Let’s be clear. This article is not about what’s wrong with Millennials, how we can get rid of them, or even how we can change them. I’ve stayed out of the Millennial fray for years now because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a generation of workers who simply have different wants and needs than those before them. As a somewhat typical Gen Xer myself, I am absolutely the antithesis of my uber-professional Baby Boomer father in more ways than our age!
When given the chance, Millennials actually bring great energy and perspective to our organizations. So what’s wrong with them may not be them at all. It may just be that Millennials’ approach to work is so different from what many Baby Boomer business owners and executive leaders – who in many cases are still the ones running today’s companies – are accustomed to that they haven’t been able to adapt and embrace this newer generation of workers. More than that, there are so many of them that it’s impossible not to acknowledge their strong traits. Did you know Millennials became the most populous generation of US workers in 2015, representing more than one-third of today’s workforce?
During a leadership workshop I facilitated recently, I had one Baby Boomer business owner exclaim, “Feedback? They want feedback? I give them a paycheck every 2 weeks!” If that isn’t a clear indication of the real issue, then I don’t know what is. Millennials are not going anywhere though, so what can we do to adjust our general work practices to attract and retain Millennial workers? Consider the following five strategies that may just make the difference in your managing “Millennial mania”.
- Attracting and recruiting Millennials – Millennials are motivated by purpose and experiencing significant meaning in their lives. They are far less motivated by compensation and career advancement, as many Boomers were in their early days. This means that our recruitment strategies need to focus on sharing our Company’s Mission if we hope to attract high-caliber Millennials to join our organizations.
At Plus Delta, we support a lot of mid-market clients in the third-party logistics and refrigerated warehouse industry. Most of these companies are ones you will never hear of directly. What inspires Millennials to join lesser-known companies like this is their Mission for putting food on the plates of families around the world. That is a very different message for a Millennial than asking, “Would you like to come work in a really cold warehouse?”
Millennials also very much trust and respect their contemporaries, so be sure to include other Millennials in your recruiting processes. Millennials want to hear from their peers about how great your company is, or they might wonder if maybe it’s not so great!
- Engaging your Millennials at work – What are you doing to inspire your Millennials and keep them engaged at work once you bring them onboard? Are you providing more feedback than a paycheck every two weeks? Do you offer training and development opportunities to enhance their existing skills? This is beneficial not just for your Millennial workers but also for your company as they become capable of offering even greater value to you and the customers you serve.
Previous research showed that unlike their Baby Boomer predecessors who routinely worked for one company for years if not their entire career, Millennials regularly pursue new opportunities every 12 to 18 months. Some leaders questioned if making the investment was worth it if the Millennials were going to leave anyway. More recent studies, though, show that Millennials leave their companies when they aren’t engaged. Millennials who are engaged in their work and feel appreciated for what they do are far less likely to jump ship.
Have you ever asked your Millennials what you can do to create a more engaging and inspiring workplace? They want to be valued and heard, so listen to them. Millennials tend to thrive when working in teams versus in isolation and often seek challenge, not wanting to get bored. Millennials are also known for driving innovation because of their fresh ideas, which in turn is likely to drive increased profits for you, so show them where their careers are going and what it will take to get there to retain them.
- Leveraging technology with Millennials – Millennials are quite likely the most connected generation in history, growing up as digital natives with advanced technologies at their fingertips. The good news is this doesn’t just mean that Millennials will use social media all day long and neglect their work. This tech-savvy generation can also apply these passions and interests to their work. When the right technologies are implemented and managed properly, they can actually be used to improve work processes and business operations.
At a recent strategic planning retreat, one Millennial leader pointed out “Email is so 2000’s.” His suggestion was that the company begin using their Slack technology instead of drowning everybody in email every day. Collaboration tools like Slack can be incredibly effective for instant messaging and quick response on important matters. These tools can also archive “conversations” such that they are more searchable in the future.
Whether or not you want to use these tools yourself (and I suspect many Baby Boomers at least do not!), just consider the implications if you don’t. Your less engaged but very connected Millennial workers are so networked externally that they are far more likely to find their next challenge elsewhere than any generation before.
- Flex schedules for Millennials – In general, Millennials are multi-taskers on a scale we’ve never experienced before. More often than not, they grew up with very full lives, so they are used to juggling multiple tasks and managing their time across school, sports, friends, and other activities. For this reason, Millennials prefer to have increased flexibility with their work schedules so they have more control over their lives away from work.
I had one Baby Boomer client who was always frustrated that his younger workers weren’t in the office when he arrived every day between 7:00 and 7:30am. To his dismay, many of them were also gone by the time he left the office around 6:00pm. He simply didn’t understand how they could be productive working so few hours.
Unless there is a specific need for someone to work these hours though, you might want to stop managing your Millennial workers by the clock. Manage them, instead, by the results they deliver! Many of them regularly choose to work after regular business hours when they aren’t required to punch a clock from 9 to 5 during the day. This may not be viable for all Millennial workers – like those who work in assembly or other production jobs – but it might be for those who regularly use computers and email to conduct their work. It might even be more productive for those who are most creative when they are away from work.
- Mentoring Millennials – Millennials want leadership and to have positive role models to learn from. They look up to their more experienced work colleagues and thrive on mentoring and coaching from them. And who better to provide this support than the most experienced and established Baby Boomers before they retire?
Enabling Boomers to transition from active managers to mentors is a critical aspect of business succession planning. Many Boomers are ready to slow down and reduce their hours, but they aren’t ready to retire to a golf course or cruise ship. Keeping them engaged in your business as teachers and advocates for your future leaders will facilitate a smoother transition between the generations. More importantly, it puts a priority on the future development and growth of your Millennial workers now, going back to #2 above and keeping them engaged at work too.
As demographic trends continue with more Millennials entering the workforce and more Baby Boomers transitioning into retirement, Millennials will increasingly dominate the workplace. Companies that are capable of recruiting and retaining the best Millennial workers, then, will clearly outperform their competitors. If you want some suggestions on how best to engage your Millennials at work, call us at 310.589.4610 or email us anytime. You can also visit the Organizational Assessment page of our website for more information on how you might assess whether or not your employees are engaged at work and what you can do about it.