Again, I know groupings like generations cannot account for the uniqueness of each member of your team but in the end we are humans and our brains like grouping. There are some common characteristics among generations, especially regarding their motivation and communication styles in the workplace, that as leaders can help us to better understand and get to know the unique individuals on our teams.
Earlier this month we started this series Generations in the Workplace with a focus on Baby Boomers, check that out here, and then a focus on Gen X, check that out here. Today, we’re moving onto to Millennials (yours truly!). So let’s dive in!
Millennials in the Workplace
Oh Millennials! My peoples. I’ve got to say, we get a bad wrap girl! Yes, some of those annoying stereotypes are true (yes, my iPhone is always in my hand – sorry, not sorry!) but we’ve got some dang good traits to make up for it.
Millennials, or Gen Y, are roughly comprised of those born between 1981-1996. Divorce was normal with our parents, we were used to both parents working and showing us that example, and the internet became accessible and useful as we were kids. We put school first because our parents told us that was our number one priority and we were the first generation where most of us went to college right out of high school. Many of us came of age in the Recession, the worst time to enter the job market since the Great Depression. We worked our butts off in college, racked up all the student debt because that’s what we were told to do, and then came out into the workforce fighting for a minimum wage job. We saw our parents (and even grandparents) work for decades with the same companies with loyalty, and then get dropped on their asses (excuse my French). That loyalty did not pay off, and instead left millions scrambling just to keep a roof over their heads.
So how has that manifested itself in how Millennials are in the workplace? Well, to the outside it looks like we’re entitled, know-it-alls with no company loyalty – and guess what? That’s not totally wrong. What we saw growing up was that company loyalty and following “the plan” doesn’t guarantee the American dream. You can check all the boxes and still not have stability or loyalty back from your company. So we do feel entitled to happiness and we aren’t going to sacrifice that happiness for any job. We come off as know-it-alls because we’re the first generation that grew up with the internet and went to school and college where you were required to have a laptop, so we’re often teaching our colleagues how to do things digitally, efficiently, and securely. It created a generation that is scrappy, doesn’t rely or trust any one company to take care of us, and believes that loyalty and trust are earned and mutual.
I won’t lie, it does cause some major shakeups and challenges in the workplace. First, it means that you have to work much harder as a leader to retain your workforce. We aren’t driven by just the paycheck. The money and benefits are important but only to a point, and just as important to us is our development and growth. Millennials are loyal to companies that invest in them, treat them as a valued partner and HUMAN, coach them instead of micromanage, and those that provide purposeful work.
When you show Millennials that trust and investment you get the badass benefits that you won’t find elsewhere. You’ll find a generation that will innovate and make your companies better, faster, and stronger. You’ll find a generation that helps you to create an enjoyable, relationship-focused workplace that people WANT to be in. You’ll find a generation that is excited to always be learning and getting better, meaning your company will never be stagnant.
So here’s how you engage and keep your millennials – build relationships with them, give them one-on-one time, do team-building regularly, talk to them about their short- and long-term growth at the company, invest in their development and training, and loosen up on your rigid schedule to allow your team to enjoy life. Measure their success by their work product instead of their hours clocked. Give them praise often and let them tell you how they like to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done. Embrace their ideas around remote working and digital workflows, you won’t regret it. Keep them in the loop and ask for their help. They’ll be flattered, they’ll feel trusted and they’ll bust their butts for you.
Don’t tie them to a desk and don’t make them follow step-by-step processes for no reason. Give them clear outcomes and expectations but then allow them to be creative on how they get to that outcome, they might surprise you. Also, don’t be fooled by the media or society telling you that Millennials need nap pods and beer on tap in the office to keep them. Those silly perks that we hear about from Silicon Valley are cool but they are NOT your make or breaks – relationships and development are. Make time weekly to sit down with your millennial team members and don’t blow them off. They see respect from your time and your care.
If you are the millennial, let me share a few tips to get along better with your colleagues from other generations. First, put your phone away in meetings – I MEAN IT. I know you think you can multitask but it’s rude to other generations. BE ON TIME – to work, to meetings, on projects, etc. It might not be as big of a deal to you, but it’s a major sign of respect to the rest of your team members. Keep pushing the boundaries and questioning the “way it’s always been done” but make sure you’re showing respect while you do it.
So what now?
Use this article to start a conversation with a Millennial in your workplace (or another generation if you are a Millennial!). Work through and see what holds true for your Millennial team member and what doesn’t – these are groupings after all, and your team member is a unique individual! When you’re done, share with me in the comments what stood up and what did not!
Come back next week to hear more about Gen Z!
PS – if you haven’t already downloaded my free guide, the 7 Best Ways to Motivate Your Team – Even Millennials, then now is the time!