In a world, so long dominated by the baby boomers, the “millennials” are becoming a force to reckon with. Millennial stereotypes abound and they are accused, among other things, of being lazy, unfocussed, entitled and disloyal.
The reasons for this range from over-indulgent parenting to advances in technology or, more recently, the massive blow to trust in corporations. So it was an interesting piece I read on what the baby boomer dominated business world can learn from these millennials.
Nigel Miller, Co-chair Europe and CIS Employee Engagement & Global Director Talent Engagement at Edelman, states that much of what millennials want, even expect, from employment is not unique to their generation. The biggest difference is that the millennials know how to scream the loudest.
Miller highlights the following tips that boomers can learn from the millennials.
- Frequent, instant recognition. Young employees are not far from their school years where they received consistent, measurable and peer comparable feedback almost weekly from the age of six. Also conditioned by gaming, Millennials have been accustomed to instant, albeit virtual, rewards for achieving new levels of competence. Applied in the workplace, we could all benefit from immediate and specific feedback rather than waiting for the annual or semi-annual review.
- More productive use of time. Millennials are willing to put in the hours. But they’re not interested in just appearing to be busy. In charge, they’d likely schedule fewer and shorter meetings or conference calls but with focused agendas and action logs. And when our work is done, they’d encourage us to leave and enjoy the rest of their life, always remaining connected if necessary. Better use of time could make us more productive, and frankly more interesting, when we’re at work. Shouldn’t that be a goal for all of us?
- Short term performance management. Among the stereotypes reinforced every day is that millennials don’t have much patience for long-term promises. Based on seeing their parents often toil for many years with one company only to have the rug pulled out due to the financial crisis or the latest recession, can we blame them? Long-term incentive programs and 10-year career-path trajectories don’t hold much interest. What they do tend to embrace are clear, measurable objectives that are regularly reviewed and challenging short-term assignments, at home or abroad. With rapid change requiring companies to be agile, employees’ ability to be so nimble will be a big advantage.
- More collaboration. Millennials tend to be very comfortable working in teams. They want to be involved and ultimately share their experiences as widely as possible. For organizations that value teamwork and seek to instill a spirit of advocacy for their brands, Millennials can show the rest of us how to do it.
- A more explicit employee deal. Full transparency around the expectations between employer and employee has probably always been an engagement driver. If millennials take it further and shout for a more explicit “employee deal,” that’s a good thing according to Andy Brown, CEO of the UK-based Engage. “Increasingly, organizations are putting in place explicit sets of “terms” that outline what the employer expects from employees in terms of behaviours, effort and delivery. And they also spell out what employees can expect back in terms of development, opportunity, culture and rewards.
- Meritocracy. Yes, the opposite of entitlement. millennials consistently hate “waiting their turn” to give input and will run from a traditional, tenure-based workplace hierarchy. By evolving in this regard, organizations surely benefit from environments in which rewards are earned versus entitled.
- More fun. To truly enjoy their work, millennials will tell you they need to enjoy their workplace. Open, engaging environments promote inspiration, innovation and collegiality. And friends at the office are the norm versus the exception, making work and life seamless. Tech firm FNZ’s HR director Daniel Kasmir, who describes the company’s Edinburgh location, complete with a four-pod think tank, kitchen meeting area with pool table and large graffiti wall. If we create a workplace that promotes fun, millennials are more likely to stick around. As for the balance of us, we just need to lighten up and join in.
- More purpose. Millennials will consistently tell you they want to work for a company that makes a positive difference. Do they want to have their cake and it eat it too? Perhaps. And why not? Today’s young adults have often had experience of contributing their time and reasonably expect their employer to generate more than a profit as well. Articulating a clear purpose, or “North Star,” and actively involving employees in corporate social responsibility programs will reap big dividends.
- Tailored engagement action plans. While there are many common denominators for engagement across the generations, it’s also true that we value different things as we journey through life’s stages. Millennials would advise us to segment our engagement actions and avoid using a “single hammer” to address engagement across everyone as if we were one homogenous mass.
Rather than constantly trying to figure out how to engage Millennials, we can seek their help to engage us. Finding the answers will only become more important as retirement ages get pushed back and three or even four generations work side by side in the companies of the future.