millennial working

Millennials, the generation of Americans roughly born between 1980 and 2000, are rising rapidly.  People often write about the dramatic changes millennials are bringing to the workforce. Some of it istongue-in-cheek, hyperbolic, and even sarcastic. However, millennials are here to stay, and they are dramatically changing the way American companies do business.

Like the generations of American workers before them, millennials are motivated and ready to make a difference in the workplace; the key is working with them effectively. Here are some things to keep in mind as you lead a team of millennials in your small business.

Millennials Are Lazy?

Google “millennial” and you’ll find a ton of horror stories about how lazy and disengaged today’s young workers are.  However, don’t believe the hype. Millennials are motivated, dedicated workers. They often push themselves harder at work than previous generations did.

Most millennials grew up during the Great Recession. They probably had to work their way through college.  They’ve lived with great economic uncertainty. Many of them have  a side hustle to help make ends meet. Many of the he Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are millennials.

Millennials embrace challenges at work. They like tackling hard job and solving complex problems. They may be different from generations past, but they are anything but lazy.

Millennials want to be Led, not Managed

Previous generations were comfortable in a work environment where bosses, and the organizational culture of the business itself, dictated exactly what jobs had to be done, and how employees were supposed to do them. Millennials generally feel stifled in these scenarios.

Instead, millennials crave leadership. They want their bosses to provide them intent or guidance, a clear vision, on what they need done, and then the latitude to execute the job as they see fit.  Structure, such as deadlines, specifications for a particular job, and the like are helpful for ensuring that this generation of workers can bring their talents to bear on tasks like these.

Millennials also seek feedback and mentorship in the workplace as well. They want to understand if they are performing effectively, and what they can do to better themselves. Bosses who take the time to provide guidance and counseling to their millennial employees will likely find them taking it to heart, and putting that feedback into effect in the workplace as well.

Millennials Love Technology

Millennials grew up around the consumer technology that has been ubiquitous for the past two decades. They cannot remember a time before the Internet, and most of them were coming of age as Facebook and other social media giants were becoming mainstream. Take that into account as they become the dominant part of your workforce.

Millennials  want access  to all of their apps and tech while they are at work.  If you are managing them, find a way to make it work.

Millennials’ tech-savvy nature is actually an advantage for them as workers. Unlike generation Xers and baby boomers, most millennials will arrive at work fully understanding the information technology they have to use in the office, and will embrace it in a way other generations cannot or will not. You will likely spend much less time and effort training your millennials how to use new software or devices.

Millennials Want a Work-Life Balance

More so than other generations, millennials have high expectations about their life outside of their workplace. They maintain tight, engaged networks of friends, and are more inclined to be engaged in outside activities than the boomers and Gen Xers they are replacing. Managers who take this into account are more likely to have a content, productive workforce.

There are many ways of adapting your workplace to accommodate the changing mores of this new generation. For starters, policies that allow flexible hours can be extremely helpful; millennials who have activities in the evenings can simply adjust their work arrival time, complete the tasks at hand, and still partake in activities later. Likewise, millennials with kids can see them off to school or daycare, then work later to compensate for their later arrival times to the office.

Similarly, flexible leave policies are also important to millennials as well. They will often choose to take more long weekends to take advantage of a fleeting Airbnb deal, for example, and forego the annual two-week vacations that previous generations were accustomed to. A looser vacation policy will serve an office with millennials extremely well.

Millennials Want to Belong

To past generations, work was simply work; you went to the office, did your job, and came home. Millennials want more than that from the office; they want to belong. Structuring the office in a way that satisfies their sense of belonging can help make millennials highly productive workers.

Where possible, strive to foster a sense of teamwork in the workplace. One way to do this is by establishing project teams, who are responsible for bringing a product from the idea phase to completion, and managing it after it hits the market. Millennials, working as a team, will often accomplish a task like this better than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers ever could.

Similarly, look for ways to increase camaraderie among your workforce overall. Creating a sports team, or having routine social events, will help instill the camaraderie that millennials crave, and will likely foster a greater sense of belonging to the company.

Final Thoughts

By some counts, there are almost 75,000,000 millennials preparing to enter the American workforce. They came of age just as the Internet became commonplace, and do not remember a time before it. They entered the workforce during the Great Recession, and had to work hard to make ends meet.

Millennial workers are poised to comprise the dominant portion of the American workforce, and will often work for managers from the generations that preceded them. Companies that can get past the hype and hyperbole, and set their millennial workers up for success, will no doubt achieve competitive advantages over rivals who cannot.

Provide leadership and guidance to your millennial workforce; do not micromanage them. Embrace millennials’ love of and adroitness with technology, and put it to work in your business; and structure your company’s policies to account for the new generation’s changing social mores as well. Doing all of these things will help ensure you have a happy productive workforce, and that your company is set up for success as well.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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