Unlocking The Potential Of Millennials At Work

Millennials. You market to them, and you likely work with them. Short attention spans. Entitled. Job jumpers. These are just a few phrases that have been used to describe the emerging Millennial workforce. Millennials have been stereotyped by older generations as the lazy, schizophrenic misfits of corporate America, and it’s quite possible there are a handful of Millennials that fit this description. However, if you choose to look past outward appearances, there are realities that would also lead you to believe this generation is highly educated and possesses noteworthy drive and passion.

Only a portion of the 78 million Millennials have entered the workforce, but once the entire generation has joined, they will eclipse Boomers as the largest working generation in U.S. history. It is critical for organizations to understand their mentality and aspirations in order to best utilize their talents and create a work environment that is conducive to the generation’s success – and ultimately the success of the organization. So, let’s examine what Millennials can uniquely bring to your organization. 

They can be your strongest company advocates.

Imagine operating without the sense of smell. Imagine operating without a sense of taste. According to McCann World Group’s “Truth about Youth” study, technology and emerging media have become so intrinsic to Millennials that nearly half of this generation would rather give up their sense of smell if it meant they could keep an item of technology. It may seem dramatic, but technology and social media have become oxygen to this generation, like TV to the Baby Boomers. It has become so integral to their lives that Cisco’s recent “Connected World Technology Report” showed a majority of young professionals would refuse to work in an organization that restricts social media.

Millennials place even more importance on access to social media than salary, so restricting access will limit your applicant pool. On the other hand, encouraging your employees to use social media and emerging technology will keep them satisfied and even provide an outlet for employees to advocate for your company. Millennial employees’ tweets and posts about your company have the capability to attract top talent in the social space, which is where almost half of Millennials search for work. 

They want to learn.

Millennials not only want to prepare themselves for their current positions, they are also anticipating qualifications required for future positions. This motivation can likely be attributed to the onset of the Recession, where entry-level employees were laid off because they possessed fewer skills and knowledge than seasoned employees. Instead of lamenting about their situations, Millennials have found ways to alter the adverse market to their benefit. They’ve started their own businesses, such as Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and continued on to higher education to procure the knowledge and skills which they were previously lacking. And since they’ve been back in the office, their desire to learn has not abated. Millennials are begging for cross-training opportunities to prepare themselves for upper management positions. 

Providing cross-training opportunities allows employees to build roots in an organization. They are increasing their own exposure through experience, so if and when layoffs occur in the future, they can secure their position within the organization or possess the skill-sets needed to be hired elsewhere. Our agency has provided employees with the opportunity to wear multiple hats and cross-train in areas such as digital presence and audience insights. Since the new structure’s inception, it has not only helped the agency function more efficiently, but it has also helped individual employees to further expand and develop their advertising skill sets.

They are flexible.

Most Millennials are requesting flexible work schedules, but it’s not because they are lazy or dislike the traditional work environment. Rather, they desire to work at their own pace, at their own hours that fit the needs of their daily lives – social activities, volunteering and other commitments. Millennials thrive in flexible environments and will make themselves virtually accessible at any point during the day or week, within reason. Many consider a flexible schedule a “right,” and according to a recent study by Elance, more than half of Millennials considered telecommuting a primary goal when looking for a job, compared to only 13% who preferred to work on-site full-time.

Companies that offer flexible schedules will likely have more satisfied employees and higher retention rates, because employees can manage their life and work commitments according to what works best for them. Companies like Google have already acknowledged the need for increased flexibility, providing cars that employees can check out to run errands. Other companies, like Ernst & Young, meet on a weekly basis to discuss personal commitments and arrange work coverage for the team. These seemingly simple gestures cater to the flexible needs of Millennials.

They are collaborative.

They live in a world of constant communication and interaction; Millennials are continuously sharing with their networks. They are used to their voices being heard and responded to in real time, so it only seems natural that they would want to share their thoughts and opinions in the workplace as well. Millennials desire a culture of teamwork and open communication, rather than leadership that gives orders and expects immediate results. 

Give your Millennial employees the opportunity to voice their opinions and actively listen to their thoughts and insights. Listening to their viewpoints will let the employees know you appreciate what they say, ultimately building strong team rapport and making each individual feel like a valued member of the team. Whenever possible, allow them to work in groups, as this generation thrives in situations of collaboration and interdependence. Some companies are taking a different approach to collaboration, implementing reverse mentoring programs to teach older employees about emerging technology and social media.

As this generation is continuing to enter the workforce, it is a perfect occasion for organizations to re-evaluate Millennials and adjust policies to unlock the potential of this generation. Those who adapt their approaches will surely see a positive impact on employee satisfaction and retention. Millennials are willing to work hard for you; they just want to make sure their requests are heard and understood. 

1 comment about "Unlocking The Potential Of Millennials At Work ".
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  1. Amy R from Red Tree Leadership, July 31, 2012 at 6:23 p.m.

    I think the first step is to recognize what challenges are arising because of generational conflict. Then train your employees on the difference in values between the generations. Managers can develop communication, vision, and adapting skills to help unleash the full potential of Millennial workers. Here is a free assessment you can take to help identify your skills and areas of improvement when managing Millennials:

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