7 Surprising Traits That Make Millennials Excellent Employees History's most technologically adept generation is perhaps also its most humane and collaborative.
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It happened without much fanfare. Three years ago, millennials overtook Gen Xers to become the largest generation in the workplace in the United States. In fact, millennials are now the largest generation in the country, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
As a result, business leaders who want to succeed must understand this uniquely motivated cohort. Whereas previous generations might have been driven to uphold cultural norms or to rebel against them, millennials carry a mix of attitudes shaped by tremendous technological change and tumultuous political and social events.
Here are seven surprising things about millennials that will help you to better understand their key motivations. By learning their motivations, readers will be better able to serve this demographic as colleagues and as managers.
Millennials are a curious generation. They are excited to learn new skills, and are willing to invest the time in becoming better employees. Just take a look at the trillion-plus dollars in student loan debt millennials are willing to take on in order to expand their minds.
Companies that have successfully tapped into millennial workers have created career-development programs that help employees to grow at all times. PepsiCo, for example, recently launched a program that focused on providing employees with access to "critical experiences" rather than a simple ladder to the top.
Millennial workers don't want to feel as though they must toil away at the same job for years in order to earn a promotion, and thus an opportunity to learn new skills. PepsiCo solves this problem by creating a new path of professional growth.
Young employees are often mocked by older business leaders for their belief that they are somehow different from everyone else. Older employees say that millennials were raised with unrealistic visions of the real world, thanks in part to participation trophies.
But, the best businesses avoid mocking millennial beliefs. Companies like Azazie, a startup that creates wedding and bridesmaid dresses, encourage senior managers to take an individualized approach to managing millennial employees.
As Rachel Hogue, one Azazie manager, told Mashable: "Each of our employees is unique. It's my job to ensure they feel comfortable to step up, share an idea and spearhead new initiatives." Companies like Azazie have figured out that individuality drives millennial happiness, which has helped them build a strong millennial workforce.
It's important for business leaders to understand that millennial employees hold different personal and professional goals. In exchange for passionately investing their time to advance the interests of the company, millennials expect the company to help them succeed through individualized support.
3. Social good
Businesses that offer millennial employees a compelling vision related to advancing a social issue will find success in motivating this generation. Salesforce is an example of a company that has successfully tapped into millennial energy through a variety of initiatives that encourage employees to give back.
Salesforce encourages employees to donate their time to charity, even during work hours, and has joined with a number of other companies in agreeing to donate 1 percent of company profits to charity.
Millennials care about a variety of social causes, including those related to climate change and social equality. While your organization doesn't need to donate profits to a charitable cause, it should draw a reasonable link between business success and positive social change.
4. Financial stability
The Great Recession made a lasting impact on the millennial generation. So much so that millennials are making financial decisions focused on maintaining stability rather than striking it rich.
Employee benefits like tuition assistance and matching 401k plans will appeal to the many millennial workers who are interested in planning for their future.
5. Technological innovation
Millennials are a digital generation: they were born when the internet, personal computers and cellphones went mainstream. As a result, millennials are obsessed with technology. For example, one study found that the average college student checked either Snapchat or Instagram 11 times per day. Because of this obsession, millennials are interested in working for organizations that are leading technological innovation.
According to a recent survey of millennials conducted by Google, this cohort considers tech brands like Apple, Tesla and Amazon to be considerably cooler than other large brands like Ford, Levi's or Chanel.
Business leaders must ensure that their company mission is in some way related to technological innovation in order to appeal to millennial employees who are enamored with new technologies.
6. Regular feedback
A recent study found that over 40 percent of millennial employees wanted to receive weekly feedback from their managers. Millennial workers thrive on feedback even when it is related to areas of improvement rather than praise.
Simply providing millennial employees with quarterly or annual performance reviews will not cut it. Instead, organizations need to get in the habit of encouraging managers to meet with employees on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Remember, millennials tend to be curious. They want to improve themselves professionally, and they view regular feedback as an important component of professional development.
Related: 6 Concepts Your Millennial Employees Wish You Understood
There's a reason millennial-led companies rely on open-concept office design. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, works in the center of an open-concept office at Facebook instead of working in a corner office suite.
Similarly, the average millennial employee prefers collaborating to working individually in many instances. Provide millennials with the opportunity to collaborate with peers within and across teams by creating open-concept meeting spaces and by developing a transparent work environment where people are aware of work happening throughout the organization.
Attracting and retaining talented employees is one of the biggest components of running a successful business. In order to attract talented millennial employees, business leaders will need to foster an environment that is fun, stimulating and innovative.
Creating a mission statement geared toward solving social issues through technological innovation and training managers to provide regular and personalized feedback can be good ways to motivate millennial employees.