By Bob Pothier, director for Partners In Leadership who works with global leaders on overcoming tough business challenges. More importantly, he is a Gen Xer who has three sons and two daughters-in-law...who are all millennials.
Millennials are getting a bad rap.
Those criticizing millennials argue they're entitled (everyone gets a trophy), not independent (still live with their parents), self-absorbed (Facebook, selfies, and self-promotion), unfocused (chase multiple interests), bad writers (texting and 140 characters), and too attached to technology (always on their phones).
The truth is, they're what's keeping the U.S. economy afloat.
Millennials are the 19-35 year olds who have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation with 75.4 million. Next year 3.6 million Baby Boomers will retire and more than one-fourth of millennials will become managers.
By 2020, half of U.S. workers will be millennials. More importantly, think of any new and cool technology company and you'll find millennials at the helm.
If you aren't embracing millennials, your organization is losing the future, whether you realize it or not.
Here are four ways to think differently so millennials propel your company into the future.
1. Think in terms of results, not hours.
Baby Boomers think 9-5 or 80 hour weeks. Millennials think about results. The new generation of technology companies give their employees results to achieve, not hours to be completed. Those results can occur on the millennial's own schedule.
When your results are clear and measurable, you can better track whether your people are being as efficient as possible. Tracking hours produces activities. Tracking results produces results. And results motivate millennials.
2. You don't need full-time employees; you need experts, skill, and talent.
The old thinking is filling job boxes with full-time employees. That worked fine for prior generations who sought security through full-time employment with large and stable companies.
Millennials, however, grew up in the recession and realize there is no certainty. As a result, they dismiss a cubicle existence and embrace the freedom that technology allows them. They achieve this through "flexible schedules," "sharing gigs," "flex-time," and "freelancing."
The new thinking is about the types of people you need to accomplish your results, not whether they're in your building. That may require a full-time employee who works 6:00 pm to 2:00 am at home or a freelancer on the other coast.
Seek expertise, skills, and talent, not warm seats.
3. Technology, data analytics, and research should define your business strategy.
The internet changed everything. You know that. But you aren't living it. Millennials live it because they don't know any different.
So when they show up to work and you're in analog mode and they're in digital mode, you won't see eye-to-eye. Unfortunately, you're the problem. Let yourself be led by their digital sensibilities.
The answer to many of your business problems are a few clicks away. Millennials know how to find those answers faster than any other generation.
A company I consult recently asked a millennial to research a supplier issue. The leadership thought the project would take a couple of weeks. By lunch, there were six options with plenty of data to consider, and the team had an answer by the end of the day.
A technology improvement adopted by your competitor is likely your biggest threat. Millennials are constantly in search of what's new, different, and cool.
That mindset could be working for you or for your competition. It's your choice.
4. Your strategy and leadership teams need a millennial perspective.
Our egos lead us to believe we have all the answers. The only way to avoid that pitfall is to include other perspectives.
Gather smart people from multiple perspectives to lead your business, but include millennials. They are the largest rising generation, and without that perspective, you'll lose.
Millennials aren't always right, but no one is. However, if you aren't hearing what they're thinking, you don't have the whole picture. Listen to them, include them, mentor them, and show them the ropes.
By doing so, you assure there will be a rising generation that thinks about and wants your product. Otherwise, your ego will get the best of you and your business.
Millennials are your future
Millennials are not the miracle pill. But if coached correctly and listened to, they may know where to find it. Stop resisting what's inevitable.
That 28-year-old woman in finance is possibly your future CEO. That 22-year-old IT guy may revolutionize the way you do business.
But if you aren't planning that direction, someone else is, and that, ultimately, is your problem.