If the millennial generation had its own logo, it might have an image of a smart phone superimposed over a participation trophy, right? Not so fast. If the stereotypical view of millennials has you worried about the future of your small business, it's time to open your mind to the opportunities that a new mindset can bring. Millennials may view the world differently, but their methods sometimes offer significant advantages to your business.
Maybe it's time to stop giving millennials a bad rap and listen to what they have to say.
Representing more workers than any other generation in today's workforce (and an increasing percentage of your customer base, as well), they deserve a little respect. If you understand and embrace the following four traits of millennials, you will see the wisdom of letting them have their way -- at least some of the time.
1. They work smarter, not harder.
What's wrong with working smarter? Federal legislation ended sweatshops back in 1938, but it didn't automatically end the belief that long hours of non-stop work create the most output. Millennials who get their jobs done in less time are not lazy, as long as they do good work. In fact, a smart business owner will value that extra efficiency, particularly when a sudden rush order requires more work in less time.
If your employees are completing all assignments within a small fraction of their work days, maybe you need to add new challenges to their jobs. But, if you can harness the creative thinking that increased their efficiency, you can use it to develop methodologies that make all workers more effective in their jobs as they create high-quality products and services.
2. They love their smart phones.
Early 2016 statistics from PEW Research showed that 72 percent of Americans use smart phones, so people of any age are increasingly attached to their devices. Still, millennials are better-versed in using all new technology to stay connected and do some pretty resourceful things.
Granted, expressing yourself in 140 characters takes its toll on traditional communication (not to mention spelling), but the loss of one skill can enhance another. Millennials may not excel at small talk during a traditional sales call. However, their communication is succinct and millennial customers may appreciate that attribute.
3. They have a strong social conscience.
Some millennials may not even accept positions that don't provide them with meaningful ways to make a better world. On the job, they will be watchful for ways to make operations better for the environment and the community. And, they welcome off-the-job time spent for volunteer endeavors.
Don't let visions of dollar signs stop you from providing time off to volunteer or spending money on the extra containers and time needed to recycle items normally relegated to the trash. By all means, run the numbers to see how your generosity will affect the bottom line, but don't discount the goodwill and PR that can add value to your business.
4. They want to be engaged.
Even the top job in the company has some unavoidable drudgery, but you wouldn't keep your doors open if you faced nothing but repetitious boredom day after day. Previous generations viewed benefits and paychecks as the ultimate reward. Millennials need to care about the work.
As a small business owner, you hire people to perform specific jobs, but a small workforce benefits when employees can wear many hats. Do not over-define any position. Let your employees spread their wings within any areas of interest, even if they don't have the full skill sets in the beginning.
Engagement comes from expanded responsibilities and learning. Let your staff see more of the company's big picture, and your business will benefit from the resulting positive attitudes and creative ideas from employees who stick around longer.
Each generation brings change to your business.
You built your business based on certain ideals and with a great deal of hard work. Changing your core values based on a new generation of employees is neither advisable nor necessary. Still, you have to keep up with a constantly-changing world, and welcoming new thoughts and ideas is essential.
It's time to stop trying to fully assimilate millennials into your traditional business environment, when integrating that environment into new ways of thinking makes good business sense. Learn to take advantage of the benefits that millennials can bring to your business now -- before Generation Z starts taking over the workforce!