As always, the youngest generation entering the job market is viewed with just a bit of scepticism. Currently we experience the entrance of what we so fondly call millennials – or other more or less flattering names – Gen Y/Z, the Internet Generation, Digital Natives, the “selfie” generation…
Reality is that these young people are different than us “oldies” (read here anyone over 30+) – just as every generation has been different than it’s predecessors. As humans, we don’t naturally like “different” – it scares us just a bit.
Our job as leaders is to create a working environment where these energetic and innovative young people can thrive and enrich our companies and cultures.
So what characterizes these young people? REMEMBER – these are generalizations!
- Want to make a difference
- Want to be known – known for their competencies and results
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Love being part of a team
- Want to be led – feedback (2-way) is important
- Don’t necessarily realize that there are “rules”
- Conscious of their own value – as an individual, group and consumer
Motivation? Social groups – The Team
Work ethic? They work when it makes sense – time and place are less relevant (hence the photo of work being done in the coffee shop in the evening)
Loyalty? Loyalty lies with their purpose. If the company purpose aligns with theirs, then they can be extremely loyal – but don’t be surprised if they are starting their own company on the side…
So how DO we create this fantastic working environment where these young people can thrive? There are two critical elements – Purpose and Trust.
Millennials and Purpose
When our company has a clearly stated purpose and is living that purpose, then we attract people who believe what we believe (quote: Simon Sinek). This is also the case for our employees. With a clear purpose, we will attract young people who actually want to make a difference for our purpose.
This gives these young people a chance to actually make a difference and an opportunity to actually be known for creating results. Having the clear purpose also appeals to their need for being part of a team – they are part of the team that delivers what they believe in. They want to be able to tell a cool story when they meet new people and when they tell friends about what it is they work with. Clear purpose gives them that opportunity.
Millennials and Trust
Trust is the other element to creating a thriving working environment for millennials. If you haven’t read it, then please read my blog post on Trust.
Several elements of building trust drive motivation with these young employees.
Take for example Autonomy and Self-Management. Both of these create an environment where the employees feel the entrepreneurial spirit and they themselves “become the rules”. Then they don’t need a manager to tell them the rules.
Giving them the opportunity to Master their job and develop their competencies enables them to be proud of themselves.
Openness and honesty gives them leaders who actually can and do lead and who aren’t afraid to give them honest feedback – and who also expect that feedback is 2-way.
Millennials and their colleagues
There is no doubt in the world that young people coming into the job market have a lot to learn! This requires a fair amount of humility on their part – but this isn’t different than it was for any of us. They also need to learn that there are differences between the generations and learn how to act and react in a working environment where many of the older generation (30+) may be characterized by significantly different drivers than themselves. Being part of a team requires personal flexibility. Leaders need to create safety on a team where these differences are openly discussed and even celebrated for the diversity they bring.
Give them feedback – they actually do want to learn. Praise them when they have done a good job (builds trust) and most certainly, give them constructive criticism when that is appropriate. You must also be prepared that they expect feedback to be 2-way – so they will often also give you constructive criticism (and praise!)
You have a big job aligning the expectations of the “oldies” with the millennials. Here is where trust comes into play again. Talk about it – openly! Don’t be afraid to laugh together about the idiosyncrasies of the different generations – with respect! This openness will create respect for each other’s differences while at the same time making it legitimate to actually speak about these topics and bring up things that irritate some colleagues.
A scary example of what actually happens. A HR representative in a large Danish company was asked how they handle the millennials coming into the job market. This person’s response (paraphrased) was – we peel all that off them in the first six months and then they fit into the form.
What a tragedy! Innovation, new thinking, drive, engagement, motivation – all squashed within the first 6 months. Fit into the form or get out.
As every generation before, the job market needs to learn to accommodate the youngest generation. The key here is that these young people are the most global generation so far and they can give us a huge competitive advantage in the global world – if we are able to include, engage and motivate them.
Wishing all leaders and companies out there the best of luck in bringing these fantastic young people on board and giving them a working environment where they thrive and create value.