“Kids these days.” We’ve all heard the saying. Maybe we’ve even said it ourselves. It’s generally used to describe younger generations of workers who have a worldview different from ours. More often, it’s used to complain about work ethic or style choices. But it also describes our lack of understanding of what younger generations offer the business world.
Millennials are fast becoming largest voting block in the United States. And that translates to a large percentage of the workforce being of the same age. The new workers are coming in with expectations far removed from what older, traditional businesses are used to providing. Can established companies pivot quickly enough for this growing area of the workforce? Yes, but it takes a few philosophical changes to bridge the two. Here are a few points to think about when you hire younger employees.
Old management styles may backfire. Millennials grew up in families and schools that support group decision making. They’re more likely to enjoy working in flat organizational structures. They may expect advancement sooner that what traditional businesses are used to. And they thrive in areas of co-responsibility. In short, learn to use the benefits of the their mindset to your advantage. Instead of assigning tasks to specific people, assign them to teams. You’ll find the tasks get done, on time, and at a high level. Millennials tend to work better as a group, collectively making decisions and keeping each other accountable. This doesn’t make management is obsolete, of course, but it does imply a hands off approach is more beneficial. Give them space and see what happens.
They’re socially conscious and communicative. Millennials pay attention to businesses that are both ethical and contributive to society. They want to know the business exists to do more than make money. If you’re giving to charities and helping local interests, keep employees informed and give them ways to help out. You’ll find Millennials are hard workers when they’re passionate about a cause.
They also expect feedback and validation. Maybe more than you’re used to giving. Waiting to give them direction during annual reviews is likely to frustrate them and leave them wondering why you didn’t bring up those corrections earlier. Likewise, if they’re doing a stellar job, tell them. Feedback on what they’re doing well, and what they can improve, needs to be succinct and frequent.
They’ll force you to rethink your technology practices. These are employees who have used handheld devices since childhood. They’re almost fearless in their use of of new apps to consume information and get things done. The other side is that it presents security and intellectual property challenges. It’ll take some extra work to understand how and where company data is being used. Don’t put your foot down on new methods, though. Keep an open mind to new tools and find ways to secure your company’s IP without restricting employee problem solving.
The future is here. As Millennials come into their own and take on more leadership roles, the landscape of business structure, management, communication, and technology changes. The pace will quicken, and the rate of adaptation will keep up. While you might not yet understand their methods, give them a chance to to show their potential in their own way. Millennials are the front lines of the new world.
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