Friday, February 19th, 2016 | 7 min read
Millennials are turning the world on its head. They’re now the largest group in the U.S. workforce. And combined, they have a global spending power of $2.45 trillion. This makes them arguably the most important employees in the office.
As a Baby Boomer, I’ve yet to have a day without hearing someone from my generation lamenting about these darn kids. They’re entitled; they’re lazy (yet somehow needy at the same time); they’re addicted to their phones. The accusations are, at times, justified. But they stem from a grave misunderstanding.
Millennials are not like us. They are wired to be free-thinking, connected, hungry, and inquisitive. They’re breaking all the office rules. This means that you, the boss, the 30-year industry veteran, the expert—you have to change your ways to make the most of their unique attributes.
Here are seven things you should know about your younger colleagues, so that you can best galvanize them.
We boomers drank the Kool-Aid of “career above all.” Millennials grew up watching their parents sacrifice their personal lives for professional goals, and they’re not inclined to do the same. Home and work are not separate entities to millennials. They play while they work, and they work while they play. They multi-task and juggle. They expect their jobs to be just as flexible. Compared to other age groups, millennials are most likely to take a pay cut, forgo a promotion, or relocate in order to maintain work-life balance.
If you want to attract and keep millennials, you’ll have to let them work on their own terms. You have to forgo the cubicle mentality.
Millennials don’t come to work to keep their heads down. They are eager to prove themselves, and they want to hit the ground running.
They have more opinions – too many, it can seem – but also a higher rate of idea creation than any other generation. This is where innovations originate, and for your business to survive, you need to start embracing fresh initiatives. Let them make a difference.
Millennials were raised to believe that each one of them deserves to be at the front of the line. They are assertive with their elders, and seek regular feedback (and praise). They expect reciprocal relationships with their bosses. They are vocal about demanding value from you. That’s not insubordination, that’s motivation.
Millennials will work across departments to keep your organization buzzing and thriving. If you give them opportunities to demonstrate ownership, they will go above and beyond, climb over themselves, and work through the night to finish it.
Young people entering the work market today can expect to have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives. The “portfolio worker” may be the fastest growing class in the work market. And though they may often change jobs, this does not necessarily indicate a lack of company loyalty. Their devotion has limits – like that of the modern customer.
They won’t be awed by the corner office you promise them 10 years from now. They want to know what they’ll be doing tomorrow and how you’ll challenge them next. If you want to keep them around, your business will need to adapt to this sense of urgency.
At least, they think they do. If you disagree, consider that the issue may simply be the meaning of, “to know.” Millennials “know” something when they know how to access it. They think: “Why should I memorize this quote when I can look it up any time?”
They work and learn with information not in their heads, but at their fingertips. They know instinctively how to find data, which challenges traditional learning.
Millennials have a thirst for knowledge. And by “knowledge,” I mean gadgets. They are natural technologists: they embrace change, experiment, and leverage what they learn. Your millennial employees are hardwired for technology adoption. They have skills you don’t have. Rather than fear this, embrace it.
You already know that your business must leverage new technologies to survive, so let millennials be your guide through the adoption of new applications and tools.
Many of your customers are millennials, and the path to these customers lies within your organization. Your millennial employees can be especially helpful in connecting to online buzz, responding to customer requests, solving customer problems, and helping you weave the voice of the modern (and über-connected) customer into your business.
Millennials might be more difficult to recruit, retain, motivate, and manage than any other generation, but they can also be the most high-performing. They’ll be a saving grace for those who can manage them. Here are a few small changes you can make immediately to tap into their potential.
I had my daughter walk me through Snapchat the other day. And as new apps and networks sprout up, I’m sure there will be more instances of her showing me the ropes. The same can be applied in a business setting. Millennials are usually the first group to adopt a new platform or technology – executives can look to these early adopters to advise on new initiatives.
You can spend thousands to conduct customer research and implement beta testing programs. Or you can look to the individuals within your organization to try new products and updates. Millennials can be your “Client 0.”
Lastly, and most obviously, just talk to them. Meet with the millennials in your department on a monthly basis to get their insights. Ask them: What’s going well? What should be improved? What’s your new favorite app?
Breaking down the walls between generations doesn’t require Herculean efforts – it can start with a conversation. And you might be surprised by what you discover.
Are there other techniques you have for managing millennials? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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