Millennials: Your Secret Weapon & Misconception

At virtually every work related conference or event I’ve attended within the past few years one topic seems to be continually addressed: Millennials. And rightly so. By 2020 millennials will make up roughly 50% of the American work force.

To many business owners and managers, the thought of millennials at the wheel of their business is terrifying. However, I believe quite the contrary.

If you’ve attended a session on millennials I’m sure you’ve heard quite a few traits that seem to define our group. Personally, I’ve heard some good speakers, but I’ve heard some not so great ones. The good ones fall just shy of great because they seem to lack the connection between millennial traits and the work place.

There are misconceptions out there. There is information that falls short. There is information given and wrong conclusions made. So I’d personally like to take a moment to clear that up.

There are Two Groups of Millennials

I have a theory. I’m sure you’ve heard that millennials are lazy. That we don’t want to work. That we are caught up in our wanderlust and aren’t grounded or rational.

My theory is that there are actually 2 very different segments of millennials. The first group might just fall into a category of the traits mentioned above. But if that’s really the case you have no need to worry about them. They won’t be applying to work at your business.

The second segment of millennials have been greatly influenced by the Baby Boomer generation. They were taught to work hard and take responsibility for their actions. Their first job required a worker’s permit and was most likely in food service or retail. They went to school, got a degree or learned a technical skill, and are now in or about to join the workforce.

These, my friend, are the millennial you want to snatch up. They are the future of your company. They are your secret weapon.

Recruiting Talented Millennials

There’s no denying that millennials are tech savvy and carry a wealth of knowledge from the digital age. But there’s more than merely meets the eye.

Employers should not only be concerned with recruiting millennials, but retaining them. Many employers today are reluctant to recruit this promising generation because of the likelihood of their immediate departure. As a whole, millennials look for ‘jobs’ rather than careers and tend to be goal focused.

How does that translate into winning over a talented millennial? Investment.

Investing in millennials may seem like a waste of time, resources and training hours. But this investment will make the difference between 1 year and 5-10+ years of service.

In order to maintain a millennial mind the work place must be people focused. It’s no secret that millennials are social creatures. We’re also incredibly humanitarian. We want to work towards something bigger than ourselves. Use this to your advantage!

So what does that look like? First, being people focused is multi-faceted. It means concern for the person clocking in is more important than the hours recorded. To millennials this is shown a variety of ways.

Millennials crave flexibility. The number 1 thing that I hear from other millennials is their deep desire for a workplace that is flexible. Having a flexible work environment is difficult because it requires a great deal of trust in your employees. It means allowing them to work from home, come and go at irregular hours (where the job allows), and does not include restrictive policies. Millennials are incredibly turned off by legalism and impersonal policies that, once again, put the hours recorded above the individual. Millennials see this type of impersonal system as a personal attack against their integrity. It also creates an environment of defense vs. offense, with what is seen as an unnecessary stress and pressure on time rather than task.

Flexibility doesn’t just have to do with time away from the office. It can also mean making exceptions and veering from ‘policy’ for the sake of your employees. Not only does this build employee moral, but also significantly increases loyalty.

Millennials are incredibly task oriented. They desire to complete tasks and gain acknowledgement and feedback. This is often mistaken for “needing a participation medal.” The truth is, millennials don’t just crave positive reinforcement or a pat on the back, but negative criticism as well. An annual or quarterly review doesn’t cut it with this generation, because they want the instant feedback they’ve been acquiring in other areas of life. They want to know when things are done correctly so they can continue to grow their strengths in that area. But they also desire criticism and critique so they can immediately change their approach in areas where they fall short.

Millennials are also incredibly energetic. They put their heart and soul into their work and do so with passion and dedication. A fresh perspective may be just what your company needs to maintain a competitive edge!

As a millennial continues to grow and develop in his/her field, it is important for them to know that they have a ladder. This ladder can be vertical or it can be horizontal. But the job must provide options not only for growth but for expansion. I mentioned earlier that millennials see the workplace as a job rather than a career. Yet each position in the company is considered to be “1 job.” With room to grow, move, and succeed, millennials turn their job into a career by moving up through various positions within the company. It’s like the video games we grew up with. In order to win the game one had to continue to ‘level up.’ Without this ‘leveling up’ there would be no challenge, no goal. A known ladder of progression for your millennial employees very well may make the difference between 1 year and 10 years of service.

As millennials work their way through the ranks it is also important that there is a social element. Many will claim that millennials work better as a team. I don’t think this is the whole truth. Yes, millennials do work well with others, but a full blown team is not necessary for their success. What is more important is that their management treats them like a member of the same team. What I mean by this is that your millennials subordinates should feel like they’re going to bat for your team. They should feel that every time they do a task or job that they are furthering your cause. This also plays into our humanitarianism. We’re buying into something bigger than ourselves. That something bigger could be your company!

Appreciate your millennials. We talked about feedback and giving praise or criticism for tasks and jobs. A key to retaining millennial workers is to be employee focused. Although this is a trait of many businesses, not all businesses know how to truly show appreciation for their employees. To millennials, appreciation isn’t shown by money or events. Appreciation is shown to millennials by exhibiting trust and giving responsibility. It’s shown by little things that aren’t mandated or part of a routine or annual event.

Money is actually not a driving factor for millennials. In fact, many millennials would trade in personal time or vacation days for their salary. Many workers in this generation have taken pay cuts (drastic ones) to go where they ‘feel’ appreciated vs. where they are paid more. Millennials believe that although money is important, there’s more to life. They believe that family (and friends they would consider like family) are more important than work. However, they are also able to separate the two and give 110% in each environment.

When a millennial feels trapped they cannot be retained. Three ways to make a millennial feel trapped are to: 1. Have no ladder within the company for growth or movement, 2. Maintain a strict and stringent time off policy and 3. Fail to empower your millennial team member.

Wrapping it Up

Understanding the Millennial Mind is a complex thing. But keep in mind that there’s more than meets the eye. Millennials may be young, but they bring skill sets and technological background to the work force like we’ve never seen before. In a nut shell- we want to work. We want to work hard. And we want to be successful. We just might be your company’s next big secret weapon!