Currently there are more millennials in the U.S. workforce than any other generation, and their numbers don’t appear to be shrinking anytime soon. So, what exactly can today’s leaders do to leverage what the millennial generation has to offer their companies?
Because of their size—the Pew Research Center estimates that this generation of individuals born sometime between the early 1980s and mid 1990s totals approximately 56 million and make up one-third of the U.S. labor force—companies are finding it necessary to adjust and adapt to millennials’ wants and needs, otherwise they face the possibility of losing workers to organizations that have adapted.
If businesses want to stay relevant and attract millennial talent now and well into the future, it’s imperative that they remain nimble and reorganize their organizations from the bottom up. To get started, here are a few things to keep in mind that are important to millennials when it comes to employment.
1. They Want a Strong Work-Life Balance
The days of workers toiling away every single day from 9 to 5 are long gone. Today’s young workforce strives to find a balance between their personal lives and their professional lives, and they’re not afraid to pick up and leave for greener pastures if an employer doesn’t comply. Thanks to technology and constant connectivity, it’s easier than ever for employees to stay in work mode 24/7. Unfortunately, millennials are discovering that answering emails at all hours of the day or filing reports over the weekend isn’t exactly what they signed up for and they aren’t afraid to speak up about it. Luckily, many companies are listening and offering perks that help prevent employee burnout. For example, it’s becoming more common for businesses to allow their workers to work remotely either partially or full time. Other perks include companies offering enrichment classes for their employees where the company foots the bill, opportunities to volunteer with local non-profits, and free meals throughout the workday.
2. They Expect a Collaborative Work Environment
Millennials were a generation raised on collaboration, from playing on sports teams as adolescents to working together on school projects, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to employers that this generation expects an equally collaborative work environment once they’re out in the real world. Some simple ways to do this is by assigning workers to small groups that work together on a project or offering collaborative discussions such as roundtables or brainstorming sessions where workers band together to achieve a common goal. As leaders, it’s important that we foster and encourage this type of work ethic. Even if it’s the exact opposite of how previous generations worked, so long as the same outcome is achieved, then why not embrace it. For millennials, the journey is just as important as the end result.
3. They Want Transparency from Their Bosses about Their Performance
According to a study of 1,000 working millennials conducted by Wakefield Research and TriNet, 74 percent of respondents felt “in the dark about how their managers and peers think they’re performing at work” and 69 percent believed that their company’s review process is flawed. Respondents to the study issued a number of ways to help mitigate the situation, such as managers giving more specific feedback (40 percent) and creating an open dialogue between the two parties (32 percent). As leaders, it’s understandable that our schedules are filled with meetings, deadlines, and mountains of paperwork, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse to deny our employees proper feedback. This is especially the case when it comes to millennials, who were raised at a time when feedback from teachers, coaches, and parents came at a regular clip. If we want to retain millennials on our rosters, it’s key that we make the time and effort to be as transparent as possible when it comes to evaluating their work performance. That same study concluded that, “a strong culture builds strong leaders and performance reviews reflect that culture. Technology can help by ensuring that regular real-time feedback translates into dynamic, transparent pathways for leadership development—without the paperwork. This frees managers to focus on growing their people and driving real improvement in employee productivity and engagement.”
4. They Expect a Company’s Technology to Be Top Notch
Often called “digital natives,” millennials came of age during an era when technology was growing by leaps and bounds. From relying on the internet for research reports in school rather than thumbing through an encyclopedia in the library to being constantly connected to their friends and families thanks to cell phones (and now smart phones), this generation expects that their place of employment is equally technologically advanced. And this goes beyond simply email. In fact, this younger generation relies on texting, Slack, FaceTime, Skype, WeChat, and other venues to communicate with their colleagues. So, don’t even bother asking them to send a fax—there are quicker and more efficient ways to communicate in today’s modern world.
Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and more. Her diverse background has provided her opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies, BP, 3M, and General Mills. Her expertise has fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to help avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best. Tabitha is the author of Organization Culture Killers. The first book in a series of leadership books she calls, “The Deadly Practices.” Follow Tabitha.