The Misunderstood Millennial

The Misunderstood Millennial

On any given day, most business owners find themselves directly or indirectly involved in conversation about Millennials.  There is an unfortunate misconception and stereotype about this generation. Overwhelmingly, the terms most often used to describe this generation: lazy, entitled, disloyal, distracted, narcissistic, Generation WHY, Generation I, Generation Degenerate - the list goes on and on.


As business owners, we are the 'keeper of company culture.' Meaning, it is one of our duties to help create and maintain a culturally sound and thriving workforce. Not always an easy task especially when you're dealing with multiple generations - 5 of them now to be exact: G.I. Generation, The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, aka Millennial. Generationally speaking, the US workforce has never clashed like this before. 


Being the keeper of company culture, it is imperative that we understand generational differences, what makes each tick, what motivates them, what matters to them, communication styles, and how to blend them all together. The Millennial was a challenging group to understand, but once you can study the psychology and make-up of this generatiuon, you realize they have so much to offer and teach us. And, whether we like it or not, they are dominating the workforce. At last count, there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the labor force. They just surpassed the Baby Boomers who are now at 79 million. 


Other than the obvious tech-saavy / breathing in of technology, what exactly does this generation bring to the conference table?  


  1. Millennials are Motivated by Meaning.


What?! Meaning, like emotion? There is no time for emotion in the workplace, says the work-centric Baby Boomer. News flash! and one we must embrace, Gen Y’ers derive a sense of meaning by helping others and making a positive impact on the world. They need to know the work they are doing and services they are performing are in some way changing the world. This is more important to them than professional recognition. Find a way to draw the connection: Their work + the product or service = what positive impact on the community, state, nation, or globe. They will love you for it. And, it just might breathe some fresh air into your Mission and Values statement.


  1. Millennials Challenge Hierarchy. 


This trait is a real put-off especially for the G.I. and Silent Generation where hierarchy and protocol is King. We’re not suggesting Millennials disregard hierarchy or protocol, but this generation believes in the power of collaborative and inclusive thought. They believe we can accomplish more, better, faster through transparency and access. When we say “access” it mean access to the Boss. Yes, Millennials want to have a relationship with the Boss. Collaboration and Inclusion: Not such a bad concept. “Group Think” anyone?


  1. Millennials Crave Constant Feedback.


Millennials don’t want to wait for mid-year or annual reviews to know how they are performing. They want feedback in bite-sized morsels on a more regular basis. Wait, does this mean we have to communicate transparently more than one time per year? Yes, it does, but make sure the feedback counts. Millennials are goal setters and whether you know it or not, they are success driven. 


  1. Millennials Have a Hankering for Learning.


Their favorite question is “Why?”  Millennials are highly inquisitive and are often motivated to work harder when they understand the importance of the task in the context of the ‘big picture’- company goals. They want to expand their skill sets and amass knowledge. Intellectual stimulation is a top factor for this generation so share the smarts. Be the teacher and mentor they so desire. Isn’t that our role as ‘elders’ anyway?


Understanding the Misunderstood Millennial is indeed a journey. The task of blending 5 generations is quite a tall order, but at the end of the day don’t we owe this to every member of each generation? Growing and maintaining a strong workplace culture is no walk in the park, but thanks to the Millennial and what they bring to the conference table we are all better for it. Here are a few things I believe they truly bring to the table: Aspiration, Confidence, Entrepreneurial mindset, Service Oriented, Determined, Lifestyle Centered, Inclusive, Diverse, Optimistic, Hopeful, Open to Change.  


All of this to say, it is critical to the continued success of our businesses that we understand and embrace the Millennial. At the end of the day we need them and will not survive without them. This generation represents our future and will carry us into the next evolution of business. So, let's understand them, embrace them, learn how to attract them, and grow them. This is how we build our legacy.