You’ve heard about millennials, the problematic generation of young people born between the 1980s and the early 2000s. If you work with them, you might unfairly lump them all together, considering them the misfits of the professional world.
Indeed, millennials are routinely denigrated in the popular press. Aren’t these the folks who live in their parents’ basements and are widely derided for being spoiled and entitled? It’s a lot more complex than that, and as millennials are now a substantial segment of the U.S. workforce, you need to take a more positive and nuanced view of this generation.
Here are some tips for dealing with these young people and making use of their traits for the good of your business.
Give them a vision, and watch them grow. These kids were the first to get a trophy just for showing up. They believe that doing their best is what counts and anything’s possible. That’s a good attitude waiting to be exploited.
They’re not afraid of hard work, contrary to popular opinion. Chances are they’ve done more community service and traveled more widely than you have. They’re smart — if not street smart. Give them a vision, show them how their contributions make the team stronger — and watch them take off.
Your “lazy” is their “shortcut.” Yes, asking Siri a question qualifies as looking it up. These kids have never seen a collection of printed and embossed encyclopedias. They get their information, news, thoughts, ideas, comedy, and sometimes even friends and dates from the web.
Don’t judge. If they have their phone right in their face, it doesn’t mean they’re playing “Candy Crush.” They may just be crowdsourcing the idea that launches your firm to superstardom. Millennials say their primary motivation as they enter the workforce is a good job with a good salary. So give them one. Chances are they’ll meet you more than halfway.
They are the world. They’re the most diverse workforce in U.S. history. An American University study points out that 44 percent of them are nonwhite, and they want to make a difference. Think of every millennial in your office as an integral link in a chain of millennials bouncing ideas and opinions off each other. Use that.
Manage the negatives
Of course, there are negatives, too, and you need to learn how to manage them. You’ll need to teach millennials that failures have consequences and that sometimes sorry doesn’t get the job done. So start every interview with some variation of “How can you make me money?”
You need to explain what showing up really means; advances in technology let them work from home, Starbucks or anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection, but if you need or demand face time, you are going to have to set clear goals, hold onto deadlines, insist on consistent productivity and check in routinely.
Be tough, be fair, listen and make yourself available — turn millennials into productive workers.