Like every new generation that enters (and usually disrupts) the existing workforce, those born in the 1980s and 1990s, are tending to get a bad rap. On more than several occasions, I hear from colleagues and HR professionals how this “new generation” is lazy, narcissistic, entitled and utterly unprepared for what lies ahead of them in the workplace. I’ll be the first to admit, that there have been a few young professionals that we have hired in the past two years which we have found to be challenging and difficult to motivate. However, the more I watch our team manage this younger talent, the more I am learning that truthfully, they are vibrant, intelligent, creative and passionate to the core. Anyone in the business arena knows that you often times have to move some coal to find the diamond. Therefore, the quicker we learn to understand them and what drives their passion, the better off we will be.
Generational friction in the workplace is not a new phenomena. Think about it. It doesn’t take a PhD Psychologist or an MBA degree to see a difference in Leave it to Beaver, The Simpsons and Modern Family. Everything in the world around us is changing, evolving and the workplace is no exception. We now have the multiple screen generation. The text while doing homework-while watching a documentary-while creating a vine video generation. If you think you can keep them engaged at work with a nine to five desk job, you truly need to re-evaluate your talent strategy.
Here are a few successful strategies that I have found to work.
Clarify your expectations
Remembering that they have minimal experience, you need to explain expectations to millennials. They need guidance on the dress code, etiquette, typical hours and organizational values. It is best to have conversations about these guidelines because they need to know the rational behind them. I have found that a millennial employee will put the work in to complete the task, but they might have a hard time understanding why they need to start the day at 8 a.m. instead of 10 a.m.
Show them what they contribute matters
Ensure that your employees know and understand where their work goes when it leaves their desk. If they understand how it is used and how important it is to the company, it will create meaning behind their daily work. They need to see how they connect with others and how their individual contribution affects the end result. They expect to make a difference.
Regular feedback is nothing short of critical
Ensure lots of positive feedback. Millennials expect the same reinforcement they were brought up on. Feedback is not optional to them. They need to know how they are doing and that there is a development program in place. Schedule 30 day check-ins and reviews and watch productivity soar. Frequent, specific feedback motivates and inspires people to perform at higher levels. The drive to do better comes more naturally when they know for sure their work is noticed. Millennials have been constantly acknowledged and reinforced all their lives. They expect the same at work.
Direction through constant guidance
This generation grew up with close supervision. We’ve all heard of and probably been accused at least once of being a “helicopter parent.” Young millennials have been kept on the right track by their parents and teachers. So managers will need to establish clear goals and next steps. Millennials value learning and bettering themselves. They are some of the most highly educated people in the workplace and want to see a return on their educational investment. They do not want to be bored, so giving them challenging projects will help them expand their current skill set and broaden their experiences.
Convey a long term interest in their career growth
Remember millennials entered the job market at a time of great turmoil and insecurity which makes them a little less loyal towards their employers. They have also watched their parents give their lives working at companies that no longer take care of their employees and are realizing that they are responsible for their own well being. So, if retaining these young employees is important to your organization, you have to be invested in their future or they will look elsewhere.
Be flexible & make the workplace fun
Millennials in the workplace expect a work/life balance. They will work hard, but also expect to play hard as well, and will quickly leave an employer that insists on constantly interrupting their work/life balance.
Give them opportunities to shine
Offer them opportunities such as presenting in public, organizing events or doing media appearances. Give them spot recognition and public praise. They are the selfie generation. Its about doing what makes them feel good and what makes them happy.
Take full advantage of their knowledge of technology
Millennials were raised on technology. If your company is not taking full advantage of technology in the workplace, invite your young employees to help. They grew up in an environment rich in technology and social media and may be able to help your business grow. This will help them feel needed while facilitating networking between the older generations and the millennials.
Managing and motivating millennials can be a challenge for older generations who tend to be the ones in the managing positions. They do not follow the conventional path, and they have high expectations of themselves, of others and of life. They are not willing to settle or adhere to expected behavior the way their parents did. We would do well to remember that each generation is influenced by different life events and thus have different perspectives that can impact motivation and performance. While organizations might not be able to completely make their environments “millennial friendly” they would do well to learn what these young employees want and need in their workplace. We all know “you can’t be all things to all people” but for the health of the company, we must be continually committed to finding the best ways to manage, motivate, train and retain all great talent, regardless of their generation.