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What Millennials Want – Part I


What Millennials Want – Part I

My nephew Sam recently completed the management training program for a national supermarket chain. He was struck by the inappropriateness of the training for the participants – the Millennial Generation. The training program was developed for and by our generation (and if you don’t count yourself as a Millennial, assume you are in “our” generation) – for our styles, wants and needs. After presenting his completion project, he was asked to present to senior management and some of his ideas are going into motion. I asked Sam to share his insight with you, small business owners. Here’s what he had to say:

What do millennials look for when job hunting?

Millennials are the most educated generation in history, yet for a lot of us, that education came with a hefty price tag. When organizations are looking for talented millennials, they must also realize that most millennials are mired in student loans. A lot of organizations that have had success in attracting high potential talent offer a form of loan repayment based on years of service. In addition to potential for advancement and salary, millennials are also looking for organizations that share the same values that they do. Health and wellness programs are important as well as fostering a multi-cultural workplace.

What motivates millennials?

I don’t know if I can speak my whole generation, but I’ve found that I, and a lot of my peers are really motivated by the potential to impact change. We are really empowered and energized when we feel that our work is meaningful. We want to be able to link how our own individual contributions benefit the organization and ultimately society as a whole. As a generation that was profoundly influenced by the literal explosion of innovation and invention of the last twenty years, we are also seeking to leave our mark on the world. We value continuous improvement and innovation. We want to be on the cutting edge of process change and be in a position to influence future change. We want to feel like we are making a difference in an organization.

Key Take-aways for small business owners:

  • Millennials want to work for an organization in line with their personal values (which means baby-boomer business owners and executives need to define the organization’s mission and values and share them).
  • Offer benefits of interest to confident, global, transient, value-driven workers. Think more about time off for charitable work, less about disability insurance.
  • Millennials want to understand the connection between their individual work and the organization’s mission. Employees have wanted this for years; the millennials are confident enough to ask for it. Invite innovation and be willing to let them own it and act on it.

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What Millennials Want – Part II

millennialsIn the first installment of What Millennials Want, I shared my nephew Sam’s insight about what Millennials look for in a job and what motivates this often-misunderstood generation. Today’s installment shares who you need to be.

Who is an ideal supervisor (with what ideal attributes) for a millennial?

            For me, an ideal supervisor is someone who is accessible and down to earth. Someone who doesn’t “drink the Kool-aid”, i.e. pragmatic about the business but still supports corporate strategy. Someone who can translate long term goals and objectives into smaller, quick wins. I think as a generation we lack the patience that the older ones do. We are so used to having everything at the touch of a button (entertainment, knowledge, directions), that we also seek that instant gratification in our working lives. The 10,000 foot view that might motivate older employees tends to be a little overwhelming and intangible to us. So a leader that can bring focus and specific goals and direction to millennial employees would be ideal. Quick wins that are also impactful to the organization are doubly enticing. With the right leader and the right work, millennials will work harder for them than their grandparent’s generation. Work life balance is less defined for millennials than other generations. In college we were used to working around the clock for something that is important to us, and we are willing to do the same for an organization that can provide us with meaningful work.

Millennials also thrive when they are put in a situation where they can multitask. I can’t do just one thing at once or I feel like I am wasting time (I can’t just watch TV for example, I need to be doing something else at the same time (cooking, painting, etc.). I also want to be multitasking at work – working on a bunch of different projects at the same, wearing many hats (have a functional role in multiple parts of the organization). I think that we are energized by these types of roles. As a generation of learners, we also want a role in an organization where we can be constantly learning new things and growing (multi-tasking). A lot of my peers have switched job titles multiple times a year, either in the same organization, or by bouncing around between employers. The long grind from entry level position to management is not something that interests us. Our paths tend to be more winding, with side steps, or even downgrades into different functional areas of an organization. We are driven by what is new, exciting, and above all meaningful rather than $$$. 

I want to be connected to work 24/7. We are all constantly connected to each other through Facebook or text message, and work needs to be the same way. I need to have access to my work email 24/7 and be able to text my boss when I need them. Text here is the operative word. As a generation I feel like we despise voice mail and email is too unreliable for communication (sometimes no answer for days…). So text really is the preferred method of communication. For more formal conversations, phone calls work, provided the individual is accessible, nothing turns us off more than not being able to get through to someone on the phone.  

If you’re a small business owner wondering how to work better with the Millennial Generation, here are the key take-aways:

  • Millennial Generation employees want to work for and become true leaders, not just managers. This can give you an advantage over large corporations looking to hire in this competitive market, as you are the organizational leader.
  • Millennials want to “own” something, they want to learn, they thrive on multi-tasking. Give your Millennials some room to run and use their muscles. Their styles may be different than our own, but it’s their style and it works for them.
  • Baby boomers believed that corporate titles and salary equated to meaningful work; if we’re a VP and make 6 figures, our work must be important. Millennials saw that definition not always working for their parents and they pushed the definition farther – they want work that impacts the organization and ultimately to society and the world.
  • Millennials prefer texting to email, online information over print, immediate feedback and information over delayed. Instead of getting frustrated, adapt to their style and you will see a dramatic improvement in communication.
  • Millennials want to use tablets, phones and laptops, not desktops! This doesn’t mean that Millennials are lazy (as I’ve heard our generation say); in contrast, they want to be connected to work 24/7, but not necessarily be at the office.

If you truly want to grow your team, to develop leaders who can grow your business and eventually run it for you, have a meaningful conversation with your millennial employees or even a family member. Open your mind to these take-aways and implement some changes.

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.