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Alliance Management Meets the Millennials: "Bridging the Communications Gap Goes Both Ways"

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/11/2014

“It's like being at the museum,” she whispers to her colleague (maybe more loudly than she realizes).

“She” is an attractive, fit, 40-something sitting at a front table in a packed conference room today at the opening morning of ASAP's 2014 Global Alliance Summit in Scottsdale. She is referring to the commentary involving the four (yes, count them on one hand—four) alliance professionals in the audience who are part of the generation known as “millennials.” The audience is fully engaged in the panel discussion entitled, “The Next Generation: How Millennials are Changing Business.” Yet as this woman at the front table so aptly elucidates, engagement does not equal understanding.

My attention turns to Adrian, a millennial who works at Chevron, as he stands and takes the mic to respond to the panelists. “I think this explains why some of my relationships with managers have worked, and others have not," he says with a smile. “We're looking for a lot of integration and we see a lot of silos. I think a lot of industries are changing that way. The other thing is transparency. People [in older generations] want to keep their information to themselves, but that's changing.”

Another millennial stands and shares, “I've never fit in with corporations, and now I know why.” The young woman encourages everyone in the audience to ask questions of millennials, rather than assuming they have all the answers because they're older and more experienced.

Now perhaps the youngest person in the audience, an alliance executive from Thomson Reuters, joins us. He advises the group to coach non-millennials. "Bridging that communication gap goes both ways."

After hearing from the millennials in the audience, our moderator, Jeff Cummings, returns to the panelists, and then to the audience for additional questions. The discussion is just beginning, but we have run out of time.

Alliance management—a field dominated by seasoned Gen X and Baby Boomer executives—is starting to seriously grapple with the challenge, and opportunity, of bringing a new and very differently thinking generation into the profession. Look for our continued coverage of this topic in future issues of Strategic Alliance Magazine.

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