Nothing gets a group of business owners riled up more than asking their opinions about their Millennial employees. Also known as Generation Y, these are people who are between the ages of 18 and 32.
We hear it all the time. They're entitled, they can’t communicate well, they are needy, they don't work hard. And they have no job loyalty! (We could go on.)
While there may be some truth to this, we must also remember that we, ourselves, created these young people. As parents, and as a society, we nurtured them and protected them, and we told them to make their own way because no one (certainly not their employer) would look out for them. Who knew that they would actually listen to us and act accordingly?
As their employers, we also need to remember that these creative, smart individuals are starting their professional lives at a time when Baby Boomers are not retiring at the rates we would have expected them to. Accordingly, they are not easily finding pathways to the jobs they trained for, they have debt that will last for decades, and many of them entered the job market in the midst of a miserable economy.
Yet, despite all this, they remain optimistic. They still think they can change the world — and they likely will. Thank goodness!
In the meantime, what's a manager to do? Here are five practical things to consider if you have millennials on your team:
1. Relationships, respect and purpose matter more to this group than money. Connect the dots for them; explain how their jobs matter in the big picture.
2. Let them use technology. If it doesn't cause a safety or productivity problem, let them have access to their phones during breaks at work. They see 24/7 connectivity as essential to their own sense of purpose (just as many of us do), and they will be more productive if you don't stand in the way of that (within reason). And use them to be your organization's social media ambassadors — generally, no one knows that space better than they do.
3. Give them lots of feedback. We all need it and so do they. If you see them doing something well, celebrate that. Don't restrict your feedback to constructive criticism. If that's all they get from you, then you will lose them.
4. Find ways for them to give back to the community and the world. These are truly global citizens who want to do good. Find opportunities to engage them in the community.
5. Know their concerns. Many in this group face both crippling debt from school loans and mediocre job prospects. Offer them benefits that provide financial protections and savings opportunities. Study after study show this cohort is more financially cautious than all other generations in the current workplace.
Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group LLC, PSDA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PSDA and their member companies.