They came-of-age in an era of laptops, smartphones, and wireless internet access. Many of them have never penned a paragraph in cursive, most of them pay for coffee on their phone, and all of them know the difference between the cloud and a hard drive. Everyone “won” when they played little league, and grades lower than “D” were virtually impossible to earn in their classrooms. Misunderstood and mislabeled by their analogue ancestors, these women and men are poised to “run the show” within two decades.
The Millennials. Loved or loathed, this generation of professionals now occupy the largest segment of the working population. While continually misunderstood by their older supervisors and employers, Millennials offer businesses tremendous creativity, technological knowhow, and passion for community. They live a portion of their life virtually and craft a customer experiences that consider social media, cyber security and the growing demand to customize everything to fit personal preferences. They’re a resilient bunch, too. Entering the job market during the lean years a decade ago, many Millennials learned how to “scratch and crawl” toward sustainable success. Add to that, the current housing market where homes regularly trade for $1 million dollars and lay out of reach for those looking to lay roots and start families. These experiences, good and bad, have made tremendous cohort of young professionals who are well-equipped to keep your products and services on the cutting edge of consumer relevance.
If you desire a strong working relationship with your team of Millennials, flexibility is a must Get to know these 20 and 30-year-olds who now occupy the largest population in your office and deploy them on projects that leverage their ample aptitudes. Above all, remember that Millennials desire a relationship with you. They have a thirst to connect with you in a meaningful way and to learn from your journey. Listen to their stories, share yours, and create a collaborative, affirming team environment. This investment in time will benefit you both – trust me on this.
Working Toward Goals, Not Working “On the Clock”
Contrary to the stereotypes hurled at them by Boomers and GenXers, Millennials are hard workers. However, their approach to work runs against the tide of current business orthodoxy. But times are changing. Here’s what I mean… Millennials believe that a “job well done” can be well done from home, a café table, a park, or from their smartphones anywhere they find themselves. Millennials tend to measure their productivity by the work they’ve completed, not the amount of time they’ve spent at work. For prior generations raised with the expectation that “on time is late,” Millennials disinterest in punctuality is exasperating. The good news? Millennials thrive on telecommunication and do not mind working late nights and weekends if a deadline approaches. Provide your young staff with clear project parameters, output expectations, and a hard deadline. Be in touch with your Millennials throughout the project with phone calls, sharing software, and the occasional team meeting. Your youngest employees are a conscientious group; they’ll get the work done well. You may need to challenge your natural instincts to be frustrated and see this change as one of many on the journey to a faster, more productive approach to business.
A Quest for Meaning (and Money)
Like the generations before them, Millennials desire material success. Impassioned by the prospect of adventure and fun, Millennials recognized that income and assets empower their lifestyle. However, for many of this generation, a quest for meaning rivals the pursuit of money. Fiercely concerned about people and the planet, your young employees want their work to matter. Be able to articulate the ways your business engages and supports the community. Be open to you team’s thoughts about sustainable, socially-responsible business practices. Provide your Millennials with occasional projects and work opportunities that align with their values and delivers a tangible “so what” for their community. While there may be plenty of “grunt work” in the job description, the values-based objectives will work like rocket fuel.
Your team of Millennials have never taken a typing class and instead find current technology to be quite intuitive. Raised on a diet of Apple, Google, and Minecraft, they know their way around a host of devices and terabytes of software. What does this mean for your business? Millennials can teach GenXers and Baby Boomers a lot about SEO marketing, web design, cloud computing, and cyber security. Swallow your pride when stumped by a technology or software issue and seek assistance from the 20s and 30s in your office. This is a win-win, of course. You’ll benefit from your team’s tech expertise, and your Millennials will feel valued as they share their own knowledge and experience with you.
A Word about Flexibility
If you’re struggling to work with your Millennials, you may want to look in the mirror. Are you willing to challenge your leadership style to fit the time?
You have a unique opportunity to test ideas and approaches that make you uncomfortable; that challenge the tried and true and in turn deliver remarkable results. Millennials will foster a new way of thinking throughout your team – trust them and be flexible in the runway you give them. Cultivate an inclusive and transparent workspace that bends traditional hierarchy structures and brings your entire team into discussions where they can both participate and share their work in an open forum. For your Millennials especially, manage to deliverables and not the schedules they keep. Recognize that balance is important and defined differently by individual. An early afternoon at the gym or a midday hockey game with the family improves quality of life and allows for a mental break. If your employees are accessible when you need them and deliver as you expect, be flexible and supportive of differing schedules. Healthy, happy team members contribute to a strong, cohesive workplace.
It will be the Millennials who will inherit our roles in the future and who will care for the Boomers as time goes on. As this unique and powerful generation continue to grow in our workforce, we need to support them and learn from their perspective as they drive ‘what’s next’ in the market and as consumers. For now, the button-down, briefcased business environment of the 80s, 90s, and 00s is a ghost of the corporate past. With Millennials taking the reins of core programs and interfacing with clients daily, the office environment is becoming more of a launch pad than a static work station. Give these hungry minds meaningful projects, “family” support in the teams you nurture, and the opportunity to unleash their skills. How you lead across the generation is an important topic, and one I will be exploring further in my next post. More to come on this exciting time and how each of us can empower and support our ever-changing workforce.