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Why you need millennials at your workplace

by Joanne G. Sujansky

Joanne Sujansky

Warehouse manager Sonia DeSilva finds it increasingly frustrating to manage her youngest employees. She complains that the Millennials who work for her, “continually show up late for work, ask to leave early, always turn down overtime requests and wonder why they haven’t been promoted after just one year on the job.” She’s not alone in her concerns.

As the Millennial generation begins to enter the workplace, they are bringing a new set of skills and a different kind of work ethic from previous generations. They’re already shaking up the organizations that have hired them and will have a profound impact over the next five years. In the U.S. alone there will be more than 58 million Millennials employed in various organizations by 2014!

But, will that impact ultimately be productive or disruptive? Will Millennials continue to frustrate and stymie their supervisors or will they transform the workplace into a dynamic, creative environment? To gain some perspective on the answer to those questions, you have to look at the events and circumstances that influenced these “Generation Y” employees as they were growing up.

Millennials are the first true children of technology. They grew up with cell phones, smart phones, video games, CDs and DVDs. Between the instant communication of cell phones and the highly charged feedback of video games, Millennials are used to a fast-paced and energy-filled environment. They’ve shaped the Internet with their enthusiasm for social networking through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. They’ve also turned instant messaging and texting into a new form of communication, complete with a new vocabulary (Thx 4 the msg, C U L8R 2nite).

Given their obsession with technology it’s understandable that Millennials often seem impatient to other generations. Their preferences for texting and instant messaging frequently frustrate others, who may be more used to e-mail and voicemail.

Perhaps no previous generation has received as much positive feedback and encouragement as Generation Y. Millennials are used to receiving a great deal of positive feedback from parents and teachers, and they expect to continue receiving that type of support on the job. Millennials are also far more oriented to teamwork and collaboration than previous generations. Millennials are used to doing things in groups, whether in team sports, school projects or group dates. Some have likened this trend to a type of herding behavior unique to Millennials, but it’s certainly indicative of a team mentality that’s important to this generation.

Finally, you cannot understand the Millennials unless you grasp the phenomenon of "helicopter parents," obsessive people who are known for making major decisions for their children, completing school projects and even doing their homework. Even following graduation helicopter parents will accompany their trophy kids to job fairs, employment interviews, and even new employee benefit discussions.

Has all of this attention spoiled numerous members of the Millennial generation? Perhaps. But we also have to recognize that Millennials enjoyed a much closer relationship with their parents than Boomers did with their parents. This bodes well for those managing a multi-generational workforce, because it suggests that Millennials won’t see Boomers as the enemy and will be able to forge close relationships with co-workers.

So, what does an organization stand to gain by hiring and developing Millennial employees? Plenty, as it turns out. Many organizations are learning that Millennials bring a new energy to the workplace. Managing Millennials may require supervisors to take a different approach, but the payoff should be well worth the effort.

Millennials are very task-focused when instructed clearly. Plus, their grasp of technology can make them highly efficient. Once you make sure they understand the mission before them you can generally count on Millennials to deliver. When an employer creates the kind of culture in which Millennials flourish – fast paced and energetic – all employees tend to benefit from that environment.

Their strong grasp of technology also makes Millennials natural mentors for other generations. Lets face it, some Boomers have taken to technology only grudgingly. Generation Y employees may well be able to raise the level of expectations and expertise regarding technology, helping more mature workers leverage technological tools.

Besides, those businesses that are focused upon capturing younger customers have little choice but to recruit and train Millennials. Who better to speak the language of Millennials and relate to their needs? Likewise, if you are looking to recruit younger employees to your organization, you’ll want Millennials to be part of that effort, for the same reason.

So, what can managers do to attract, retain and train Millennials to their organizations?

1) Make expectations crystal clear – Boomer managers shouldn’t sit back and wait for their younger employees to “get it.” Make sure Millennials understand what’s expected of them and set concrete goals. They’ll appreciate the clarity and they won’t want to disappoint you.

2) Provide plenty of feedback – It’s not really handholding to compliment your Millennials on a job well down, however minor the task may be. They thrive on that type of feedback and will work harder for you when they feel appreciated.

3) Switch it up – Give your Millennial employees a chance to tackle new responsibilities and special projects. The experience will help round them out and give them a feeling of contribution. It’s a great way to build loyalty among a group of employees who aren’t necessarily known for loyalty. By the way, if they ask for more money because they are doing more or higher-level work, tell them why they can or cannot have it.

4) Discuss long-term career plans and goals – Millennials tend to be very confident and expect to do well. This accounts for the sense of entitlement that Millennials are often accused of possessing. They won’t bide their time and wait for promised promotions as their parents did. Let them know what’s required for them to move to the next level and make sure they feel in control of their own destiny.

5) Create an environment that is engaging and exciting – Fresh ideas, new thinking, team challenges, creative recognition and fun activities all contribute to the type of atmosphere that energizes Millennials. In the long run, all employees will benefit from the effort.

As Millennial employees begin to take their places alongside other generations, the potential for conflict and culture shock may run rampant. Without doubt, Millennials are going to shake things up and they may represent a frustrating challenge for supervisors. But look past the obvious differences and shortcomings, and you’ll find that your Millennials offer you a chance to create a fresh, more dynamic workplace culture that promises higher levels of productivity and profitability.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), founder and CEO of KEYGroup, works with leaders to create cool workplaces that attract, retain and get the most from their talent. As a consultant and speaker with over 25 years of experience, Joanne’s many clients include American Express, AT&T and Mayo Clinic. She is co-author of the best-selling book, “Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What to Do About It.” To hire her, visit: www.joannesujansky.com or call 724-942-7900.

 

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