While you were sleeping last night the millennial generation grew up around you. You probably have a vision of a lazy teenager who wants to tell you how to improve your business on their first day on the job. Well, that may be true, but even the youngest of millennials are now full-fledged adults. The youngest of millennials are headed to college and the oldest are pushing 40. A quarter of all millennials are now parents themselves and over 50% have children in their household. Like it or not they are probably a large chunk of your customer base and a large portion of the available workforce.
We often hear the millennial generation referred to as the “Me” generation. It isn’t so much that they are narcissists, but rather they have grown up in a world where social media has stroked their desire to be recognized on a daily basis. Digital marketing has asked for their opinion on every purchase that they can remember. With all this attention thrust at them from the social power of the collective, of course as an employee they think you want their great wisdom. The fact is you are stuck with them, unless you are going to run every aspect of your business from here on out, you should get comfortable with hiring from this group. So here are a couple of tips to keep you and your new millennial employee working well together.
First you need to start by looking inward. What is your mission? Why does your company exist? Before you give me the knee-jerk “to make money” reaction, you need to realize something about the millennial. For the idealistic millennial, working for a company is akin to death. In fact when the average millennial hears the word company it brings to mind something along the lines of the white hats eating their cheese from the movie Box Trolls. Elitist money hungry corporations feeding off the little people.
They will however join your cause and work for it tirelessly without thought of a time clock because your cause is something that gives purpose and value to the world. Millennials work for a cause not a company. Let me give you an example. Your company doesn’t sell shoes. Instead you are on a mission to put quality shoes on everyone in your community. You do that by selling shoes to those who come through your door, but you also donate shoes each month to the local homeless shelter to ensure those in need have the most basic of needs met. It can’t just be something that you say, it must be something you really are passionate about. Most businesses I speak with already do things like this in one way or another. Now it is time to articulate it and make it the heart of your business. Your social mission is something that motivates the millennial to not only work, but to shop as well.
Secondly, the millennial requires validation. I’m not talking about the participation trophy-for-all kind of validation. I’m talking about the acknowledging a job well done kind of validation. In days past the employee/employer relationship was viewed by both parties as a contract. From the perspective of the employee, I will put in a week’s work, in exchange you’ll give me a week of agreed upon wages. Remember, the millennial is not so much working for you, but has joined your cause. They want to know their time hasn’t been wasted, they’ve made a difference and you are appreciative of those efforts. After all there are many causes they could have joined, but they joined yours.
Lastly, the old trope is that a millennial comes to work and tells you how to run your business on the first day. There may be some truth to that, however, it may also be possible they have unique insights as to how to reach the 21 percent of the market represented by millennials. What you don’t want is a non-stop stream of how you can do something better while you would like them to be working. Instead of telling them how you aren’t paying them as a consultant, set a time for them to share those ideas with you. Tell them you’d be happy to hear about some of the changes they believe would be helpful, but you’ll need them to put those ideas together into a presentation with costs, benefits, and all possible negative impacts. Let them know that you aren’t promising to implement anything, but that you are interested in hearing those ideas once they are fully fleshed out. Then actually set time aside outside of their typical work day and listen. They might never bring you those ideas, but you might just find they have a few ideas that work.
By 2020 it is estimated that millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce. I hope you are ready.