The job of leaders, whatever our generation, is to teach and coach the up-and-coming generations on the finer points of operating within various business situations. Although they approach work and business relationships differently than older generations (blending personal and professional relationships, confronting their bosses openly, and pushing the boundaries of insubordination), generational differences become less and less pronounced in later life stages. Meaning, a Millennial who is just out of college may seem very “millennialish,” but after three to five years, a stable relationship, their own place and a few bouts with the “real world,” they start to settle.
Despite the many differences, Millennials are undoubtedly disrupting “business as usual” in every industry. Many who broadcast that they want to work on their own terms are being allowed to some degree. Open office environments are slowly breaking down cube farms, and companies are offering more flexibility in working from home or remotely, conducting conference calls instead of face-to-face meetings, using Slack instead of formal e-mail for team-based collaboration, and much more. And if they don’t get the terms they want, Millennials move on. Approximately 56 percent of these young employees only stay in a job for two years or less. If they don’t like their environment, their boss, their peers, or the work itself, they leave and don’t look back.
They are also the “go and get it” generation. They don’t generally wait for permission or look for handholding on a project. They do their own research, make their own recommendations, collaborate openly, generate ideas, hire from within their networks instead of going on the open market, embrace newly-released technology/apps, work into the evenings and on weekends, and otherwise operate in an entrepreneurial fashion even within a corporate environment.
For companies wanting to be “destination employers” for this demographic, there are a few things you may have to accept early on that may be way outside of your comfort zone. Here are some changes we have made based upon working with our Millennials.
- Embrace Multi-Tasking: Asking Millennials to leave their phones stowed away during any activity is futile. Their devices are an extension of themselves. Come to a meeting at our office and everyone has a computer open and device in hand; they are multitasking, and Millennials are the first generation that’s actually good at it. We tell our employees not to waste time, so if multitasking in a meeting works for them, by all means do it. But there is one simple expectation: don’t miss a thing! If anyone’s asked a question, they’re expected to have been listening. If anyone’s assigned a task, it should be completed on time.
- Say Please and Thank You: Niceties and praise have become a much bigger part of what we do. For all the talk about diminishing social skills, we see the opposite to some degree as Millennials bring everyday manners into the office. There is a lot of sensitivity in this generation.
- Communicate Differently: Early on, we broke from the usual communication norm of team meetings and huddles. We installed Slack, and created a channel for everything we needed to talk about—individual projects and clients, funny stuff, and leadership business. To date, we have sent 58,000 messages via Slack. The velocity is constant and, if you can keep up, the stuff flying back and forth is gold. Put Millennials in a conference room and nothing gets done, but free them from the conference room and…wow, the things they come up with.
- Say Goodbye to the 8 to 5: There is no workday anymore, so just get over it. We will be one of the last generations to embrace the distinction between work and home. There isn’t work life and personal life anymore … only life.
- Offer Guidance: Millennials crave continued development, and they often require some direction as they search for their professional strengths and weaknesses. (I suspect we have those participation trophies to blame for making everyone think they were good at everything.) In earlier generations, employees were hired for a specific task, and they either excelled or left. Now, however, the trend is to hire more generally and adjust the tasks to the talent.
It’s a brave new world, folks, and Generation Z is coming on the heels of the Millennials—bringing even more changes. Get ready. The Millennial wave may have been an American phenomenon, but GenZ is global.
Tony Streeter is the Chief Marketing Officer, SVP at Y&L Consulting, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Streeter has led new product development, Ecommerce marketing, and integrated platform marketing initiatives for major companies such as Harland Clarke, Deluxe Corporation and RR Donnelley. Currently, Mr. Streeter leads marketing and branding initiatives for Y&L Consulting, a comprehensive IT Services & Solutions company specializing in IT Development, Information Management/BI, and Service Desk Services.