Unfocused. Unrealistic. Idealistic. Lazy. Disrespectful.
You may think these adjectives describe the newest generation of workers. But actually, they are words that described many of this generation’s grandparents back in the 1960’s, as that generation donned their flowered clothing and organized peaceful protests, while experimenting with drugs and listening to Bob Dylan.
The Millennial generation gets a bad rap, just ask the generations before them. They don’t understand how they think, and are appalled by how they operate. They assume they don’t care and shake their heads in disbelief…just like the Baby Boomers did when watching how Gen X entered the workforce. Every generation is judged by those that came before them. And every generation has people within it that can easily be described by any of the words at the top of this page.
The reality is that by 2020, Millennials will comprise 46% of the workforce (Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 2012.) The importance of understanding and engaging this workforce cannot be understated. Our businesses NEED this workforce to ensure a strong economy, market growth and innovation. So where’s the gap? How do we bridge the workplace philosophies and foster understanding, while implementing programs and creating work environments that will bring out the best in everyone? As with anything in life, we look for strengths and build on them, and we identify weaknesses and address them.
Let’s think about Millennials and just a few of the traits they bring to the table:
- Millennials were practically born multi-tasking. Think about when YOU first started using a computer. Were you writing correspondence in Word Perfect for DOS? Do you even remember not being able to have multiple windows and tabs open at the same time? Millennials don’t remember that at all, because they were born AFTER these types of applications were invented. Millennials were born multi-tasking and while it may appear at times that they lose focus, they are often simply accustomed to doing more than one thing at a time. This is not a bad trait to have in the workplace.
- Millennials are resourceful. Gone are the days of library micro-fiche or calling “Ready Reference.” (Yes, really, I’m that old.) Millennials know how to find information and how to find it quickly. They do not wait for a subject-matter-expert to spoon feed them information, they are accustomed to the “information superhighway” and finding the information themselves. Will they sometimes need a little coaching to identify valid sources or utilize industry specific software or databases? Yes, they might. So coach them.
- Millennials are always learning. Millennials grew up in a world of constant IOS updates, new phones, new technology, new apps, new teaching tools, and new expectations for self-directed learning. Most of them also grew up teaching, whether it was with peers, at school, or even their parents. In the season finale of “Modern Family,” high school student Manny becomes exasperated trying to explain the “double click” to his step-father Jay. While seemingly insignificant, Millennials are constantly teaching. While other generations may look at change as something that is scary and overwhelming, Millennials see change as a way of life. Again, not a bad trait to have.
- Millennials want to make a difference. We have raised this generation to be inquisitive. We have encouraged them to ask why (or why not.) Because of this, Millennials want to understand WHY they are doing something and HOW it impacts an organization. Experts say that the best way to motivate a millennial is to share your problems, goals and objectives and then get out of their way. An engaged millennial, who shares your company’s philosophies and understands your short and long term goals, can be your biggest asset. But, if your company operates in a “because I said so” type of mentality, you will continue to witness turnover because Millennials simply do not operate that way. Look for ways they can make a difference. Ask them what they think. Be open to a new way of looking at things. They are a reflection of your customer base and they may have ideas on how you can reach a segment of the marketplace that they understand better than you.
- Millennials are team players. You can focus on participation awards, scheduled playdates and select sports and say that this generation does not know how to be self-sufficient and has an inflated sense of self-worth, OR you can focus on the fact that this generation has learned to function in an organized group setting and collaborate with others to meet a common goal and has been doing so all their lives.
No generation is perfect. Taking the time to re-think how you manage your business to capitalize on your employees’ talents and strengths is one of the most important things you can do. It’s not about giving in, it’s about evolving. Coach your employees, provide them with feedback, allow them to collaborate and set up space and systems that give them the opportunity to talk to each other. Explain your company goals and objectives and ask for input. Allow them to help design solutions rather than dictating them. Encourage their ability and need to learn. Invest in training, be it company led or self-directed. Stop judging and start listening. You may be pleasantly surprised what you learn.
An award-winning staffing expert in Southeastern Wisconsin in manufacturing, clerical, professional and light industrial placements, Nissen Staffing Continuum is proud of our commitment to capitalize on every employee’s strengths. As your strategic partner, we’ll help you take your staffing initiatives to the next level, whether it’s onsite programs, direct hire placement, temp-to-hire programs or temporary staffing with our team of recruiters that are supported by a full-time sourcing department. For more information about how we can help you find great employees, contact us today and allow us to help you with your HR needs so you can focus on your company’s success!