As we dig out from the “Great Recession,” millennials, roughly the 70 million people born between 1980-2000, will take front and center in as jobs come back and older workers retire.
This group has been shaped largely by the rise of “instant communication” such as emailing, texting, YouTube, and Facebook. They have entered the workforce better educated and, from a capability standpoint, ready to do the work on day one better than any generation before it.
However, as the millennials become more fully engaged in the workforce, their baby boomer managers are besieged with how to deal with a group that is sometimes referred to as the “Peter Pan” Generation because of a perceived tendency with them to “delay into adulthood”. Often millennials define being an adult based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events. This desire for “life style” purity in all things including work have led millennials to bolt quickly if the job is not a perfect fit for their lifestyle despite the paycheck or future it may offer.
It has been my honor to enjoy a front row seat to the rise of the millennials, from multi‐tasking video technology prodigies, to potential game changing employees leveraging their ease with all things digital to produce tangible business results. My front row seat has been first as a parent of a 1989 vintage millennial and second as a strategist and recruiter of millennial talent for some of the best companies in the world including: Advanced Micro Designs (AMD), Eaton Corporation, and Sara Lee.
In my view, millennial talent has gotten a bad rap for being difficult to work with. Surprisingly, what I have found in dealing with this group is that they are not difficult at all. In fact, they process 5 key bedrock work principles that would win the endorsement of even the most conservative baby boomer. Knowing these principals is key to successfully unlocking the potential of your millennial talent.
1. Millennials are brazenly ambitious
If you believe that millennials are not patient, that they don’t want to wait their turn, that they want to be named CEO after only a week on the job…Guess what, you are right!!! However, as a manager you can and should take full advantage of the abilities of your brazenly ambitious millennial. Give them responsibility–fast. They will surprise you with what they can do. Empower them from day one or risk losing them to an employer who will.
2. Millennials thrive when they are listened to
It starts with respect. Millennials have lots of ideas that they will want to share. At AMD, we held regular listening sessions where our millennial talent could make suggestions to senior management. We found that they were not afraid to speak–even to the CEO, and that many of their ideas were really good. Listen to your millennial talent. Hear them out. You may need to advise them on the “how” and “when,” but do not dismiss them. Keep them engaged.
3. Millennials are motivated by dialog
The research suggests that when millennials are simply told what to do without an opportunity for dialog, their productivity dip as much as 75% from the same work tasks when opportunities for dialog exist. Millennials want to discuss things and participate in the decision-making process. Managers who use a participative approach featuring dialog get far better results from millennial talent.
4. Millennials improve massively with training
When Eaton Corporation started making deliberate investments in training, they found a dramatic reduction in the gap between actual skills of millennials and their desire for more responsibility. Even modest investments in training millennials will pay off in the form of greater productivity and results.
5. Millennials soar when they are believed in
Leaders at Sara Lee know that millennials are confident when they believed in, supported, nurtured and have opportunities to use their talents. When the company designed programs to showcase the talents of millennials, their confidence grew and their performance soared.
The Bottom Line
Despite their advanced technical skills, and quirky relationship with adulthood, it is rather obvious that the needs and desires of millennials are eerily similar to most of us. The key to motivating them is the same key for all of us…engagement. Recruit millennials, hire millennials, engage millennials and their motivation and talent will serve your company well.