Millennials are an integral (and growing) part of today’s workforce, now comprising the largest share of the U.S. workforce. As more tech-savvy Millennials join your organization, it becomes increasingly important for leaders to recognize the differences between the workforce generations to help prepare them to work together as respected colleagues.
When trying to prepare your business for the growing Millennial workforce, there are several things you should consider to help reduce any generational differences and tensions between employees. So what can you do to prepare your organization and employees for the rising Millennial workforce?
What to Avoid
According to Big Think expert Jamie Notter, Management Consultant and Author of “When Millennials Take Over,” there are communication differences to keep in mind when strategizing how to incorporate this growing group into your workforce. Some things to be careful of—or outright avoid—include:
Doing What’s Always Been Done
Modern organizations need to be fluid and agile in order to be successful. The traditional practices of abiding by a strong hierarchy, unquestioningly following rules, and doing what’s always been done is not an effective way of working anymore. It also doesn’t jive with the mindset of the Millennial workforce. This up-and-coming generation grew up during a time of rapid technological advances and innovation when nothing stayed the same for more than a few years.
They approach leadership by empowering the people who are closest to any situation to make decisions.
According to Notter in the Big Think video “Wanna Do What I Want and I Wanna Get Paid – How Millennials are Changing the Workplace,” the biggest resistance from Baby Boomers to this approach is that concern that they’re going to have to learn to give up control:
“Most of our management systems are based on control being a good thing and I’m finding organizations that give up on that actually get to achieve more… organizations will be pleasantly surprised when they started letting their employees experiment because, I think, they’ll start seeing results that they wouldn’t of predicted that they would get.”
Lacking Organizational Purpose
According to Notter, Millennials have to have a strong sense of meaning or purpose. Organizations that lack a culture of purpose are not necessarily going to be a good fit for the Millennial workforce. Businesses that have a clear culture centered around a specific purpose are going to be more appealing to those purpose-oriented younger workers.
In the aforementioned Big Think video, Notter says that these organizations build their culture around the needs of employees rather than management. They also make work experiences customizable and integrate innovations and improvements.
Sacrificing Initiative for Perceived Rite of Passage
The mindset that no one can advance without first “paying your dues” is not one that Millennials respect or want to abide by. This generation of self-starters doesn’t respond well to being told that they can’t achieve a higher level of success without first being forced to “pay dues,” wasting time that they could spend achieving their goals.
Notter said this concept is foreign to Millennials because they grew up with the internet and tools to accomplish things on their own:
“Paying your dues is definitely interpreted by the Millennials as being put off, and ignored, and being forced to do things they shouldn’t have to do. And you start generating that resentment inside a Millennial at that age in your organization? You’re going to really have trouble with employee engagement moving forward.”
What to Do
Attracting and retaining the generation that amounts to approximately half the workforce is critical in today’s globally competitive economy. There are several ways to successfully begin integrating the Millennial workforce into your organization. Some of these methods include:
Using Diversity Training Programs
Diversity is a broad category that encompasses a number of human differences — everything from age to ethnicities to religions and sexual orientations to gender identities. Diversity training offers opportunities to read broad employee audiences with the goal of educating them about those differences and overcoming related misconceptions.
This training method can help employees from different generations develop interpersonal relationships. This way, they can work together effectively despite being a Baby Boomer, Generation Xer, or part of the Millennial workforce.
Developing Mentorship Opportunities
The Millennial workforce has a bad reputation for being lazy, entitled, and self-absorbed — even from other Millennials. But this misperception doesn’t match reality. A survey cited in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article shows that Millennials, by and large, recognize themselves as “work martyrs” who are less likely to take/use their vacation time than other generations.
According to another study cited in a Harvard Business Review article, 50% of 1,400 surveyed Millennials said they want to receive more feedback from their manager. Rather than focusing on managerial direction, they want more personal development to make them more proficient and efficient professionals. They want a leader or a mentor that they can trust, emulate, and learn from.
An added bonus is that pairing Millennials and Baby Boomers in mentorship work relationships provides Boomers with an opportunity to learn from their younger counterparts.
Reworking Job Roles and Descriptions
Because of their purpose-focused approach to work, Millennials are particular about where they work and the types of roles they fill. They’re looking for roles that have opportunities for advancement and internal mobility.
Be sure to review your organization’s job descriptions to ensure that they accurately depict the expectations of each role. If a Millennial accepts a role and realizes within a few days that it doesn’t match their expectations, they’re more likely to leave than workers from other generations.
Learn from other business leaders like Sarah Robb O’Hagan and Andrew Yang about how to embrace the Millennial workforce. To discover more resources for diversity training and ways to integrate all generations of workers into your workforce, try a free demo of Big Think+.