Millennials, like every other generation, are often tied to societal stereotypes. Without conscious thought, when the topic of millennials rises in conversation, so do the images of entitlement, always-on digital connectivity and the need for affirmation. While there are reasons behind generational stereotypes, individuals themselves cannot conclusively be defined by those labels alone.
Millennials are no longer bright-eyed, youthful teens. Today, millennials represent nearly 40 percent of the American workforce. As leaders, it’s time to think about the common characteristics of millennials and the value to be garnered from those characteristics in the workplace. Because maintaining a one-dimensional perspective is not only damaging to the young professionals themselves, but also discourages companies from taking full advantage of the skill sets millennials can offer.
Consider some of the common millennials characteristics that can be harnessed as assets for your organization:
Previous generations typically experienced maybe one major technological transformation in their lifetime. Millennials have witnessed dozens, and have spent their entire life adapting again and again to the next iteration of technology:
- Home phones became mobile phones and then soon evolved into mobile computers (or what we call smartphones).
- Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses evolved into e-commerce.
- Online chatrooms became social networks.
- Network television evolved into subscription-based entertainment services.
Yes, millennials know the ends and outs of social networks, but their value goes beyond social media. The digital evolution has caused millennials to never get too comfortable with technology. Without any training or teaching, their subconscious mindset knows that adapting to new technological innovations is par for the course. That acceptance of constant change, has helped train them to be relentless problem solvers. While they may not know all the answers, they are confident that they have the resources at their fingertips to find the answers.
With constant access to technology, millennials have been given real-time visibility and exposure to the happenings of the world. Because of that exposure, they don’t have to travel outside of their own home to witness famine, hardship, inequality, violence and destruction. Because of their devices, millennials have had a window into the reality of the rest of the world for nearly their entire lifetime, and they bring that perspective and emotional connection into the workplace.
This generation desires more than an eight-hour workday and paycheck. While pay is important, they also place significant priority on working for a company that allows them to contribute to meaningful work, both inside and outside company walls. Workplace studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of millennials desire to work for an organization that gives back and is civically engaged.
As a business leader, this is good news. It means millennials want to be engaged; they want to do more than just clock in hours. Company leaders can capture and retain the talent and interest of millennials by making these four things a priority:
- Show millennials how they can contribute to the bigger picture.
- Create opportunities where they can serve others.
- Identify the ways in which millennials can help move the needle on meaningful projects.
- Communicate how their individual work impacts more than the company’s bottom line.
Make these four things part of normal business, and you’ll likely retain millennial talent for the long haul.
Improved Communication for All
We know communication is fundamental to business. If you, or your management teams, aren’t the strongest communicators, millennials will force you to make improvements. Why? Because most millennials have been raised to receive constant feedback on their performance. While it’s true that many desire praise (thanks to years of growing up receiving participation trophies), their real desire comes down to regular and genuine feedback. That’s something that everyone, in all facets of business, can likely benefit from having.
Evaluate your approach to employee feedback with these three questions:
- How often are your management teams meeting with direct reports to discuss performance and company goals?
- Is your feedback balanced? Does it provide employees with a mix of achievements and areas for improvement?
- Is your employee feedback ever shared publicly or is it strictly reserved for formal, individual reviews?
We want to know, where are you seeing the value of the millennial workforce show up in your organization?