If you're reading this article, it means that you're interested in the companies, topics and skills that leaders need in order to make it in today's business world. Chances are you run a company, work for a company, or want to work for a company that pushes the envelope, thinks big and trying to make a difference. I'll bet you're driven by technology (aren't we all?) and focused on innovation.

Sound right? Well, that's because it pertains to almost any company out there. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't aspire to be that kind of organization. What it means is that right now, it's a more challenging and competitive landscape than ever before and in order to get to the next level, you need the brightest and best talent out there. Whether it’s engineers, customer service people, sales, marketing--you name it...you've gotta have the best.

Many of these brilliant workers who have the drive, skills, and ideas to advance your organization forward are just entering the workforce now. They're millennials and they work differently than previous generations.

  • Millennials are digital natives--they grew up with laptops, the internet, and iPhones. More importantly, tech shapes their work and the broader context of connectivity shapes their mindset.
  • Millennials are early adopters--they embrace new concepts, ideas, and technology, rather than resist it. Because things haven't been stagnant for much of their life, work shouldn't be either.
  • Millennials are connected--to technology and to other people. It is simply a fact of life for them. Solo work doesn't cut it (at least in the traditional sense).

Even if you are hiring more and more millennials doesn't mean that you need to adopt a completely new way of managing and leading, but you do need to ensure that Millennials are getting the most from your organization and that you're getting the most from them.

Here's eight absolute musts for leading millennials.

  1. Encourage collaboration in every facet--Collaboration shouldn't be limited to team work and meetings. It can be a way of life and one that will pervade how millennials are already wanting to work.
  2. Provide clear, realistic roadmaps for growth and development--Millennials are all about knowing where they stand and how they can improve. Without a roadmap for success, you'll be frustrated by a lack of results and they'll be frustrated by a lack of vision.
  3. Really understand their personal and professional goals--Notice I said personal goals as well. Work and life are now integrated in so many ways that millennials (and frankly all your workers) want not only to contribute and be better at work, but also to grow as human beings.
  4. Challenge millennial employees to vary their communication styles--Millennials embrace a challenge and learning how to communicate across generations is critical. Show them that others need information in different manners than they do and bring that to the forefront in your feedback
  5. Provide flexibility to cater to new working environments--Millennials expect that work can get done from anywhere. If you don't at least understand that mindset, you'll lose smart people to companies who do get that. I'm not saying that your company should immediately switch to telecommuting and flextime, but providing options is important.
  6. Provide development opportunities--Millennials want to grow in their role and their work, and they see the experience of training and development as a clear path to build those capabilities.
  7. Embrace cognitive diversity--Millennials are already attuned to diversity of every sort, and cognitive diversity is no different. Having people come together to challenge ideas, innovate and collaborate is energizing to this group.
  8. Focus on building and measuring effectiveness--Millennials want feedback and are driven by metrics and effectiveness. Everyone is driven by goals, but the millennial workforce believes (correctly) that this can happen in a number of arenas, from company goals to collaboration to job satisfaction and engagement.