Millennials now make up about 40% of the US workforce. As Baby Boomers retire, these youngest workers who were born in the 80’s and 90’s are becoming more important than ever before to the success of your organization. Companies that engage this group will win, while those for which Millennials are a mystery will struggle.
There are things Millennials have in common with everyone else. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and our youngest employees (Gen Z?), all like to be recognized for doing good work. Who doesn’t like to be appreciated? Also, everyone needs their basic needs met. A reliable paycheck, pleasant work environment, and other base-level considerations must be addressed. That’s the foundation. Here are some ideas to consider, and some things to avoid, as you take the Millennial motivation and management challenge more seriously.
Do These Things
Help Millennials understand the meaning behind their work. Why is what you are asking me to do important? How does it affect others in the company? How does it help our customers? How does this work move us forward in our mission? These and other questions should be answered to get Millennials engaged. It’s not that they enjoy playing 20 Questions; rather, they want to understand how their work is important. Help them connect the dots.
Engage Millennials by showing them corporate values are real. Nearly every industry has been affected by Millennials’ search for authenticity. Whether considering the food they eat, the cars they drive (if they do at all), the clothes they wear, or where they choose to work, Millennials want to know your words are backed by action. If your actions are inconsistent with stated goals and values, you can expect Millennials to head for the exits.
Spend time with career planning. How do you see your youngest employees progressing in the organization? Have you shared this by discussing it directly with them? If not, you run the risk of losing talented people to other organizations that present a more compelling vision. Your Boomers might have been OK with a no-news-is-good-news approach, but that isn’t going to work with your youngest employees.
Respect them and ask for their opinions. Millennials come from different parenting and educational experiences than earlier generations. Relationships have been less rigid and more open. They expect their opinions and ideas to be heard and respected. If they don’t get this chance, they will find somewhere else where their contributions will be considered.
Don’t Do These Things
Expect loyalty. This isn’t your fault. Millennials are a product of the economy they have witnessed and experienced. They know nobody who has experienced lifetime employment with the same company. On the contrary, they have seen parents and others laid off in round after round of downsizings. They do not expect to be with you forever, even if you try to convince them otherwise.
Set rigid work rules and requirements. Why, exactly, do your employees need to be in at 8:30 AM? Why do you want them to dress a certain way? “Why?” is a big question, so be prepared to answer it effectively. If not, you run the risk of being seen as a fossil who makes rules “just because we’ve always done it that way.” You will also alienate this group and lose some great people.
Talk about shareholder value. Millennials are not interested in making the shareholders wealthy. This will be especially true if shareholder interests are in conflict with some other social value. See the comments about authenticity above.
As Millennials continue to grow in importance in the workplace, their contributions can make a significant difference in the performance of your organization. By getting this intelligent, tech-savvy, high-energy group engage in their work and your mission, you can move the performance needle to new highs. Get to know your people and what’s important to them so you all (yes, even your shareholders) can reap the rewards.
= = =
Learning Dynamics can help you maximize the contributions of all generations in your organization. Ask us about Managing a Multigenerational Workforce and other training programs to help your company invest in people.