Millennials. They are a tough bunch, aren’t they? Seemingly fickle, fleeting, and fearless. While these characteristics seem like a challenge to deal with in the workplace, when channeled towards productive pursuits, can mean endless amounts of energy in the things they have been tasked to accomplish. All it takes is a little understanding on our part – so here are 4 simple steps to help us get there:


To first understand millennials, you have to empathise with them. One effective tool Design Thinking practitioners utilise to achieve this is through probing, asking a lot of “why” questions. It also helps to listen intently to understand, and not to respond. As the “older” generation, we tend to want to impart advice to millennials, reaching into our collection of past experiences to offer lessons. Listening, however, doesn’t just mean agreeing with what they say – it’s about understanding how they tick, and using that to inspire them in ways which resonate with them. They might even surprise you with their diverse, well-thought-out insights and viewpoints.


Millennials thrive in creative environments. They require ample personal space when they are working, which is why a lot of companies today adopt an “open workplace” culture. This usually symbolises open communication, a lack of hierarchy, and the freedom to explore new things. By imposing restrictions such as bureaucracies on them, they feel stifled, and this can make them lose the motivation and inspiration to be creative. That’s why in Design Thinking, we always encourage our participants to be open and bold in their approach.


It’s the 21st century – no one should be segregated based on their differences anymore. The younger generation now values diversity. As Design Thinking practitioners, we call this “work multidisciplinary”. We believe teams work best when there is a dynamic mix of people from various backgrounds, because it offers us different perspectives and opinions. Having extremely similar people in a team can create a myopic view when trying to generate solutions to problems. With diverse teams, however, you get to cancel out mental blind spots – something millennials recognise and practise today.


We’ve been conditioned to fear failure. Our education system has moulded us to believe that the reward-punishment system enforced through our examination grades is a reflection of the workplace, but in the real world, failure is inevitable. Teach millennials that failure is the best teacher, and tell them not to run from it, but rather, run towards it – because the more you fail, the faster you discover ways to succeed. Place more emphasis on the learning process. This is what it means to provide a safe space for failure, so that when they do fail, they are constantly reminded that it’s perfectly okay for them to get up and try, try again.

Millennials are taking over the workplace, and soon – the world. If you ever find yourself having trouble dealing with them, remember these 4 simple steps and you’ll be good to go. Good luck!