, I cannot support the generalization that millennials are the driving force behind the change in communication methods across companies like SAP. Personally, I think the technology itself is a catalyst for change and I am indeed leveraging these new technologies.
I guess it is true that a lot of meetings have become virtual, even if most of the colleagues are located in the same building. Personally, I do not think that this is due to the inability of millennials to talk to colleagues face to face. I believe that this is due to a general feeling of comfort and workload. It is just easier to dial into a virtual meeting room from your office than running from one meeting room to the other and constantly being behind your schedule.
Especially when I was new or when I start a new project with colleagues who I’ve never met before, I always prefer to meet in person, get to know each other and talk about the next steps face to face. But often it is my more experienced colleagues who are not keen to spend some additional time in coming to a certain place and ask for an online meeting instead. Just to quickly touch on the topic of using instant messages: Yes, I chat, even with colleagues who are sitting just a few offices down the corridor, but most of the time it is either for “yes or no” questions or to ask if someone has time for a quick chat, a coffee break or even to go to lunch together.
Last, but not least, let’s take a quick look at information management. I think there is no doubt that Google is the go to source for anyone who is looking for some general information. There is no denying that I use established search engines, but mostly when there are terms or abbreviations that I do not know, just to gather the first information.
In general, I would have to say though that I really feel reaching out to more experienced colleagues who have worked in a specific industry or area of expertise and collaborate with them is key. Taking this insight, for example gaining a good understanding of the major pain points that customers and partners experience, for me is the starting point when I start a new project. Furthermore, involving the right people, fostering discussions and considering the various opinions, lead in my eyes to the best results. Of course, I appreciate good documentation, but generic search results will never be enough to deliver on the specific requirements in my projects. And this can´t be much different than other generations are doing it.
In a nutshell, I would summarize that there are quite some changes in our environment, but they are driven by markets and businesses, not by the behavior of generations. We are reflecting the change more than driving it disconnected from other generations. For instance, most of the stereotypes regarding millennials have been proven to be wrong by several studies, which can be found easily, e.g. here.
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