Lazy, entitled, delusional, narcissistic and unreliable are just some of the buzzwords managers are using to describe millennials. Most people -- even people who are considered millennials -- seem to perpetuate this negative connotation that the millennial generation is the problem in today’s workforce. In 2013, according to Hubspot, 68 percent of corporate recruiters said it was difficult to manage millennials.
While it is true some people from this generation are entitled, lazy and delusional, one-size doesn’t fit all. To win with a millennial workforce, you need to give them a sense of purpose and the freedom to succeed on their terms. Adopt these principles to succeed with this age group.
1. Think differently, because they do.
In the “good ol’ days” managing people was easy. They came to work and cashed their paycheck every other Friday; lather, rinse, repeat for 30 years. For the most part, companies could count on a core of employees to be around for a lifetime. People found a groove and stuck with it. They became masters of a single skill and passed it on. I like to think of the past generations as the RONCO cooker, “Just set it, and FORGET IT!!!” However, this formula just doesn’t work with younger employees.
Millennials think differently than past generations. They don’t just want to “find a groove and stick with it.” They want to be challenged. They want to grow as a professional and as a person. They want to feel valued. They don’t want to be managed; they want to be lead. They want to feel like they are making a difference. Yes, they love money, but millennials need to know they’re making an impact, even if it is a small one.
2. Give them purpose, not an assignment.
The millennial generation is all about being part of a greater purpose. To summarize an article published on HR.com, the millennial generation wants to believe in the company’s mission. They want to know how each employee is helping to reach that mission. “Help change the world” should be your team’s motto because 84 percent of millennials say that making a difference is more important than professional recognition. Ninety-two percent believe businesses should be measured by more than their profits.
3. Public outreach can equal employee outreach.
For a real-world example of this philosophy in action, take a look at how this law firm is quietly empowering their employees to help raise funds for St. Jude. This is a perfect example of giving purpose to millennials. It has absolutely nothing to do with the law firm, but it sends a message that they care about the world. So far they’ve raised more than $91,000 for charity.
In the past, companies have always donated to charity in order to promote themselves to the public. It works. If you don’t believe me, check out this list of 53 popular companies that donate to nonprofits. With the millennial generation entering the workforce, the benefits of donating to nonprofits has multiplied. It is something your team gets to be a part of -- giving them a sense of purpose the expands beyond the balance sheet; something they can tell their friends and family about. While you may not win an employee for life, you will give them some purpose outside of the typical day-to-day work, which ideally translates to less employee turnover.
4. Growth potential, not promises.
Millennials want to grow and learn as fast as they can. In return, they are eager to progress in their careers. More importantly, they don’t want to wait. They often overlook the disadvantages of hopping jobs, and they don’t want to be promised a better position in the “near future.” While this may seem selfish or entitled, it really is all about being appreciated. You have to understand, most of these people grew up watching parents work the same job, day in and day out, all of their lives. Most of those parents either worked the same job or the same field, rarely growing beyond that title or skill.
This younger generation dislikes bureaucracy and distrusts traditional hierarchies. Make them feel used and they will leave, or orse, become less than 100 percent engaged. If you have a secretive management team, this is an even bigger distraction for them. Show them how they bring value to the company, and be very open about how they can progress their careers within the company. Consider new titles that fit in-between traditional title steps. Each step adds a little more responsibility, challenging and growing their skillset.
Instead of telling them, show your team members that they can make a difference in the company by helping them grow.