Business leaders need to face a reality that if they don’t embrace the distinctions of the younger generation, they will lose the most valuable talent in the workforce.
Today, over 50% of the workforce in the U.S. is made up of Millennials. Millennials are the people in the workforce that were born between 1980 and 1996. Within 10 years, they will make up over 75% of the workforce, representing a massive portion of our population. With baby boomers heading toward retirement, and Gen-Xers not having the numbers to step up to all the leadership roles out there, many millennials will need to advance into leadership roles faster than prior generations.
So what do we need to know?
Based on a white paper produced by Dale Carnegie and MSW Research on employee engagement, there are some noteworthy findings that set millennials apart from the non-millennials (white paper download). One of these findings relates to the percentage of the U.S. workforce that is “disengaged.” “Disengaged” employees are those that are either doing as little as they can not to get fired, actively looking for another job, or worse, actively sabotaging the business. The research shows there are statistically fewer “disengaged” millennials in the workforce than non-millennials (only 14% vs. 25%).
This tells us that the stereotype of the lazy or apathetic millennial is statistically unfounded. Companies that experience this type of millennial worker need to look at their own corporate culture, and decide whether it’s the type of culture that can attract and retain the best millennial talent. We’re dealing with the most technologically savvy generation ever. Are we leveraging these strengths or resisting them? Are we expressing appreciation for innovative ideas, or are we trying to shove our young workers into the same box that we were in when we started out?
Forbes Magazine posted research conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2015 answering the question, “Which working benefits do millennials value most?” (Forbes article) The three at the top of the list were:
- Training & Development
- Flexible Work Hours
- Cash Bonuses
Does your company invest in professional development of its team members? What does a new hire’s on-boarding process look like? Are young employees given a clear career path and the training needed for them to achieve their goals within the organization? If a millennial employee feels like he/she is not growing in a role, or that the company is not invested in them, they pursue other opportunities. It’s that simple. They will not invest in the organization more than the organization invests in them, nor should they be expected to.
Some of our clients inquire, “how do I know if they are doing their work if they don’t keep regular hours, or work from home?” Clearly, there are some supporting roles for which keeping specific hours in the office is important. We only challenge leaders to look at the org chart and really think about which roles must be time-specific, and which ones can be results-specific. The more we can focus on results, and have those documents, the less need there is to punch in and punch out every day. Not to mention, which smartphones and tablets, everyone is always on call anyway. You will attract and retain the best millennials if you can give latitude in work hours and location.
Why shouldn’t they have to pay dues like I did?
When we hear managers talk like this, it’s difficult not to feel sorry for them. This mentality is part of an outdated mindset that has no place in today’s competitive business environment. The most effective leaders practice the timeless Dale Carnegie Principle:
“Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.”
This principle is about building trusting relationships with others, and it doesn’t work without the last three words in that phrase. As organizations, we face a tremendous amount of competition in the market, and are constantly trying to out-maneuver our rivals. Why create an environment like this internally? Leaders will get the most out of their millennial employees if they “make them feel important,” by giving them problems to solve, challenging them to step outside their comfort zones, and listening to their ideas without pre-judgments or assumptions.
Companies with the best millennials will win!
Millennials are the future leaders of our organizations, and the most talented ones won’t be chained down to jobs they don’t enjoy. Our willingness to create a culture that attracts and retains these people will determine how competitive we will be 10 years from now. Those that fail to do this proactively will find themselves with “B” and “C” players, and their customers will flee to their competitors with the “A” players.