Never before has the business world had an opportunity for four generations to collaborate in the workplace. With this opportunity for collaboration I find it disappointing there are so many businesses and leaders that challenge the value of an entire generation. With headlines that claim Millennials “could be good for business” or are a “smart and cheap hire”, there is a misconception that an entire generation lacks value. The same four categories that encompass nearly all of the complaints about Millennials are also the same categories that make this generation a benefit to the business world.
Gold star mindset – we have employees that value hard work and recognize that hard work results in a reward. Nearly everyone with young children has likely used a “star chart” or some other form of reward-based program to teach good behavior. I recall the Book It program from my elementary school days that awarded a pizza for accumulating stickers for reading books. Much of this mindset can be stated simply: work hard and get a reward. The other benefit of this mindset is feedback, something Millennials crave. They want to know that what they are doing is on the right track. If it isn’t, they want to know how to get on the right track.
Business benefit: This generation values being rewarded for hard work and seeks feedback to improve.
Lack of work ethic – younger employees, and even some more experienced employees, are looking for the most efficient way to get things done and get them done right. Many times this is done by leveraging technology, decreasing the number of hours required to accomplish a task. I recall a relative describing to me how her son (a Millennial) had an internship and was able to complete the assigned project within a couple weeks. The company expected it to take the entire summer, so they didn’t have anything else for him to do. Compared to an employee that would have taken the entire summer to do a project, does her son lack work ethic? No, he was simply more efficient and effective at the job. Quality should trump quantity when evaluating work ethic.
Business benefit: This generation values efficiency, rather than being at the office just to be seen.
Not loyal – those Millennials are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a challenge aren’t they? Wrong! With headlines like I shared above regarding Millennials being “cheap” and questioning how they may or may not be good for business, those are likely the companies complaining about loyalty. If organizations aren’t willing to be loyal to Millennials and show them respect, why should they expect them to remain loyal. Much of the job hopping I have witnessed and discussed with Millennials, and non-Millennials, is the result of a lack of loyalty to the employee. All employees want to be treated with respect, regardless of generation. Respect is a much larger driver of Millennial loyalty than their year of birth.
Business benefit: This generation is one of the most loyal when that is reciprocated.
Sense of entitlement – it is true, Millennials feel entitled. They feel entitled to what they have been promised and feel entitled to success if they meet the established objectives. After all, didn’t you tell them when were growing up they could be anything they wanted to be? The vast majority of Millennials don’t expect to be CEO on day one. However, they do expect to be given the opportunity to grow and advance in an organization. And, if you think back to when you started at your company, you probably thought the same thing. The difference is Millennials are willing to tell you their expectations and ask for the milestones they need to hit to accomplish their goals.
Business benefit: This generation is determined to succeed and has an expectation they will be given the opportunity to do so.
I will admit there is much more that can be discussed on each of these topics. I plan to write about those in the future, including how to adapt leadership styles to better manage Millennials.
As always, I welcome any feedback, discussion or comments.