Millennials, amirite?

Actually, probably--no. At least, that's the message behind a brand new study at the Gallup Organization. It suggests that many of the things we think we know about Millennials--what they want at work, and what makes them successful or unsuccessful--are wrong or at least wrong-ish.

Instead, Gallup suggests that if you want to understand Millennials--and perhaps more important, attract the best of them to work with you--you should adopt a mindset that involves a seven-part "Change in Leadership."

(As it happens, a lot of these points are reflected in my recent e-book, which you can download for free: The Big Free Book of Success, including Chapter 8: "6 Secret Habits of Highly Successful Millennials.")

Here's are the seven leadership changes Gallup came up with:

1. The change from "my paycheck" to "my purpose."

We start out with what is admittedly the least surprising factor--at least if you've read anything theoretical about the Millennial generation. It's that Millennials truly want to work for organizations that have missions and purposes they can get behind. And they want to make meaningful contributions. 

The money is important of course--everybody needs money--but they are far less likely to be willing to take a job just because they need the money. 

"Back in the old days," says Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, "Baby Boomers like me didn't necessarily need meaning in our jobs. We just wanted a paycheck--our mission and purpose were 100 percent our families and communities. For Millennials, compensation is important and must be fair, but it's no longer the driver."

2. The change from "my satisfaction" to "my development."

If you're old enough to remember the original dot-com bubble--Internet 1.0--you might recall the cliché of tech companies with tons of VC money and no discernible business model, but tons and tons of toys in the office: foosball tables, video games, grade school-style work outings.

OK, I guess there are some companies that still fit that description, but they're shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to attracting and retaining top Millennial talent. 

"Giving out toys and entitlements is a leadership mistake, and worse, it's condescending. Purpose and development drive this generation," Clifton says. 

3. The change from "my boss" to "my coach."

If you're still trying to manage people like a Bill Lumbergh-style boss--clueless, condescending, and controlling--you're probably going to find yourself leading nobody pretty soon. Or at least, not anybody worth leading.

I don't know if anybody ever actually enjoyed that kind of boss, but the most talented Millennials are in a position never to put up with it. Instead, they want coaches who are interested in their personal development, rather than old-school bosses.

"Millennials care about having managers who can coach them, who value them as both people and employees, and who help them understand and build their strengths," Clifton says.

4. The shift from "my annual review" to "my ongoing conversations."

If you still use a phrase like "annual review," you either work for a giant bureaucracy that hasn't kept up with the times or you're so old school you probably still remember Windows 3.1.

"Millennials don't want annual reviews--they want ongoing conversations. The way [they] communicate--texting, tweeting, Skype, etc.--is now real-time and continuous. This dramatically affects the workplace because Millennials are accustomed to constant communication and feedback. Annual reviews no longer work," Clifton says.

Paired with that, perhaps, is the sense that Millennials are willing to engage in work tasks outside of what once might have been thought of as "work time." Emails and texts with the boss (excuse me, coach) at 10 p.m. are not at all unusual or unexpected.

5. The shift from "my weaknesses" to "my strengths."

This finding squares 100 percent with what Gallup calls "arguably the biggest discovery Gallup or any organization has ever made on the subject of human development in the workplace."

It's the sense that Millennials are not particularly interested in focusing on how to improve their weaknesses, but instead want to continually develop their strengths.

"Gallup has discovered that weaknesses never develop into strengths, while strengths develop infinitely," Clifton says. "Rather, they should minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths. We are recommending our client partners transition to strengths-based cultures, or they won't attract and keep their stars."

6. The change from "my job" to "my life."

I'm actually not sure this one is limited to Millennials--I think Generation X people like me have wanted it for a long time. We spend so much time at work that we wind up defining ourselves greatly by what we do.

But, Gallup says, it's even more acute with Millennials.

"More so than ever in the history of corporate culture," Clifton says, "employees are asking, 'Does this organization value my strengths and my contribution? Does this organization give me the chance to do what I do best every day?' Because for Millennials, a job is no longer just a job--it's their life as well."

7. They're constantly looking for something else.

At least, they are if you give them a reason to--and you've got six types of reasons listed earlier in this article.

Fully 60 percent of Millennials say they're open to new opportunities, according to Gallup, while only 29 percent say they're engaged by their work (meaning they're "emotionally and behaviorally connected" to it).

Published on: May 12, 2016
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