For some time now, millennials have gotten a bad reputation. Mostly from older generations such as the Gen-Xers and baby boomers, being named the entitled generation or the lazy generation. Well, however you feel about millennials, there’re great ways to get the best out of them in the workplace.
Like it or not, in the coming years, millennials are going to outnumber previous generations in the workplace. Offices will be filled with them, work sites will be bustling with them and essentially, the working world will be run by them. For the time being however, there are still many Gen-Xers and even fewer boomers lining the corridors, ready to work and working hard. Yet, “With 75 million Millennials entering the workplace, organisations have no choice but to learn how to recruit, grow and retain these workers”
If you ask anybody about younger generations and the way they’re beginning to integrate into their workforce, you might get a varied response. There are thousands of articles, blogs, studies and reports indicating that the millennial generation is one that is unwilling to work, feeling entitled to higher pay and better jobs. All the while wanting to spend as much time away from work as possible. Regularly being named “snowflakes, lambasted for their supposed entitlement and criticised for being constantly on their phones.”
And sure, in some facets this may be correct. Because who doesn’t want a more competitive salary, better work, more free time and to reply to a Facebook notification at 10.30am?
Still, there are also thousands of articles, blogs, studies and reports indicating the opposite. That millennials are just as ambitious as the previous generations, just as willing to work (hard) and do not feel entitled.
Alas, this is merely a generalisation. I’m sure there are individuals that embody undesirable traits and stereotypes throughout the generation. Yet these individuals likely appear throughout all generational subsects.
Regardless of the side of the fence you fall onto, millennials aren’t just coming… They’re here and here to stay.
But I’m not here to talk about this. Instead, I want to discuss how an employer, a manager or anyone else for that matter can engage a millennial worker effectively. Getting the best and highest quality of work out of them. Because like it or not, millennials aren’t the same as older generations. They grew up with highly sophisticated technologies, becoming tech and social media natives. Likely growing up with parents who not only wanted to be around, but actually were around. As perhaps in contrast to their parents of whom possibly weren’t always there for them. The millennials parents may very well have been a ‘latchkey kid’.
Like it or not, the environments that these generations grew up with were different. Thus spawning a different kind of adult. Splitting adjacent generations in very obvious ways.
It’s true, millennials want more free time, more competitive salary’s and to travel the world (generally). And are frankly in the best position to do so.
So this begs the question, “as an employer, what are the best ways to get millennials to thrive in the workplace?”
Be a mentor
Although many millennials believe themselves to be intelligent and switched on, they know they’re not yet a master. They generally understand that they’ve got a lot of room to grow and are eager to learn from the best. In this case, this is you.
They want someone they can come to with issues and questions. They want a mentor. Someone to help them grow as a professional and allow them to absorb as much knowledge in a trusting and supportive working relationship, as possible. Lead your millennial employees, don’t over-manage.
This fosters growth for both the mentor and mentee. Who knows, you might learn something, too.
Provide creative freedom and autonomy
As much as millennials love being ‘social’, they also want autonomy, creative freedom and accountability in their work. They like working as part of a group or team if need be, however, they also crave the ability to prove their worth.
When it comes to autonomy and freedom within the workplace, it may seem as if the younger generation may slack off from time-to-time. Maybe surfing Facebook or online shopping. But when you, as an employer/manager create a supportive and trusting environment, you’ll likely be surprised at how much millennials “knock their work objectives out of the park”. Likely exceeding your expectations and becoming a productive member of your team.
This may fall back into a stereotype of millennials a bit. The idea that millennials crave reassurance and pats on the back. Well, in this case, you may be somewhat correct.
Providing feedback is a crucial part of managing a millennial workforce. They want to be reassured that they’re on the right track and they’re performing to the standards that are expected. Millennials want to develop professionally and be held accountable for their efforts. Providing frequent feedback does just this.
Let them know the overlying strategy
Allowing employees to be informed about the overall strategy allows them to understand what it is that they’re bringing to the table. Frankly, it lets them know exactly where they sit within the project. Regardless of their position within the company, they just want to know where their work fits into the overarching strategy. Thus providing them with a purpose.
Unstructure the workplace
This is crucial for the millennial in the workplace, again coming back to the idea of trust. They want to build relationships with others, breaking down barriers within the office (both physically and socially). If this means taking down the cubicles and instead opting for an open floor plan. Or having an office BBQ once a month. Or letting individuals come and go when they have to (or are sometimes forced to). These all work to unstructure the workplace and build trust among management and millennials.
Millennials may be a bit different from the Gen-Xers and baby boomers. But in reality, they aren’t actually all that different. All they want is reassurance of what they’re doing, a reasonable standard of living and trust in the workplace.
They may want three weeks off a year instead of the standard two, or maybe they’ll be caught on their phone from time-to-time. But they’ll likely surpass your expectations if given the chance.
And as a side note… When hiring, don’t be afraid to take a chance on a millennial, even if they lack the 2-3 years’ experience. They’re eager and willing to learn and get out there, and more than happy to enter into their chosen fields.
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