Good News About Millennials


It has been about one year since I felt inspired to learn all I can about the 78 million Millennials (or Gen Y) and try to help businesses and Millennials engage and connect.  I have about a dozen books on the subject, researched 30-40 articles, interviewed about 50 people and have led workshops and keynotes all over the country.  I think the hype around “The Millennials are Coming” has been overplayed, and the reality is there are just a lot of misperceptions.  Probably the biggest a-ha is that they need a little hand holding at first.  They are used to a lot of structure and they just need to be shown, and also a lot structure in the beginning.  What was I like at the same age?  I needed some direction for sure, and I think the younger Boomers/ Gen Xers were a lot more autonomous is all, and that is the rub in the workforce now.  I just conducted a workshop for a 20 managers and the eyes were rolling when I reviewed what their Millennial new hires said they needed more of.  Here is a sampling from about 50 Millennials on what they said would help them thrive.

    • Structure – clear guidelines and expectations. Need to know exactly what to expect.  (Fear of failing, and needing acceptance and pats on the back is what keep them going.)
    • A Career Path – goal-oriented parents set these expectations.  Also these same parents likely gave their lives to their career, so they want to see the progression, raises and promotions.  When their parents got raises, their allowance went up.
    • Positive Feedback – need to know they are on the right track. Heating nothing discourages and distracts them.
    • A Fun Environment – stuffy workplace or drab office is a turn off.
    • Updated technology, apps, programs – outdated technology is a step back in time and a turn off.
    • Unique and Challenging Opportunities – many traveled extensively and exotically as a child, constant upgrades of gaming units, so get bored easily.
    • Reward the Whole Team – Many do not want to be called out amongst their peers.  Used to traveling in packs.  A safety in numbers mentality as a carry over from 9/11 reactions.

The Millennials I have observed are not the spoiled, arrogant brats the media or old school managers have made them out to be.  They are confident because of the positive messages they heard about themselves growing up (why is that horrible?). They are involved in many extra-curricular activities with non-profits and causes (explains why they don’t live to work), and they need some guidance, a little spoon feeding which very much frustrates their thirty something bosses that were left to figure it all out for themselves.

Pew Research/ Wikipedia

Remember what we have learned about neuroscience and hard wiring.  We are expecting them to come into the workforce thinking like a Gen X, but they were not raised the same way.  I had several Gen X managers a bit frustrated by this notion.

One of my favorite sayings in the workplace has been “Pay me now or pay me later but either way you are going to pay.”  Meaning, if I don’t invest in my people up front, if I don’t go out of my way to teach them, guide and mentor them, tell them what I think is obvious, then I will be spending a lot more time after the fact, and then I will be really frustrated.  So let me take the time now.  Invest in them now.  Hand hold them now.  Then how pleasantly surprised I will be when they take it on themselves, take a few risks, try new things.  Innovate, create, own it.

Ahhh, yes, then I can lean back and watch what engagement, loyalty and empowerment look like.  No, I know it is not that easy.  But it does not have to be that hard.  We make it more complex because we don’t want to do it.  I saw it in the faces.  I hear it with my coaching clients.      “If everyone just did their jobs….”, “If they just did what I said…”

How about “If they only heard it the way I meant it.” Or “If they were only engaged and passionate about their work.”  Or, “What could I be doing better/differently as a leader?”

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