Millennials: now the largest generation in the US, willing shares with others what they want and expect out of life, careers and the world. They are not shy, expect to enjoy life differently than most of us and tend to “move on” if they do not get what they want. They confuse us because their views of the world, their careers and how they plan their future are not what we had in mind for them.
We expected them to take the same approach to life and career we did and: “do as you’re told, keep your nose to the grindstone and be true to your employer.” Try this with your millennials, and you will spend all of your time saying ”goodbye” to your Millennials and saying ”hello” to newly hired millennials.
Management is struggling in most companies to understand what this group wants and expects in their jobs and careers. They are a new generation who grew up and learned life differently than most of us. They also have unique expectations and values that we must understand if we expect them to support the rest of us until the next generation begins working.
In order to be successful, businesses are quickly learning what Millennials expect from their employers. As a result, corporate culture, as well as management’s commonly accepted style must be changed and adapted to Millennials expectations. The time to do this is now because, by 2020, fifty percent of our jobs will be filled with millennials.
Unfortunately, some negatives surround millennials: many of us believe they are ”job hoppers” who care little about their jobs or companies. It’s a well-known fact that 71% are not engaged at work and are most likely “shopping” for another job that will align closer to their goals and expectations of their employers. ”Hopping” from job to job is expensive for the losing employers. According to Gallup, “Turnover among Millennials costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion each year. Millennials’ lack of engagement in the workplace costs U.S. companies upwards of $284 billion annually”.
Learning to Adapt for Millennials
If we cannot learn to adapt to millennial needs, the costs of attrition and employee disengagement alone will create havoc in our economic survival.
Now is the time for companies to learn what millennials want from their employers and careers. Developing and implementing new processes is always time consuming, but ”sooner” is better than waiting for millennials to acclimate to our perceptions and needs, which may never happen.
A new generation requires understanding new values and objectives. Let’s evaluate what millennials really want from their employers and managers. And, hopefully, it may result in an easy adjustment to our current career expectations.
Providing the Right Tools
This group of young adults expects to live at work as they did at home and/or at college. They are accustomed to continual access to the Internet, Wi-Fi, laptops, and smartphones. Approximately 91% of millennials own a smartphone and 71% view the internet as their source of news, information, entertainment, friends, and strangers. As a result, they are very globally aware of both the negatives and positives of our world. They expect to interact with their employers as they did previously with their family, friends, acquaintances and nearly all of their learning opportunities.
Many companies are finding greater happiness with their millennial employees if they provide smartphones, laptops and internet connections for all. This is easy and certainly, these tools are much less costly than disengagement and attrition.
Working Outside the Office
Providing computer-based tools for millennials is a good idea that most other employees will also enjoy and may help Millennials phase into their desired ”work from anywhere” mindset. Given their desires for collaboration and friendship, this is unexpected as a millennial need, but this group understands that a job means spending time ”heads-down” in a concerted achievement effort. They believe that they can be as productive at home as they are at work or in another location.
Allowing off-site work is easy; the difficult part is training management to ”trust” that employees are actually working. This has long been a difficult challenge for many managers; both millennials and others employees must expect that their managers will utilize various apps that can track time and visibility of employees working. However, that is not going to work well with millennials.
Millennials may agree to utilize time and work tracking apps, but they will resent it and believe that their managers do not ”trust” them, which is probably true. Lack of trust is of major importance to millennials and is their red flag to start ”shopping” for another job.
Managers have been advised for many years to remember that employee results are much more important than the time spent at work. Now is a perfect opportunity to ”trust” your employees and focus on their results. If abuses happen, they can always be corrected by disallowing work at home.
Millennials do not agree that those who want to be successful spend additional hours at work. This group actively reads and absorbs everything possible on the internet. They know, all too well, that productivity seldom increases when hours worked become longer. Millennials do not understand or agree that working additional hours does anything but make you tired. They believe that they can get their work done in a work-life balanced plan. Other things besides work are important to them; they want time to socialize, workout or travel and do not believe that it will have an effect on their daily work. Accommodating this particular millennial need will be challenging for many managers and their companies, but it can be accomplished.
