The big question executives and business owners are racking their brains with these days is how to engage younger employees -- specifically millennials.
Millennials are known for certain characteristics, none of which is particularly flattering. They've also been called the generation that doesn’t want to be tied down: Specifically, millennials prefer to work from home, want to travel and in some cases are thought of as being overly sensitive and averse to criticism.
No surprise, then, that these stereotypes have left a bad taste in a lot of employers' mouths. But, one CEO who says he's found a way to see all those traits as a positive, is Arash Shirazi, CEO of The Bullitt Agency. For almost two decades the agency has represented some of the world's best-known electronic music artists, including Dubfire, Hot Since 82 and more.
In the entertainment world especially, understanding millennials as both consumers and employees has become vital to business success, seeing as how millennials are industry's primary demographic. Arash, 42, and a member of Generation X, is aware of how the millennial generation operates, and says he takes a proactive approach to engaging them in ways that speak to their aspirations.
“Millennials want experiences and they seek a higher purpose in their work,” Shirazi recently told me. “So, knowing that, I try to come up with things that will give them meaningful experiences -- which makes their work more rewarding.”
In our sit-down, Shirazi and I discussed how companies can meaningfully engage with their millennial employees. Here are five key takeaways from that conversation.
1. Make them feel heard.
Shirazi's first piece of advice was to not discount what young people have to say. They’re not only vociferous about what they don’t like, but also about what they do. Young people are brand ambassadors for any company or product, so listen to what they have to say.
Shirazi said he advises other CEOs and business owners to allow the younger generations room to share their ideas, and then to take the time to consider them. Millennials grew up with technology and are adept at thinking critically to find short-cuts to make their lives more efficient, he pointed out.
2. Reinforce good behavior.
Another mistake leaders often make is to spend too much time pointing out what isn’t working instead of rewarding what is. Millennials don’t enjoy negative criticism. (Truthfully, no one does.)
But, millennials do respond well to constructive feedback. Pull these young employees aside and explain to them what went wrong, show them the impact and then ask what the employees could do differently next time. Remember to praise in public and give constructive feedback in private.
3. Provide consistent feedback.
How are you supposed to grow and improve if you never receive any feedback in the first place?
One of the big mistakes businesses make is waiting six months or even a year to conduct a formal review with employees. “Doesn’t that seem like an anachronism nowadays?" Shirazi said to me. "We can, like, comment and give feedback on anything in our lives in real time. So, why not on employee performance?” Feedback, he added, needs to be weekly or even daily.
People should know how they’re doing in real time, he said. It’s a relationship and it’s on the leaders to make younger employees feel that they are part of the process.
4. Allow for travel, remote work and time off.
A lot of millennials and young people today would rather have freedom than a higher salary. "They invest in experiences, not stuff," Shirazi said. "Money isn’t their sole driver and so they’re looking for fulfillment in the workplace."
In short, the millennial generation doesn't understand the idea of clocking in and out. The work paradigm has shifted, and for them it’s the output and quality of the work, where they judge their success.
5. Provide shadowing opportunities.
It’s no secret that young people are ambitious. Millennials are full of energy. They’re immersive and want to feel accomplished, but they also need some guidance. Great success for organizations is found by giving young people opportunities to be mentored or to shadow more experienced leaders.
Millennials will appreciate those opportunities because they'll see firsthand how much there is to learn and how they can continue to grow over time. You're the one to give them those opportunities.