How Can I Harness the Power of Millennial Employees?

The dynamic in today’s workforce has changed, and some employers aren’t quite sure how to handle the shift. Millennials are different than any generation that has come before them and sometimes get a bad rap in the professional world.

As a millennial myself (yes, 1985 makes the cut), I can confidently say that we are a largely misunderstood generation. Drive is often mistaken for entitlement, and savviness mistaken for pompousness. While there are undoubtedly some millennials that have been protected from the harsh realities of life, the vast majority do not fall into that category. We’ve grown up with technology at our fingertips, move at a quick pace and learn differently than the generations preceding us.

Millennials have taken over as the largest generation in the labor force today and are projected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2030. Based on those cold, hard statistics, millennials aren’t going away.

Understanding how millennials tick and what drives them will enable you to better harness their power within your own workforce.

Know the Numbers

Below is just a small sample of the research that has been done on millennials in recent years. This data helps provide insight into millennial priorities:

  • 74% of Millennials say confidence in their leadership is a key driver of engagement (Culture Amp)
  • 33% of Millennials would choose social media freedom and device flexibility over a higher salary (Cisco)
  • 15% of Millennials are already in management positions. (PayScale)
  • 60% of Millennials recognize their current position as a mere stepping-stone. (Time)

Millennials have high expectations of themselves, and the people that they work with. They crave feedback and want someone to address their wants and needs. While that may sound “needy”, many just want to know how they’re doing and if they’re on the right path. 

4 Steps for Harnessing the Power of Millennials

Step 1: Provide Transparency Whenever Possible

Millennials are a very curious generation. Being aware of “what” something is, often isn’t enough. Most important to this generation is understanding “why”.

This curiosity comes from wanting to understand why a particular process exists or action is taken so that they can learn how to apply the information to future situations. Because of the pace that millennials move at, they are also very interested in creating efficiencies wherever possible.

Step 2: Help Them Develop & Elevate Their Skills

One of the largest reasons that millennials leave their current job is because they are not learning. A stagnant position that does not offer further development or growth is many millennials worst fear.

That doesn’t mean that all of the responsibility falls on you their employer to make sure that they are learning. However, making them aware of the resources available for professional development can help keep millennials engaged and invigorated to succeed within your organization.

Step 3: Encourage Their Creative Side

Creativity is no longer only used just to describe “creative types” in advertising, design, etc.. Creating an environment that fosters creative expression is absolutely critical for lasting professional satisfaction. Creative expression can take on many forms including:

  • Improving a team workflow or process
  • Finding innovative ways to service clients and customers
  • Bringing team members together for collaborative brainstorming

Step 4: Celebrate Failure

Ok, upon first glance you may be wondering why you would ever want to encourage your employees to fail. However, failure means that an attempt was made to try something new.

Many of today’s wealthiest entrepreneurs had many failures prior to sticking their landing. Use millennials tenacious, eager attitudes to innovate within your organization. Provide them with a level of responsibility and accountability (both essential) and challenge them to come up with what they believe is a better approach.

As with any employee you will sometimes get magic right out of the gate, while sometimes it means going back to the drawing board.

If you’re a business owner or manager: What has been your experience (both positive and negative) working with millennial employees?