Creating a Positive Environment for Working with Millennials

Creating a Positive Environment for Working with Millennials

It is estimated that by 2030 millennials—those employees born between 1980/1981 and 1999/2000—will represent almost 75% of the workforce. In fact, this demographic became the largest segment of the workforce in 2015, which is interesting to note in light of the fact that so many people are working longer these days. Therefore, this new employee boom is having profound influences on the current marketplace and will continue to impact it for many years to come.

So, where does this put today’s employer who is interviewing and hiring millennials?

If you have worked with or employed millennials you already understand that they come with a set of challenges or, from another perspective, opportunities.

  • As the first generation of digital natives, they know how to use social media and online resources nimbly and effectively.
  • Thanks to a plethora of readily available resources, they are excellent problem solvers.
  • They have different expectations of their employers and of their futures. They approach careers differently than their parents did . . . and they are doing it in a world that has changed all the rules about what to expect economically and professionally.

Millennials grew up with a different set of values and in a different social, educational and economic milieu than their parents. They are accustomed to working in teams, they actually like structure, and are accustomed to diversity. Therefore, millennials are looking for something completely different in their work lives than did their older Generation X predecessors and the baby boomers. To successfully employ and benefit from this up-and-coming workforce, there are some things to take into consideration.

  1. Create a supportive environment and career path. Millennials won’t stick around if they don’t see opportunity for growth or development. Take an approach that favors long-term mentoring over short-term training. Your investment in coaching these employees will pay off.
    1. Providing access to leadership in the workplace helps them feel valued and shows there are opportunities for professional growth.
    2. Since millennials are more likely to leave their jobs because of their bosses, employers who actively cultivate the next generation of leaders will have happier, more fulfilled employees (and, one hopes, less churn over the long run).
    3. Don’t try to slow them down. Millennials enjoy challenging work and encouragement to keep moving ahead. When they engage with a project, their can-do attitude will carry them through. They also adapt quickly to new technologies or change in the workplace—a prevailing condition of today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. Remember, they grew up in a multi-screen world. Providing constructive feedback, clear goals or benchmarks along the way will keep them forging ahead on the project.
    4. Provide structure but don’t box them in. This is a group that likes to know what to do, when it’s due, who to report to, who’s on the team. They don’t want to sit through endless meetings so have an agenda that keeps the meetings on point. That said, they will also want to have a say on how to get the job done. As noted above, state the goals clearly, let them know about deadlines, give them feedback so they know what’s going on and where they stand.
    5. They enjoy collaboration. This is a generation accustomed to working in teams. Although younger workers will seek guidance from their older/managerial co-workers, they also want their ideas heard, shared and when appropriate, implemented. Show them respect for their role in the organization and as a valued team player.
    6. Embrace diversity—of thought, age, gender, race, culture, etc. Millennials grew up in a more diverse world. Along these lines, don’t be afraid to introduce variety in the work; millennials like variety (and hate boredom).

Diversity will likely cross over into how you communicate with them. Email might not be their first choice in their personal lives—that would likely be texting or messaging apps for this mobile-first generation. Therefore, there could be instances of coaching them to conform more to your accepted workplace communication modes, or management might have to be more flexible about how to reach younger employees when they’re not on site.

  1. Be open to flexible scheduling. This is an age group with lots of interests—their friends, social causes, hobbies—and they want a life outside of work, not chained to a desk all day. Some may thrive working during traditionally off hours, others with telecommuting or a mixture of on site and remote; still others may want (expect?) time to volunteer. This is a group that is not necessarily interested in being connected to work all the time (even though they are connected to their devices 24/7!). They want balance in their lives. They’ll work hard but they also want to play.
  2. Create an employee-centered workplace. Many office buildings are focusing more on tenant amenities to retain or build occupancy; likewise, employers who provide employee amenities will have more satisfied workers. Give them spaces to relax and unwind, plan company events that are fun and get your staff more connected with each other, and provide an atmosphere where they make friends at work.

In short, think of your workplace as a video game and your millennial employees as the players:

  • Present a clear picture regarding your expectations
  • Recognize your players’ efforts
  • Provide them with constant feedback and direction
  • Empower them to meet challenges
  • Encourage them to work together as a team to achieve goals
  • Make sure there are new challenges as they move to the next level

You’ll get back a lot of fresh ideas and good work from an enthusiastic crew!