Much has been said and written about the Millennial Generation, much of which is untrue or highly exaggerated. This group has often been criticized for being lazy, entitled and self-obsessed, but that’s not quite right. And, anyway, isn’t that always how the older generations describe “kids these days”?
The truth is that the notorious Millennials, or members of Generation Y, are more socially aware, innovative and worldly than any generation that came before, and they’re up against a lot more. This group is entering an extremely competitive, slim workforce with huge amounts of student loan debt, yet they’re highly optimistic about their futures.
Instead of thinking of ways to “deal” with Millennials who enter your company, you really ought to be coming up with ways to attract more of these creative thinkers – after all, in 10 years, Gen Y will make up three quarters of the workforce.
1. Be Different
Today’s college grads are not satisfied with their parents’ workplace. They take one look at a staid, old-fashioned office with its bland cubicles and depressing break room, and they run the other way. Millenials are turned off by the idea of working at the same, isolated desk all day.
Tim Buchenberger, designer at Whitney Architects, a firm that designs many modern workplaces, said, “We encourage companies to choose designs that promote flexibility and allow people to easily move in and out of different work environments. The spaces need to encourage personal and professional connections – they should create a sense of belonging.”
If you really want to attract the best and brightest young people, you have to build a physical environment that suits their work preferences and reflects the way technology has changed the way we communicate. Hip, modern companies eschew the culture of private offices and closed-off cubicles of yore in favor of open-concept spaces and meeting rooms that are conducive to collaboration.
2. Be Flexible
Millenials view the traditional work day in the same way they see the traditional office: outdated and irrelevant. Technology has completely transformed the way we work, and Gen Y understands that more than anyone, especially considering the fact that they don’t remember a time before the internet. Much of what necessitated the classic 9-5 schedule no longer applies.
If it was up to this new generation, all companies would allow workers to be flexible about when and where they work, as long as the work was getting done. They also prefer more casual dress requirements, which helps them feel like they can be themselves. An MTV study called No Collar Workers, found that 81% of Millennial employees think they should be able to make their own work hours and 79% think they should be able to wear jeans to work.
The point is that this generation is looking for a workplace that breaks down the strict barriers between work life and home life. The benefit to you is that, by creating a more inviting and flexible work environment, you get employees who actually want to be in the office and who thrive in an environment that encourages personal freedom and expression. It might all sound a bit foreign and new-age, but this is where things are headed and early adopters will find themselves ahead of the pack.
3. Mentorship Matters
Critics accuse Millennials of being dependent and in need of hand-holding, but these nay-sayers may just need to shift their perspective. In the past, many companies would essentially throw new team members into the deep end – their ability to learn to swim was their first test. This generation, however, works better with nurturing mentor relationships and frequent feedback. And is that so bad? Why shouldn’t we do everything we can to assimilate and educate new employees in order to help ensure their success?
You can make a Millenial feel right at home in your company by assigning them an official mentor from the start – this person would be responsible for showing them the ropes and facilitating regular check-ins where the newbie would be allowed to ask questions and seek feedback on their performance. This kind of system will not only attract workers of Gen Y, it will increase new employee retention and help decrease the inevitable learning curve that slows down productivity.
4. Raise Responsibility
This may surprise you, but Millennials are not motivated by money. Sure, money matters, but not as much as opportunities for growth, leadership and influence. Ultimately, today’s young workers would rather have a lower paycheck that comes with greater satisfaction than vice versa. And they want their voices heard and their input valued – 76% of those surveyed in the No Collar Workers study said that they believed their bosses could learn from them.
Perhaps because of the fact that they’re more in touch with technology than their older superiors, Millennials don’t prescribe to the belief that a strict hierarchy should dictate whose ideas matter the most. Your company can accommodate this belief by doing things like holding group brainstorming sessions that let all team members contribute equally. You can also tap young employees to train older team members on technology – this makes logical sense and it allows them to feel useful and valuable.
5. Make a Difference
Despite the bad rap they’ve gotten for being self-involved, Millennials are actually quite socially conscious and look for employers that are doing their part to give back or improve the world in some way. A 2014 Deloitte study on Millennials in the workforce concluded that this generation believes that a company’s success is not just measured in profits, but in contributions to the world at large. This was based on the fact that large percentages of them volunteer their time and money to charitable organizations and sign political petitions.
This is an easy and beneficial change for any company to make. Not only does company-wide philanthropy help those in need, but it also does wonders for building team morale and creating a more solid company culture. Taking the whole team to a food bank or an animal shelter for a day says, “We are a company that cares and values giving back to the community.” This makes all employees, not just Millennials, feel good about the place where they work, which in turn, creates more loyal and productive team members.
Millenials will soon take over America’s workforce. When that happens, companies won’t be asking themselves whether or not to adapt in order to suit their preferences – the adaptations will simply happen out of necessity.
The companies that choose to begin evolving early will be the ones that rise to the top, while the stragglers will find themselves running to catch up. As Bob Dylan sung in his epic ode to the power of youth, “Your old road is rapidly agin’, please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’.”
Want to see where you fall on the Millenial continuum? Take this quiz, developed by the Pew Research Institute.
About the Author: Rod Miller is the Head of New Program Development of Corporate Award Source, an online supplier ofcustom corporate awards. Rod is also a frequent contributor to several career blogs and is passionate about educating professionals on workplace morale and leadership. For more information, visitCorporate Award Source or connect with Rod on Google+.