What To Do with The Millenial’s Bad Rap

With that headline, I don’t mean there are bad rappers out there – well, there are – but what I’m really talking about is the bad press that seems to plague this current generation.  Many of you have asked for my take on millennials and what my experiences have been as I work in numerous organizations. What I hear most from companies is that millennials want constant feedback, are high maintenance and may not have the work ethic of past generations.  As you read through this write-up, please challenge your own thinking and maybe even consider that the issues you are having may not be generational, but possibly a poor hire or culture fit.

What I’ve noticed over time in the organizations I work with is that the generational “fight” tends to be between the baby boomers and millennials…gen Xers are totally left out of the conversation (latch key kids).  The fact is that the baby boomer and millennial generation may be more closely aligned then they realize.  Both are high in collaboration, want to be respected and want to make a difference.  Good to know, right?  My hope with this blog is that it sparks some ideas about how we can change the storyline around millennials being lazy and disengaged and begin to build on the positives this generation has to offer while also being realistic about what aspects we might need to reasonably manage.

10 Principles of Success When Working with Millennials

1.  Millennials are a Curious Generation.  The millennials are excited to learn new skills and are willing to invest time in becoming better employees.  Companies that have successfully tapped into millennial workers have created career-development programs that help employees to grow. PepsiCo, for example, recently launched a program that focused on providing employees with access to “critical experiences” rather than a simple ladder to the top.

What this means for you:  Millenials are anxious to please so instead of seeing this as  “high maintenance” see it as an opportunity to invest in a group that will really appreciate and utilize the training they receive.  You might even consider having them present on what they learned to the broader group back at the office.

2.  Millennials are Do-Gooders.  Businesses that offer millennial employees a compelling vision related to advancing a social issue will find success in motivating this generation. Salesforce is an example of a company that has successfully tapped into millennial energy by offering its software platform to non-profits at a greatly reduced rate.

What this means for you:  Find a way to successfully tap into millennial energy through a variety of initiatives aimed at positively impacting their community. Encourage employees to give back with their time (even during work hours) and, as a company, donate to causes that align with the organization’s core values.

3. Think in Terms of Missions. The endless grind does not work for most millennials. Instead, they seek to build their work and passions in blocks, just like the army does missions; a clear objective over an understood timeframe, and when they achieve it, it’s an achievement that opens up future opportunities.

What this means for you: During the recruiting process, tell them about how important the position is and that they will be making a valuable contribution to the company.  If possible, allow flex scheduling so that they can work in “spurts” to knock certain projects out.  The millenials don’t work much less than us they just work “differently”.

4.  Millennials are World Travelers. Millennials have an understanding that America is an amazing country, but they also believe that ideas from abroad can sharpen our ideas and bring about best practices at home.  Their cultural IQ is typically above reproach and should be valued In the company.

What this means for you:  Find the innovators! Then have them seek out what others in your industry are doing that is new and different both at home and aborad. Maybe it’s through a book study, or simply video content that is delivered at your next meeting. Utilize their ability to find good content about the newest technologies, social movements and economic behaviors to spark inspiration within the organization.

5.  Transparency Above All.  Millennials want to feel like they have an open and honest relationship with their manager and co-workers. They want assurance that their opinion is valued and both give and receive a good deal of feedback.

What this means for you:  BE REAL. Let them know about any downsides that the position they are applying for may have. They will appreciate your honesty, knowing that no job is perfect. Be upfront about what their performance review process will be like. Once they are hired, provide them with the ongoing feedback that they desire.

6.  Believe It or Not, Financial Security is Key.  Millennials are making financial decisions focused on maintaining stability rather than striking it rich. As a result of the recession and student loan debt, they are choosing to be financially frugal by eschewing luxury goods and by living at home longer than previous generations.

What this means for you:  Look into offering employee benefits like tuition assistance, financial strategy, and matching 401k plans as this will appeal to the many millennial workers who are interested in planning for their future.

7.  Much Like the Baby Boomers, Millennials Love Collaboration.   The average millennial employee prefers collaborating to working individually in most instances.  Many millennial-led companies rely on the open-concept office design. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, works in the center of an open office at Facebook instead of working in a corner office suite.

What this means for you:  Provide your employees with opportunities to collaborate with peers within and across teams by creating open-concept meeting spaces and by developing a transparent work environment where people are aware of work happening throughout the organization and the possibility to weigh in when appropriate.

8.  Crazy Connected.  Millennials know everything there is to know about social media because that is all they have ever know.  They are constantly perusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – it’s how they share and get information.

What this means for you: If your company isn’t engaging social media effectively, millennials will think you’re irrelevant. Keep your social media outlets active at all times. Talk about topics that relate to your company or will interest your followers.   Allowing your millennial employees to help you with your social media strategy is a smart move. After all, they are the experts.

9.  They Are Multitaskers.  Millennials are multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities at once. Of course, this limits their focus, but it’s all they have ever known.  This also means that they can be easily distracted by their phones.

What this means for you:  Keep millennials on track by being upfront about your expectations and establishing both daily and weekly goals. If your millennial employees have deadlines to meet, you’ll be less likely to find them on their phones at the office.

10.  Work-Life Integration.  Unlike former generations, millennials aren’t as willing to sacrifice their personal life to advance their careers. They like to “work hard – play hard” and want to be at a company that appreciates this desire for balance. They also expect a more flexible work environment than previous generations and want to work for a company that supports various causes.

What this means for you: Communicate that your company values work-life balance and tell them about sponsored events outside the workplace, benefits and charity you support, and any fitness or health-related programs that you provide for your employees. In addition, let them know that as long as they are meeting deadlines and goals and attending meetings, their time- in/time-out is up to them. If possible, give them the option to work from home on occasion.