As a seasoned professional on the youngest end of the Baby Boomer generation, I’ve learned to avoid topics that might prompt high-decibel or impassioned conversations. While I am quite accomplished at side-stepping politics and religion, the topic I cannot avoid is the Millennial Generation. When Millennials are mentioned (in any setting), every person over the age of 35 seems to have a passionate opinion, a personal story, and the need to pontificate about these fresh, young, accomplished professionals whose casual and confident approach to the workplace is often interpreted as lazy and entitled. They look at me like I have three heads when I tell them the answer is very simple. Respect them. Engage them. Grow them….Retain them.
Rule #1 – Respect Them. Sound simple? Well, it is. The secret is to recognize the adult human nature of the Millennial. Yes, I said adult and I said human; that is what they are and they want the same thing you want…recognition for the value they bring to the workplace. If you want to reap the benefits of having Millennials on your team, ask for their input, listen to their ideas, and reward the contribution they make. Oh, and lest I omit the most critical piece of this rule…..do all of the above the way they do it.
Rule #2 – Engage Them. Let’s level-set on this one…hiring them, giving them a dark cubicle, and throwing menial, albeit tenure-appropriate tasks at them, does not qualify as engagement. Millennials engage on a personal and professional level, whenever, wherever, and with whomever. They are clever, inclusive, and incredibly creative. If you still abide by the stiff-necked Boss/Subordinate rules of engagement that launched your success, then you might need to install a revolving door just for Millennials. But if you want to safeguard the wear and tear on the exit path, interact with them on a personal level and implement a physical environment that enables conversation and creativity.
Rule #3 – Grow Them. Just like you, Millennials want to know about the career opportunities available to them. But quite possibly not just like you, they expect to be provided with details upon their arrival. And this expectation is grounded in their life experience. After all, Millennials have lived most, if not all, of their lives with the most current, technologically-enabled information streaming to them from everywhere in the universe at every moment of every day. The outcome is intellectual agility and a capacity for learning that is unmatched by any other generation in the workforce. Present them with a blueprint for success that addresses every aspect of their professional presence on their first day of work and you will go a long way towards retaining them. Present them with the blueprint before you hire them and you will attract their friends too.
In a nutshell, the largest generation to enter the workforce since Baby Boomers is here with their own version of workplace etiquette and practices. They were raised to be independent thinkers and resourceful professionals. They were praised for asking why and rewarded for innovative perspectives. They are today’s resource pool and tomorrow’s business leaders. Millennials are the beginning of a new approach to the workplace. The next move is yours. You can reject the inevitable and ensure a less than productive outcome, OR you can embrace the new legacy and lead your organization to a new workplace normal with the innovation, precision, and purpose you bring to the table.