Millennials. They’re confident, self-expressive, and on-track to be the most educated generation in our nation’s history. They’re also a bit misunderstood, especially in the workplace, where their affinity for technology and distaste for traditional hierarchies can lead to intergenerational tension on your team. How can you best leverage Millennials’ boundless talent and ingenuity, while promoting productive relationships?
“Generation Y” tends to approach the workplace with a different mindset. They crave constant feedback, and see their ideal boss as someone who plays the role of coach/mentor. They have a strong “intrapreneurial” streak, meaning that they are innovative and want to launch new ventures – but they want to do it with the support and resources of a major company rather than strike out on their own. They’re fluent in technology and believe it helps them do their jobs better. They see themselves more as “free agents” in the work world, and 25 percent expect to have at least six employers in their lifetime.
If you’re managing or trying to recruit Millennials at your business, here are some ways you can bring them on board for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Listen and learn about their generation. Don’t buy into what you read in the paper or see on television. Get to know the young people on your staff before dismissing them as self-absorbed or privileged. If possible, integrate what Millennials want from their workplace into your company culture. For example, instead of trying to force more face-to-face communication, create a pro-technology environment that uses a range of methods – email, text, instant messenger, telephone – to best accommodate everyone’s working style.
Provide feedback and manage expectations. Millennials crave real-time coaching. They are trying to move up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible, and will absorb any information you have that will help get them there. Try to provide honest feedback in essential areas, such as communication and public speaking, while helping them set realistic expectations for performance and work-life balance.
Help them grow. As mentioned above, young employees are on the move.In one survey, “opportunity for progression” was the number one factor that attracted Millennials to a company. They don’t necessarily want to take over the company in five years – they just want to be assured that when they work hard, it won’t go unnoticed. Consider structured ways to mentor and sponsor your brightest young staffers to help them advance quickly. This can be done simply through adjusted job titles; for example, assistant account executive to account executive to senior account executive.
Unleash their potential. Employees rarely stay with one company these days. In fact, it’s common to change jobs every two or three years – so prepare to have a revolving staff. But just because young workers may not be at your company for the long haul doesn’t mean you can skimp on nurturing them. Help them explore their creativity, innovation, and talent through long-term projects and “hot” assignments.
Debra Shigley is a workplace consultant and former employment attorney who hosts “Deb’s Kitchen” and authored “The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide.” You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.