The Risk of Ignoring Millennials

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checkOne of the biggest challenges for businesses today is integrating the Millennials twenty-somethings into a Baby Boomer culture. They are the newest generation to enter the labor market, arriving with distinct ideas about what they expect from their jobs. They are our future leaders and our next generation of revenue-generators. So who are the Millennials and how do we manage their expectations while maintaining high performing organizations?

The Millennial Generation was born between 1977 and 1998. They are 75 million strong in size and were raised by “helicopter parents”, who doted on them. Millennials tend to display an abundance of self-confidence and believe they are highly valuable to an organization from day one. They are extremely focused on developing themselves and thrive on learning new job skills, always setting new challenges to achieve. They are also the “can do” generation, seldom worrying about failure, for they see themselves as running the world and work environments.

As a whole, Millennials are connected to their parents. As they move through their twenties, they still speak to their parents frequently and turn to their parents for personal and career advice.

When it comes to work life balance, Millennials are not willing to give up their lifestyle for a career. They have traveled extensively and value having flexibility in their daily lives. They choose careers that allow them to live the life they desire, busy with after-work activities, including philanthropic involvement. Multitasking is their way of life. This generation grew up with little unstructured time as their parents carefully selected their life choices. The result of their minimal “down time” is that they are highly comfortable going from activity to activity in their adult world. When their workday ends, Millennials charge out into gyms, volunteer positions, classes and social events.

Millennials are team-oriented, banding together to socialize in groups. In school, this generation was taught lessons using a cooperative learning style. Therefore, they feel comfortable working on teams and want to make friends with the people at work. They believe that a team can accomplish more and create a better end result. They also grew up in a multi-cultural world which enables them to work well on a team with diverse co-workers. They communicate in snippets through instant messaging, texting, Facebook and e-mail.

Of all of the talents that Millennials bring to the workplace, being technologically savvy is their greatest skill contribution. They are constantly connected as they listen to their iPods or send text messages, all while working on a critical project. Social media is at the heart of their world. This allows them to connect with co-workers and friends around the world at great speed. The electronic capabilities of Millennials are extraordinary. On a recent twitter chat, several Millennials participated at lightning rod speed, sharing their thoughts: One commented: “Social Media has expanded my network tremendously. More people to talk and learn from.”

Another characteristic of the Millennials is their need for feedback and praise. As children, they were recognized with stars and trophies. Whether or not the trophy was deserved for each individual, the entire team received the positive reward. They also enjoy adding their opinions and ideas to company decisions. They want to be heard. They have little patience for ambiguity, so directions must be clear and specific. Organizations will be more successful in delivering performance milestones on a more frequent basis than once a year. The feedback sessions must be interactive, so that the Millennial is presented the opportunity to share his or her feelings and ideas. Brainstorming together could be a very effective technique.

So how do you integrate and manage the youngest generation within the workplace?Here are some key tips and insights.

CategoryWhat To DoWhy
Work environmentProvide flexible work schedules and a relaxed workplace.Create opportunities for social interaction.Millennials value friends and lifestyle.They are getting married, and having children later.
Learning and training opportunitiesProvide tuition reimbursement, employee training and mentoring.Boomer parents raised them to believe that education is the road to success.
RecruitingEmphasize the ways that your company contributes to society and the environment.School violence and global terrorism (specifically 9-11) have made them wary about the world and helped them develop a global perspective. Almost 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.
On boardingGive them exposure to different parts of the business, provide resources on the intranet for them to use at their own pace, and help them build relationships with current employees.Millennials want and need connections, checkpoints and mentoring.
Work ethicMillennials ask “what is my job” and go about figuring out the best, fastest way to complete that task.They are resourceful.
MotivationProvide paid time off as a reward.Give them opportunities and responsibility.They value friends and free time.They want to move up quickly.
Boss relationshipsWin their affection.Be careful not to cross the line from “boss as advocate” to “boss as friend.Loyalty to the boss is the number one reason they stay in a job, especially during the first three years. Dissatisfaction with the boss is the number one reason they quit.Millennials want a tight bond with a boss who is close, caring and aware.
ManagingDescribe the result you’re looking for and let them figure out how to get there. In many cases they’ll develop a better process.Hold them accountable for mistakes and praise them for success.If you tell them it’s your way or the highway, they may walk.Be authentic and do what you say you are going to do.Millennials grew up learning how to figure out things on their own. With the Internet and a network of friends a text message away they will find their own answers.They are impatient but eager to learn and quick to do so.Millennials think of themselves as a commodity that they can sell to the highest bidder.Reality television, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life and Google have shown them that being transparent is how things should be.
Work assignmentsGive them multiple projects.Put them in the field with clients, where they can work in teams and solve problems collaboratively.Let them work on projects with higher-ups when appropriate.They are great multi-taskers with 10 times the speed and technical knowledge of their older siblings. “This generation understands that there is no need to stay up all night to make an overseas phone call. They can simply text message the person with the information they need and continue the conversation the next day on their own time,” says Roberta Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions.Though they are independent thinkers, Millennials enjoy working in teams.They question the status quo and expect to make an impact on day one.
Performance feedback Provide coaching sessions to discuss career paths.Do reviews at least quarterly. If they screw up, present it as a development opportunity.Boomer parents coached them to ask for what they want.Because of the talent shortage, they will need to be promoted quickly into positions of leadership.
Reducing turnoverCreate career paths and reward successes along the way.Provide them with sophisticated technology to use at work.Watching their parents get downsized in the 80s and 90s has caused them to question loyalty to the company. They are technologically savvy.

With 75 million Millennials entering the workplace, organizations have no choice but to learn how to recruit, grow and retain these workers. If not, companies will lose talented employees who, because of their strong networking and technological capabilities, have the ability to be the most productive generation to date.

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Judy Lindenberger "gets" leadership. She is the rare coach and trainer capable of coupling personal growth with professional development, which is why top companies and individuals invite her to work with them. Judy focuses on driving performance. From developing more impactful communications to helping successful leaders become even better; from navigating your career to managing conflict; your team will leave her programs with renewed energy and focus. Judy's background includes designing and facilitating the first-ever sexual harassment prevention training for federal workers, leading the management training department for a major financial organization, and creating a highly successful, global mentoring program for a Fortune 500 company which won the national Athena Award for Mentoring for two consecutive years. She is also a certified career coach and human resources consultant. A must hear speaker at industry conferences and a published author, Judy earned a B. A. in communications and an MBA in human resources. In her free time, Judy serves as Member, Board of Trustees, YWCA Trenton and Vice President, Hopewell Valley Regional School District. She is the Past President of the Board of SERV Achievement Centers, and is a trained community mediator and child advocate. SpecialtiesCustomized training (instructor-led and e-learning), career coaching, HR audits, organizational assessments, and human resources consulting. Contact: [email protected] or 609.730.1049.