Millennials Ask Questions
Remember when your kids were young and asked ”why” about everything? Better prepare again for that to happen with your millennial employees. They have ”Googled” most of their lives and they automatically search on Google when they need information, are curious, or want to understand something that is different. It’s beneficial for them to continually learn; unfortunately, managers are not ”Google” and often become annoyed when their Millennials are continually asking or needing explanations or answers.
Millennials also expect their careers to progress quickly and they expect their managers to help them. This group expects progression and ”acceptable-to-them” salary levels. This may not be a reality, but remember, millennials have not worked enough years to understand that sometimes regardless of what you try to achieve, it just doesn’t happen.
Many of us had similar ideas when we first started our careers and were sure that we would be a manager in a couple of years and then reality struck and we became aware that there are only a few manager positions and a lot of competition for one position. Hopefully, Millennials will adjust as we did; if not, they will soon realize that their competition is also valued.
Millennials dislike many of the same things earlier generations did not like but learned to accept. Remember in our early careers how we disliked information silos, corporate rules and rigidity, yearly performance reviews, unavailable managers and employee ”favorites” who were always the ones to get the promotions?
Millennials hate these same things; they basically want flexibility in the work, but also want ongoing feedback, encouragement, and recognition – from their managers. These are issues and tasks that companies and managers can address.
What Millennials Want
The most important thing Millennials want from their companies is the most difficult: time. This young group wants their Managers to spend time with them and they want the time to be well-spent on mentoring them. Managers seldom have any extra time. There is always a list of tasks to do, e-mail to read, meetings to attend, budgets to track, and more and more tasks to squeeze into a daily, hectic routine. How to create more time for your millennials? Think about this.
Millennials see job selection as an opportunity to shop for the jobs that are best aligned to their expectations and goals. When employers and their managers do not act on millennials’ expectations, they start shopping for another job. Can you afford to not make your company and yourself as appealing as possible?
Remember the costs of employee disengagement and attrition and you’ll likely be more able to find time to mentor your millennials. Later, when the ”word gets out” that you and your company are more than willing to meet their expectations, including mentoring, you’ve just helped brand your company as one that Millennials put at the top of the ”shopping” list.
How to Give Them What They Want
Now that we understand and agree that mentoring Millennials must become routine, what do we do and how do we do it? It’s critical to first be aware that mentoring is important to millennials and why that mentoring must come from a millennial’s manager. Mentoring helps Millennials gain very high opinions of their managers and this is important since they have expectations of their managers.
This data from the 2016 World Economics Forum, ”The Top 10 Traits Millennials Look For in their Managers” reveals a lot about millennials vision of their managers:
- Honesty and Integrity
- Effective at executing decision and implementing them
- Effective communications
- Effective decision-making
- Embraces diversity – treats everyone the same
- Creative/effective at exploring possibilities
- Empathic, warm and approachable
- Willing to learn from others
- Participates in getting the work done
- Self-motivated and positive.
You likely have these traits and it’s important to exhibit them so that they are readily seen by all others, especially your millennials.
Let’s discuss mentoring and how to go about this task that is not difficult, but often time-consuming.
As you think about mentoring your millennials, it’s important to remember that nearly 87% want to learn and grow. This should be the major portion of your mentoring and it is one that adds value to your teams, as well as your increased performance as a manager. Millennials want their managers to be coaches and take a personal interest in them, so plan to spend 30-45 minutes weekly per millennial helping them develop their skills. Remember to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Statistics indicate that millennials are less than 39% appreciative when the focus is on weaknesses, but are almost twice as appreciate when the focus is on strengths.
Millennials, as well as most people, want to be seen as a person first and employee second. They perform much better when their manager appears to ”care” about them and 62% of a Gallup survey indicates that they will stay with their company one year longer than most of their peers if they believe their manager is interested and ”cares” about them as a person.
