February 11, 2016

Employees are central to the success of most business ventures. Whether you make widgets, build houses, or provide services, employees play a crucial role. Knowing how to manage and grow employees to do their best is a challenge.

The youngest employees in our workforce are classified as the Millennial Generation. The dates of the generation are subject to debate, but these people were born somewhere between the late 1970s and the late 1990s. There are 80 million of them in the United States. You likely have some working for you, and they are the workforce of the near future.

It seems that every generation has concerns about the generations that follow. “They don’t work like we did,” or “Back in the day.” It’s true that each generation is somewhat different than the one before, but different doesn’t necessarily mean worse.

It’s important to understand the drivers and tendencies of a generation if you want to effectively engage it in your workplaces.

So, what do the Millennials want from their work? How can we best engage them?

  1. Technology – These young people grew up with a computer in each hand. They have always lived in a wired world. They sleep with their smartphones. Whatever the task, they will look to technology to make it easier. Don’t judge that as laziness – asking the question “Is there an app for that?” is just what they do.
  2. Frequent feedback – Living in the “wired” world means they have instant access to information and answers. They like feedback that is almost real-time. Waiting until a year-end review for feedback won’t make the grade for them. The bonus is, if you tell them sooner the things they are doing well and the things they need to work on, they can make course corrections sooner. (Maybe they are teaching us a lesson there!)
  3. Context – One of the favorite questions of this age group is “Why?” They don’t blindly follow instructions. They want to understand the connection. “Why will this matter?” “How will this impact other tasks downstream?” “Why do we do it this way?” They are inquisitive, and sometimes bosses interpret that as questioning authority or being insubordinate. Instead of being offended by all the questions, embrace them and understand that these young workers can do better work if they understand the reasons behind it.
  4. Consideration – This age group grew up being asked what they thought, what they wanted, and how they wanted things to happen. That doesn’t mean they’re spoiled – it’s just that they were given more options than older workers might have been. They grew up expecting to be listened to and considered and bring that to the workplace. They may not be the most experienced workers, but they have ideas to share. Though not the decision-maker, they want to have input. Without the opportunity to participate, they’ll feel disconnected and disengaged.

Most research indicates that individuals of this generation are willing to work hard, and they want to achieve financial rewards along with having a good work-life balance. They tend to want to try a variety of avenues to have different experiences before settling down to a specific path. Job rotation programs are popular with Millennials.

Because of their age range, many are in the midst of getting married or partnering, having children, paying off student loan debt and laying the foundation for their future. Research generally shows that they are somewhat financially conservative. Most prefer financial guarantees over riskier ventures. They appreciate having a pool of benefits to choose from. You can use this information to help you offer salary and benefit programs that fit their needs.

If you’re managing a group of Millennials, an important thing to remember is that they are still young. Their views and behaviors are likely to change somewhat as they age. Still, they were raised in a different world than we were. They will likely always expect faster response time and instant access.

Spend time with your Millennial employees. Talk to them and understand what their specific goals are. Use their energy to fuel your company. They are a resource you can’t afford to be without.

© 2016