Building Your Next Generation Strategy: Empowering Millennials

Too often millennials get a bad rap.  They're often told they are lazy, entitled, unfocused and disloyal.

But that’s not generally true.  It’s just that they have a different outlook on life (and work) than previous generations.  They have redefined the meaning of success, personally and professionally for themselves.  They are the future of our country and your business, so continually hosting an internal culture clash isn’t going to help.  So it behooves us to understand them better and know how to work with, instead of against them.

Also known as Generation Y, the 80 million Americans born between the early 1980's and the early 2000's are now about one third of the US workforce and they’ll comprise nearly half of U.S. employees by 2020.  

Compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who often seek out job security and structure, millennials desire personal satisfaction, professional development and flexibility. For them, work is not only about the paycheck. “Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its products and profits,” said Barry Salzberg, CEO of Deloitte Global.

Too often companies just don’t understand how to leverage millennials’ passion and harness their strengths.

If you’re struggling to hire or retain millennials, here are three easy tips.


1.      Ditch the Ol’ School policies that make no real sense today

Rigid office hours? Meetings that accomplish nothing? Strict dress codes?  Corporate speak, executive floors, and “this is just how we do it” are all very unattractive to millennials (and most of your employees).

Millennials are looking for the most effective and logical way  (and possibly a shortcut) on how to get this done better and faster than before.

They want to work hard and achieve the objectives put forward to them, but in a way that they are comfortable with.  Flexible work schedules are great!  So are collaboration tools. Millennials crave collaboration and team-based work projects.  Their lives have been focused on collaboration – social media, crowdsourcing and working on team projects in school.  Being part of high-performing team is important along with the tools and development to excel.

Millennials are also very focused on immediate satisfaction.  Again, this comes back to the environment in which they were raised.   One way to make this work for you is to help your managers to provide consistent feedback.  By providing both positive and constructive feedback, millennials feel heard, seen and happy to be a part of a team that appreciates their input.


 2.      They want unfettered access

Millennials want to be seen, heard, and noticed.  Understand that they’ve grown up being able to share every thought that pops into their mind on social media.  Now they feel that their voice should be heard by anyone and everyone they want to hear it, including the CEO, their boss’ boss and HR.

Create open feedback loops.  Host innovation jams and competitions.  Create a culture that allows for anyone at any level to share ideas to innovate, provide solutions and grow.  Sadly, most companies don’t genuinely do this and employees get quickly frustrated by having ideas constantly ignored, shut down or told to “speak about this with your manager.”

However, there are companies that do this well.  Emulate them! Toyota has excelled by giving assembly line workers the ability to stop production if they discover a quality issue.  Thompson Reuters created a “catalyst fund” to encourage and support new ideas.  The Department of Health and Human Services launched a “Shark Tank”-style competition.  Other firms leveraged Googles’ concept of 20% time and are rolling this out in their own way to encourage innovation


3.      I’m not just another cog in the wheel

In a survey by Deloitte, six out of ten millennials said a sense of purpose was part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer.

As millennials are looking to make a genuine contribution, they are quickly frustrated by traditional companies who hire them to do what they consider to be menial and boring work for the first few years.  They are easily frustrated when hearing “I had to pay my dues and you need to pay yours.  That’s just how it works here”. 

That doesn’t work with them.  Talented employees will leave for other companies where they can feel motivated and empowered.  If you want to attain and retain la crème de la crème, make their work more meaningful and challenging so they feel like they have skin in the game.  It may not feel fair to you, but this is how the game has changed and you’re either in or your sidelined. Without them, your company will not continue to thrive.

This new attitude has not been easy for many companies who still struggle to understand why this cohort can’t just “fall in” like everyone else in the past.  However, at the end of the day, your company will be the one that loses if you can’t attract and attain top, young talent. 

There are many smart companies that have embraced millennial-friendly policies and are creating a culture where everyone, not just millennials, can thrive!