Seven Surprising Traits That Make Millennials Valuable Employees
The most technologically adept generation is perhaps also our most humane and collaborative.
It happened without much fanfare, millennials overtook my generation – Gen X to become the largest generation in the workplace in the United States. In fact, millennials are now the largest generation in the country, and are expected to remain so for the foreseeable future.
As a result, business leaders who want to succeed must understand and connect with this uniquely motivated generation. Whereas previous generations might have been driven to uphold cultural norms or to rebel against them, millennials carry a mix of attitudes shaped by tremendous technological change and tumultuous political and social events.
Here are seven, perhaps surprising, things about millennials that will assist you in understanding their key motivations. By learning their motivations, you will be better able to serve this demographic as colleagues, managers and customers.
Millennials are a curious generation. They are excited to learn new skills, and are willing to invest the time in becoming better employees. Just take a look at the trillion plus dollars in student loan debt millennials are willing to take on in order to expand their minds and options.
Companies I have assisted that have successfully tapped into what the millennial workers want have created career-development programs that help employees to grow at all times. PepsiCo, one of my clients, for example, recently launched a program that focused on providing employees with access to "critical experiences" rather than a simple ladder to the top.
Millennial workers simply will not toil away at the same job for years in order to earn a promotion, or a raise, and thus an opportunity to learn new skills. PepsiCo solves this problem by creating a new path of professional growth that is more like a lattice framework of learning versus a career ladder that so many Baby Boomers spent their life trying to climb.
Young employees are often mocked by older business leaders for their belief that they are somehow different from everyone else. Many of the members of the Boomer generation expressed that millennials were raised with unrealistic visions of the real world, thanks in part to them receiving participation trophies.
Leaders who desire to connect with their millennial team members should avoid mocking millennial beliefs. Companies like Nissan, encourage senior managers to take an individualized approach to managing millennial employees.
It's important for business leaders to understand that millennial employees hold different personal and professional goals. In exchange for passionately investing their time to advance the interests of the company, millennials expect the company to help them succeed through individualized support.
3. Social good
Businesses that offer millennial employees a compelling vision and commitment related to advancing a social issue will find success in motivating this generation. HK2, a Dallas PR firm, is an example of a company that has successfully tapped into millennial energy through a variety of initiatives that encourage employees to give back.
HK2 encourages employees to donate their time to charity, even during work hours, and has joined with a number of other companies in agreeing to donate company support.
Millennials care about a variety of social causes, including those related to climate change and social equality. While your organization doesn't need to donate profits to a charitable cause, it should draw a reasonable link between business success and positive social change.
4. Financial stability
The Great Recession made a lasting impact on the millennial generation. So much so that millennials are making financial decisions focused on maintaining stability rather than striking it rich. They are willing to forgo immediate gratification for long term stability.
As a result of the recession and high student loan debt, millennials are choosing to be financially frugal by forgoing the purchase of luxury goods and by living at home longer than previous generations.
Employee benefits like tuition assistance and matching 401k plans will appeal to the many millennial workers who are interested in planning for their future as part of your recruitment strategy.
5. Technological innovation
Millennials are a definitely the digital generation, they were born when the internet, personal computers and cellphones went mainstream. As a result, millennials are obsessed with technology. For example, one study found that the average college student checked either Snapchat or Instagram over 12 times per day. Because of this obsession, millennials are interested in working for organizations that are leading technological innovation and have a strong vibrant social media presence.
According to a recent study of millennials conducted by Google, this cohort considers tech brands like Apple, Tesla and Amazon to be considerably cooler than other large brands like Ford, Levi's or Chanel.
Business leaders must ensure that their company mission is in some way connected to technological innovation in order to appeal to millennial employees who are enamored with new technologies.
6. Regular feedback
A recent study found that over 40 percent of millennial employees wanted to receive weekly feedback from their managers. Millennial workers thrive on feedback even when it is related to areas of improvement rather than praise.
Simply providing millennial employees with quarterly or annual performance reviews will not cut it. Instead, organizations need to get in the habit of encouraging managers to meet with employees on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Remember, millennials tend to be curious. They want to improve themselves professionally, and they view regular feedback as an important component of professional development. When leaders meet with their millennial employees it is important to know they respond more openly if the manager is not talking down to them. It is important for leaders to get out from behind their desk and sit face-to-face with their millennial employee, keep the meeting short, concise and non-emotional.
There's a reason millennial-led companies rely on open-concept office design. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, works in the center of an open-concept office at Facebook instead of working in a corner office suite.
Similarly, the average millennial employee prefers collaborating to working individually in many instances. Provide millennials with the opportunity to collaborate with peers within and across teams by creating open-concept meeting spaces and by developing a transparent work environment where people are aware of work happening throughout the organization.
Attracting and retaining talented employees is one of the biggest components of running a successful business. In order to attract talented millennial employees, business leaders need to foster an environment that is fun, stimulating and innovative.
Creating a mission statement geared toward solving social issues through technological innovation and training managers to provide regular and personalized feedback can be good ways to motivate millennial employees.
Sher Lynn, the Generational Guru and best-selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sher specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.