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Mar 04

Margo Johnson: Are millennial employees different? – Petoskey News-Review: Business

As an employer, what do you know about your current or future millennial employees? Unless you have had the need to address recruiting and retention of millennials, are in the demographic research field, or are a parent/grandparent of one, you may not know much about them. In 2015, they became the largest generation in the workforce – the largest new generation since the baby boomers. And, by the 2030s, they will be 75 percent of all employed adults. Managers need to understand and address their wants and needs in order to attract and retain them as employees.

So who are they? One thing is apparent — they are largely misunderstood. Born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, they are roughly mid-teens to mid-30s in age. Their confidence has been misinterpreted as entitled, naïve, and narcissistic. But they are high-energy, well educated, technologically skilled, self-confident, and able to multitask. They have high personal expectations but also like to work in groups. They want to be challenged, yet value work-life balance far more than previous generations. Although they enjoy working in teams, they want individual positive recognition and constructive feedback. They are very socially minded and want to believe their company’s values and their own contribution are tied to betterment of their community and “the world.” They want to work on difficult problems and act on their solutions.

They generally understand that their characteristics are often seen as weaknesses by previous generations and sometimes by their managers. But once they are in your workforce, they can be exceptional performers and leaders. If their needs are not met, however, they will quickly move on to more satisfying work and culture.

How can you attract and retain millennial employees? Millennials want frequent feedback to learn and grow. The annual performance review is not adequate for them. Communication should be clear, concise and often so they always know where they stand. Any criticism is useless unless it is accompanied by constructive, specific thoughts how they can improve. And the message needs to be packaged right. Poor communication and performance feedback will drive your millennials away.

Sincere, individual recognition is important to millennials. Don’t assume they understand that their achievement is valued just because you said “good job.” In response to personal recognition, you will find their appreciation expressed by connecting more with you, their team and the company. Typically you will also see increased energy and determination on individual and shared goals. If employee recognition is not a common practice, your millennials will find another place to work.

Millennials are attracted to companies and leaders who are inspiring through a powerful mission, vision and leadership that walks the talk throughout the organization. They look for the mission to be linked to quality products and services that positively impact their community and society in general. A shallow, meaningless mission will not attract or retain millennials.

This generation wants the rules to make sense and be congruent with a purpose. They need to understand not just what the rules are but why they exist and how they are applied. Company policies need to be up to date and relevant to why they are in place in today’s world. Millennials reject archaic practices that haven’t been adapted to the contemporary times; for example, “no social media at work.”

Millennials want to grow and develop. On-the-job development is sometimes as important as a pay raise. They are willing to stay in a job while learning new things, practicing new skills and understanding how their learning contributes to their personal goals and the company’s mission — and how these things might lead to their advancement. Be open to providing online and in person education and allowing them to represent you in meetings, events and conferences. A good approach is to involve them in your decision making process by asking their opinion or including them in a problem-solving team. Without personal growth opportunity, they are likely to seek development elsewhere.

This column is meant neither to stereotype millennials nor to say that members of the older generations don’t have some of these same characteristics. As with any demographic group, there are individuals and whole segments of the population who do not fit a mold. For example, I believe that a huge number of people in older generations appreciate constructive feedback and challenges in their work and aspire to constantly learn. The intent here is to help baby boomer managers understand that technology, social environment, education, and many other factors have formed a generation that is different from them. Millennials need to be better understood in order to maximize their tremendous value in the workplace and to enhance your company’s potential for long-term success.

Source: Margo Johnson: Are millennial employees different? – Petoskey News-Review: Business

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