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How to Learn to Love Those Millennials!

Millennials - those born between 1980 and 2000 – are completely different from all other employees. They’ve been referred to as “lazy” and “the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of work”. They have their own ideas about workplaces and aren't shy about expressing them. All that in-your-face “aren’t I great?” and “know it all” attitude can be trying for the more traditional worker. I blame The X Factor.

But millennials form a significant part of the workforce and that part is only going to get bigger. You can’t ignore them; the smart approach is to harness their positives (there are plenty!),find out how to manage their less attractive traits and learn to go with the flow.

They are a very mobile group of workers. In the 2016 Deloitte survey, which researches millennials’ values, ambitions and drivers of job satisfaction, the results indicated that one in four millennials would leave their current employment to join a new organisation or to do something else during the next year if the opportunity arose. Given that you’re probably going to invest heavily in terms of training and development, that mobility could present a risk.

So how do we manage these millennial butterflies? They have completely different work values when compared to previous groups of workers. Step one is to understand their drivers.

  • Meaningful work, good salary and financial benefits are the most important employment motivator, followed by work-life balance and opportunities to develop their careers and take on leadership roles. About 33 percent will place flexibility over salary when considering a job offer.
  • The traditional motivators are less important. For them learning and developing their skills is key. They are ambitious, want to have a say in how things are done and lead.
  • They love change and variety within a structured environment.
  • They think they can do anything and want to have the chance to prove it.
  • They want to work in socially responsible workplaces.
  • Typically they are the most technologically advanced group of employees and are skilled multitaskers. They want immediate access to information and plenty of stimuli.

Knowing this, there are a number of things you can do to get the best out of millennials and keep them engaged. Millennials look for leaders who place the most emphasis on employee development, well-being and growth rather than simply controlling the work experience.

Coach, train and mentor them. Let them ask questions. Provide advice and information and give regular feedback to them. Millennials want to know how they’re doing and what they can do to improve. Frequent feedback helps them develop and increases their sense of being valued. Feed their curiosity and set them projects that will develop their skills.

Involve and listen to them. Millennials may well ask “why” before doing a task. This might drive the older worker mad, but it’s a reasonable question. They’re not saying they won’t do it, just asking for the rationale and that’s fair enough. They love to be part of the decision-making process too. Bear in mind that they have been consulted by their parents and teachers since they were knee high to a grass hopper so simply directing them and expecting them to follow unquestioningly won’t work well. They often have good ideas, so let them be part of creative and problem solving processes.

They love a challenge. They’ve been brought up to think they can do anything, so stretch them. Give them variety and interest. Having people who aren’t afraid of tough assignments is fantastic. They might get it wrong, but that’s all part of learning. Help them understand what to do next to get it right, dust them down and get them back on the horse.

Millennials love structure so build a framework into your workplace. Within that framework, give them some freedom. Provide guidance and feedback, but don’t micro-manage them.

Not everybody likes working in a team but millennials do. They believe that working as a team can accomplish more. Team exercises and activities motivates these employees. This can be anything from an activity such as a team lunch, a social activity or team sporting or fitness target to a team training session.

This group has grown up with the internet, smartphones, broadband, mobile devices and social media being the norm. They expect instant access to information. Baby boomers and generation x workers just haven’t had the exposure the millennials have. Use their love and knowledge of technology to your advantage. Allow them to suggest ways to make your business a more technically savvy place.

David Cameron once famously said (or didn’t say, as the case may be) “hug a hoodie”. Follow these tips and you can learn to love your millennials too!

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