A Caring Attitude
This ”caring” technique can be easily done while you are mentoring your Millennials; just spend a little time discussing non-work related subjects. Millennials have such a broad span of knowledge that you could ask them questions about subjects you’re interested in and possibly receive excellent training on a subject. You could learn while mentoring and receive accolades from your millennials because they helped you with something. Millennials also enjoy helping others.
An important mentoring task that can be easily done with both millennials and your team is to discuss and understand the goals, vision, and values of your company. Millennials, especially, want to understand what their company stands for and what makes it different from its competition. They need this information to better endorse their sense of purpose and it ultimately makes them feel important to have this knowledge and understanding. This sharing of information with employees should be done as part of the new employee onboarding process. It can and should be repeated frequently to ensure understanding and promotion of the same values for all employees.
Companies who strive for a common values system also have stronger employee engagement and retention than non-values based companies, so this is a positive win-win for millennials, employees, and your company.
Millennials expect instant and effective communication from others, particularly feedback from their managers. They have grown-up in an era of constant consecutiveness, whether it’s parents, teachers or coaches, and expect their managers to carry on with this custom. Managers need to provide frequent feedback and those who are slow to communicate feedback are risking negative feedback and productivity that will likely lead to ”shopping” for a job from their millennials.
Managers who believe a once a year Performance Review will satisfy millennials fail miserably. Millennials need a weekly discussion with their managers to receive and give feedback. Every employee wants and needs feedback on their work performance, but Millennials need it more often and they will simply not stay with a company that relegates feedback to annual or bi-annual performance reviews.
Feedback is all about conversations and the more frequent the conversation, the stronger the employee engagement, retention, productivity and performance becomes. Managers who want to retain Millennials must engage them at least weekly, and preferably, daily.
A daily meeting with individual employees is a lot to expect from a manager, but the meetings can be short and varied. Text messages, quick phone calls, or just “dropping by” an employee’s desk or office for a few minutes provides the needed openings for an informal, but ongoing feedback and communications that Millennials thrive on. Frequent communication is the key to success for millennial retention, productivity, and performance.
Manager mentoring invariably results in questions from Millennials about job progression and promotions. As a millennial manager, you are responsible for providing information about opportunities for advancement, which are infrequent. Tell that to a millennial and they will not be happy. Today’s millennials do not value the time required to ”work up the career ladder.” They want quick career advancement and unless you, as their manager, plan accordingly, they will simply walk away.
Providing opportunities to cross train may help the need for job progression. Also, if possible, simply adding more levels to jobs, job certifications or special assignments may be enough to meet their expectations. Another idea is to implement rotational assignments frequently and give them special assignments on creating new processes or to streamline current processes.
Every millennial wants to be a ”leader” and expects to be given an opportunity to lead others. As a manager, if you have no available position openings, try providing opportunities to ”practice” by giving them short assignments of leading others. This will help train them for future positions while also retaining them and preventing the infamous “hopping”.
More than 63% of millennials in a 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey said their leadership skills were not being fully developed, so this is an opportunity to stand out from the competition and start sending your Millennials to training and providing opportunities in-house for them.
To summarize your mentoring plans in order of importance:
- Help your Millennials learn and grow by spending time with them – at least 30-45 minutes weekly.
- Remember to exhibit a ”caring” attitude, especially towards millennials.
- Discuss and create an understanding of your company’s values, visions, and goals.
- Become an instant feedback expert with effective communications. Kill the annual Performance Review and set up frequent, at least monthly, reviews.
- Create daily, very short “meetings” to make a positive difference with millennials.
- Discuss job progression and any needed training.
- Provide cross-functional opportunities and other creative ideas to help millennials learn new skills and be ready for a promotion.
- Discuss Leadership and the need for training before becoming a Leader. Provide related opportunities to practice leadership.
Try utilizing all these suggestions to improve millennial interest, retention, engagement, and productivity. Doing so will also prove that you are an excellent manager who cares about millennials and someone who values every opportunity to be an effective mentor and leader.