A few months ago, as I kicked-off a training session: “Attracting, Engaging and Retaining Millennials”, I asked the mostly Generation X and Baby Boomer audience if they were aware of the fact that millennials would make up 54% of the workforce in 2020. I further stated that in, some organizations millennials were holding leadership and managerial positions. Their response was disbelief and, to some extent, disappointment. Upon further probing, they made their reservations clear. They were uncertain of how “an entitled, lazy, narcissistic generation” could take over. Simply put, they didn’t trust millennials to be as productive and successful as they’ve been.
Millennials have been labelled; and in-all-fairness, labelling is nothing new. Different generations tend to look favorably at their own generation and make ill-informed assumptions about other generations. As thorough research has shown, millennials’ attitudes toward work are more similar to past generations than they are different. Not only do they align with other generations on core values, millennials actually change jobs at about the same rate as other young working Americans in past decades.
However, it’s also true that, in many ways, they’re different from preceding generations (or else they wouldn’t be a Generation). They view the world differently and have redefined the meaning of success at a personal and professional level. As can be expected, these different perspectives have caused misunderstandings among the different generations that co-exist in the workplace today.
Increasingly, successful business leaders are realizing that this generation’s unique competencies and perspectives could help strengthen organizations. Those organizations that have successfully incorporated, attracted, engaged, and retained millennials have adopted different measures. I’ll share three of those measures in this article:
1. Understand and Employ their Traits
Achieving and being accountable are essential values for millennials. They can also multi-task and improvise when needed. Therefore, a manager should feel comfortable and confident to delegate some responsibilities to millennials. Furthermore, millennials are team-oriented and enjoy working with others. They’ve grown up in a diverse global environment and understand the essence of learning and embracing new perspectives in order to avoid groupthink. Millennials like to have flexibility and dislike dealing with a “one size fits all” mentality. Organizations that have successfully attracted, engaged, and retained millennials have embraced these traits and encouraged millennials to be authentic and live their values both at work and in their private lives. If we look carefully at the abovementioned traits, it’s obvious that they’re some of the most important any organization or team may need to succeed. The main take away here is to take the time to know and understand millennials and utilize their traits to your organization’s advantage.
2. Reframing Negative Stereotypes
It’s thought millennials lack loyalty as they hop from one job to the next. Millennials that leave organizations in that manner don’t seem to have buy-in to their employer’s overall mission, purpose, and how the employer measures success and performance. Consequently, organizations that appeal to millennials have modified their hiring processes, workplace culture, and performance appraisal processes to create an environment in which millennials can thrive and display a different type of organizational commitment. The ways in which millennials view motivation, reward, and recognition are different from other generations. This generation prefers systems that link their performance and personal contribution to the organization mission and objectives. Making adjustments and changes in some of these areas has helped organizations improve millennial’s level of engagement and retention, and, by extension, they’ve benefited.
3. Closing Multi-Generational Gaps
Organizations that have been successful at retaining millennials haven’t obsessed about millennials solely. They’ve also been intentional about bridging generational differences in the workplace. They have an appreciation and acknowledgement of each generation and the value it brings to the table. They do so by providing platforms where Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, Traditionalists, and Generation Z can work together, learn from one another, appreciate each other’s value, and much more. In doing so, conflict, assumptions, and negative stereotypes are directly addressed. These organizations ensure they validate the common ground that these generations share and encourage them to celebrate each other’s unique qualities. For example, Baby Boomers have an impeccable work ethic that younger generations can adapt while the tech-savvy and creative millennials, on the other hand, demonstrate skills from which the other generations can glean. Millennials value being appreciated and seek good working environments, but which generation doesn’t expect the same from an employer?
Organizations that are successful tend to attract and retain the most talented employees. In order to retain the best people, managers must understand what motivates each generation, including millennials. Millennials are playing an increasingly significant role in the workplace and, subsequently, shouldn’t be ignored or mismanaged based on negative stereotypes.