According to an April 2016 article in the Washington Post, the Millennial generation has officially surpassed Baby Boomers to become America’s largest living generation. I can already hear the groans coming from the generations that have preceded them. In our experience working with transit leaders on almost any subject, be it strategic planning, performance management, succession planning, leadership effectiveness, team building, culture, you name it, the conversation inevitably turns to frustrations resulting from cross-generational values colliding in the workplace … with Millennials being the newest target.Millennials Shaping Contemporary Leadership Org Culture BLOG wEno Role v2

But the reality is that by 2020, Millennials will represent 40% of the total working population.

So what DO Millennials value? To name a few—meaningful work, social causes, work/life balance, frequent reward for and feedback on progress, and attention from their boss. If being reminded of this sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard…read on.

In our consulting experience, whenever a new generation enters the workforce, it incites a period of frustration, miscommunication, and cultural change. It’s only when judgments are set aside and differing values are embraced that the full potential of what the new generation brings is unlocked, and in this case, the new generation is Millennials. For some, that might sound a little Polly Anna-ish (BTW if you’re a Millennial, you won’t have a clue about that reference—NBD). So if that’s what you’re thinking, you definitely need to read on.

For example, in the workplace, the transit industry’s pressing need for succession planning is being challenged by the dichotomy that generational values present. What we see happening is a convergence of experienced, legacy employees retiring at basically the same pace that Millennials are choosing to change jobs. So while the transit industry is losing those with valuable institutional knowledge, it is equally challenged with Millennials staying motivated and engaged, much less, sticking around long enough to fill leadership voids created by those who are leaving. Will the neglected Gen. Xers be left holding the bag? …that’s another blog for another day.

By listening and responding openly to Millennial viewpoints, transit organizations can become more nimble and responsive to the rapid changes in the industry, that appear to be in large part, fueled by technology. Which generation is most knowledgeable of and comfortable with technology? You guessed it. To further validate this point about embracing Millennial values, The Atlantic recently published an article entitled, How Millennials Will Change the World of Work, and stated, “As members of this generation start to dominate cubicles and corner offices, they’ll drastically shift the way businesses woo consumers, treat employees and market themselves to the outside world.”

In this year’s presidential race, perhaps the shifting tide towards non-establishment choices is another reflection of these changing values. Let’s be honest, your Father’s Father didn’t like Elvis …and he was the King!

Just look at how Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft, have disrupted the traditional world of transit. If Millennials had been included in strategic conversations early on, perhaps this shift in the industry might not have felt so much like a splash of cold water. Or, was it more like a downpour? What else does the industry not see? What does it see but isn’t responding to fast enough? Perhaps Millennials could give us a glimpse into what these answers might be.

To be fair to the Boomers and GenXer’s, it’s not all on them to make the change, as we see judgment in the workplace cutting in all generational directions. Millennials could take note of the wisdom and knowledge that are only gained through experience by those who precede them. In what we see as being youth hysteria and sometimes an effort to cut costs, highly experienced leaders are getting displaced by those who navigate technology like it’s a body part, or worse yet, being allowed to stay but getting devalued in the process.

When my friend’s eight year old daughter was approached by Disneyland’s Cruella De Ville, she was asked to guess her character in Cruella’s most viciously wicked voice, “Do you know who I am little girl?” The young girl enthusiastically replied…Lady Gaga! The lens we look through.

The question is, as a leader are you prepared to look through the lens of another and allow the Millennial generation’s values to be blended with your own, to shape a more contemporary and relevant style of leadership and organizational culture?

By getting past judgments and opening your mind to a new way of thinking and leading, it will allow all generations to learn from the other, enthusiastically engage, and together shape the future success of your organization.