Four Lessons Every Business Leader Needs To Connect With Millennial Employees

Jeff Fromm, Contributor, Forbes

June 6, 2016

Four Lessons Every Business Leader Needs To Connect With Millennial Employees
Is it any coincidence that the most loved consumer brands are also on millennial employees’ list of favorite places to work? And note that many of the companies that are the most-loved consumer brands have sustained economic returns to shareholders that far exceed their peers, too!
What is the secret?

Company leadership that understands how to bypass generational differences in the workplace and create a shared culture that crosses boundaries. As millennials are quickly becoming a powerful force in our market, they are influencing more than just our retail trends. According to Pew Research, millennials surpassed generation X in 2015 to become the largest share in the American workforce. And with that comes a major shift in the way businesses are approaching employee/employer relationships and the value of office culture. 

Brands like Google, YouTube, Amazon, Chipotle, Whole Foods and many others realize that highly satisfied employees are more efficient, driven and more committed to not just their companies, but also to their teams. Let’s take a look at three key lessons business leaders must learn in order to connect with their millennial employees:

1. Millennials don’t work for you, they work with you 

Millennials are a generation that believes in the participation economy. They came of age at a time when the Internet and social media made it possible to truly partner with their favorite brands and now they are expecting that same partnership in the workplace. Unlike previous generations, millennials are not willing to get a job simply for the reason of “having a job.” As a highly aspirational generation, these young adults feel very strongly about the places they work and don’t want to be just another cog in the machine. Millennials want work environments that align with their collaborative nature and propensity to voice their opinions. According to Intelligence Group, 88 percent of millennials prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.

Pro tip: Start this movement by shifting your internal language

2. Embrace intraprenuerialism and disruptive innovation

Intrapreneurship is a relatively new concept that encourages disruptive innovation and creative thinking from internal employees. If your business is the first to identify a market game-changer then you have the opportunity to lead the industry rather than wait for someone else to do so. Why was Dollar Shave Club such a success? Founders Michael Dublin and Mark Levine saw an opportunity in a market that was ripe for disruptive innovation. The biggest mistake made by Schick and Gillette and other industry giants was that they didn’t think of it first by embracing a culture of intrapreneurialism. One in five millennials today say that they want to quit their current jobs and projects, according to Buzz Marketing Group. Rather than seeing millennial entrepreneurs jump ship, the smart thing to do is to encourage that independent, entrepreneurial spirit internally. At 3M, often considered one of the most innovative companies in the world, employees are encouraged to spend 15 percent of their time working on ideas that they think might benefit the company. Talk about a culture of intrapreneurship.

Pro tip: Begin offering monthly or quarterly creative brainstorming sessions for employees to share their ideas and try to solve industry tension points

3. Millennials work smarter, not longer 

According to Daniel Franklin, executive editor of The Economist, who was interviewed for Yahoo Finance, millennials aren’t putting in long days just for the sake of saying, “I stayed late last night.”
“There is a thought that the new machismo is not going to be to stay at work every hour that is available,” said Franklin. “Spending less time at the job will allow people to strike a better balance between their work and home life.” Some people, however, will see this trend as a way for “lazy” millennials to hit happy hour a bit early, but less time in the office does not equal less productivity. It actually has the opposite effect, said Franklin. “People will focus on what can be done effectively in the time available at work. If you shrink the hours that people are at work then they will get their work to fit into the time available,” he said. 

According to Pew Research Center, 64 percent of millennials would like to occasionally work from home and 66 percent of millennials would like to shift their work hours.

Pro tip: Base performance on work output not time output. Have an open conversation with the leadership team about what the typical workday looks like and what room there is for flexibility

4. Inspire continuous learning

There is a serious myth that millennials are selfish, narcissistic and think they are better off doing everything on their own. In reality, these young adults crave coaching. Especially in the workplace. This does not mean millennials want you to hold their hand. Instead, they recognize your expertise and want to learn from what you have to say. When it comes to ways these millennials are seeking out that interaction, an overwhelming majority prefers formal discussions and one-on-one conversations compared to email, social media and texting. These trends mimic boomer and Xer characteristics, as they are also more prone to face-to-face interactions than digital conversations. Bridge, a corporate learning management system created by the team at Instructure, has tapped into this insight and created a system that not only encourages internal continuous learning and training, but also builds relationships in the office through mentoring, coaching and guidance. Millennial employees involved in the program have noticed significant differences in their workplace culture and efficiency.

Pro tip: Ditch the 100-year-old HR training program and adopt a new LMS that aligns with both the digital connectivity of millennials and their desire to be continuously learning and improving their skills

Next time you are in a leadership meeting and your colleague begins complaining about those millennials in the office, remember that aligning with new workplace trends will drastically increase your morale in a multigenerational workplace. Explore new ways to embrace your millennial employees, ask them to help foster your culture and ideas, and create a space where they can help your company excel. Because if not, you might find that your greatest brand ambassadors are leaving for another company.

Leah Swartz, Content Specialist at FutureCast®, contributed to this post 

This article was written by Jeff Fromm from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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