Today, the millennial generation makes up the largest percentage of any single generation in the workplace. Millennials are making major impacts at companies across the country, and their importance will only continue to grow. Unfortunately, not all business leaders understand how to relate to millennials and, even more importantly, how to inspire them.
Leaders who approach millennials same way they do their older employees may be surprised to find that traditional tactics no longer work. At a fundamental level, what millennials want out of their careers and their experience in the workplace is different than that of previous generations.
Business leaders need to understand how millennials think if they want to build lasting relationships with them and prepare them to one day take on leadership roles. Points to keep in mind include:
Millennials expect flexibility.
More than a third of millennials report that they would rather take a pay cut in exchange for more flexible hours. Additionally, more than four out of five of them believe that they should have the ability to set their own schedules at work.
For many millennials, work is no longer a “place.” The prevalence of telecommunication means that people can work from anywhere. Embracing flexible schedules can instantly attract some of the best millennial minds.
Flexibility means more than just setting one’s own schedule at work. Leaders who embrace a flexible schedule show that they understand the importance of work-life balance and know that work does not always come first. Offering millennials this sort of flexibility can build trust and loyalty.
Millennials want a sense of purpose.
While traditional business is motivated by profit, many millennials place more importance on having a sense of purpose. According to a recent Deloitte survey, nearly nine out of 10 millennials said that success should be measured by more than just financial performance.
For millennials, making a difference in the world provides the motivation to work. When business leaders want to relate to millennials, they need to focus on how their work contributes to the big picture.
This generation wants to know that what they are doing really makes a difference. That knowledge is what pushes them to achieve even greater things – more so than the prospect of a raise or a bonus. Leaders may also want to think about engaging millennials through community impact initiatives.
Millennials crave mentorship.
A majority of millennials feel that their leadership skills are not being fully developed, according to the Deloitte survey. Millennials are thirsty for mentorship. They want to feel that their attributes are being used fully and developed for future leadership positions. Mentorship, whether formal or informal, is a way to engage millennials on a personal level and learn about what they have to bring to the table.
Because these individuals have had fundamentally different life experiences, they have radically different perspectives on life and what people want. When leaders validate this point of view and bolster it with guidance and advice, millennials are much more likely to stay and grow with a company.
Millennials reject authority.
In many ways, millennials find it difficult to relate to traditional hierarchical office structures. The millennial generation grew up with social media, something that leveled the playing field and encouraged sharing and collaboration rather than listening and obeying. When working with millennials, leadership should minimize their reliance on authority and instead approach employer-employee relationships with a sense of empathy.
Millennials thrive in team-based environments that focus on relationship-building. Similarly, they want to build relationships with their leaders rather than follow them blindly. When managers act more as guides and mentors, they earn the respect of millennials and create an environment in which they can work more effectively.
Millennials are innovative.
The millennial generation boasts tech-savvy and educated individuals. These people have grown up in an environment that values innovation above all else. As a result, they understand what it takes to stand out from the crowd. Business leaders should respect this drive for innovation, giving millennials the tools and space to try new things.
When leaders stifle creativity through commands or micromanagement, millennials may begin to lose interest. This will ultimately only hurt the company’s bottom line. This generation wants input and guidance. However, its members also need the freedom to experiment, fail, and learn from their mistakes.
Millennials are less concerned with personal ambition.
The source of motivation to seek workplace success for former generations has largely been the prospect of personal advancement. While millennials also want and except to climb the ladder, this is not their focus. Rather than focusing on advancing through a set progression in roles, they want to evolve along with their company.
Business leaders can encourage this by aligning workers’ goals with those of the company. If an employee is interested in something, how can that new topic be explored and potentially applied to the advancement of company goals? Even volunteering and fitness can be aligned with company goals if it keeps employees happy, engaged, and productive.