Millennials are the subject of an ongoing national (even international) conversation in the business world. They make up a massive and growing segment of the workforce, and have character traits unique to a generation surrounded by technology and globalization. As of April of this year, they surpassed baby boomers as the largest living population in the United States. But for other generations, millennials are complex and confusing.
That confusion is nowhere more obvious, or destructive, than in corporate America where companies are floundering in their efforts to integrate young people into the workforce. Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workforce expert, summarizes the millennial mindset well: "Millennial individuality started early. They didn't grow up with teddy bears lovingly selected by parents or grandparents. Instead, they created their own Build-A-Bears. They didn't receive a cassette or CD of their favorite music; they created playlists on iTunes and Spotify. Even universities have made it standard practice to offer millennials customizable majors and curricula. Companies must make jobs and career paths as customizable as possible to appeal to millennials."
Here are a few things all businesses, from startup to decade old corporations, should brush up on as they integrate this creative cohort into their workforce:
A recent study found that 52% of millennials cited "growth opportunities" as their top motivating factor when it comes to selecting which company they will work. To facilitate this growth, managers need to integrate rotational assignments with defined goals. This allows for a variety of experiences and a sense that they are progressing.
"It's important to comprehend the overall vision and goals of the organization so that true high-achievers can rise above the rest and excel," said Tri Nguyen, founder of Network Capital Funding, a direct mortgage lender that has developed a formula to find, recruit, train and retain millennials. "Focusing on results brands the boldness of millennial effort and contribution to the greater good. If they can't see where they need to go, they won't be able to help you get there."
A Culture of Constant Change
Every aspect of business has changed in the past decade, and that is especially true when it comes workplace culture. Ping pong tables, massage rooms, and high-end food options are common in corporate offices. While all that is fun, Nguyen warns that it is important to make sure your workplace culture actually aligns with your company's mission and values, as it must empower high performance and opportunity. Otherwise, millennials will see it as a forced attempt to bridge generational gaps.
Technology is an area where progress is not as optional. It would be absurd to try to run a company without email, and it is increasingly ridiculous to ignore communication platforms like Slack and project management applications like Trello. These are easy to integrate into your business and make it easier for millennials to integrate.
"While many companies focus on training to onboard new employees, failing to implement a continuous growth and education plan can lead to stagnant workers," says Nguyen. And if there is one thing we know for sure, it is that millennials don't wait around long.
Receptive Leadership Zappos famously shook up their corporate structure, switching to a more free flowing and transparent form of management, and while it's yet to be determined if this was the right move, it does highlight a significant trend when it comes to what millennials expect. They are determined to be themselves.
Millennials want transparency. They want to know how the company works: the backend, the frontend, everything. Not doing so can lead to frustrated and worried employees.
Modern Day Fringe Benefits
Contrary to what many expect, it's not all about salary for millennials. In addition to feeling like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, some relatively inexpensive perks can be the difference between them staying with your company and jumping over to a competitor.
Big tech companies are known for providing what they call "Lifestyle Perks." These are perks that are not related to work, but to making their employees' lives better and more efficient. Meal prep, grocery delivery, and dry-cleaning are all example of the types of perks millennials desire.
While not every company can provide these types of benefits, there are creative alternatives that can align with any business's values and mission and can maximize employee retention.