Opinions continue to fly about the nature of millennials.
People argue over what they care about, how they view the world, and whether they’re entitled layabouts or driven idealists.
In reality, of course, there are very few meaningful character generalizations to be made about them (or any other generation) — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some major commonalities that you need to keep in mind if you employ (or are looking to employ) a team of millennials.
In this piece, we’re going to consider how you can keep a team of savvy millennial workers happy, engaged, and committed to the success of your business. Let’s begin!
In years gone by, micromanagement (as infuriating as it can be) was common in the business world. Here are a few of reasons why this was considered acceptable:
- Strict hierarchies were thought to be optimally efficient.
- People stayed with companies for a long time and thus wouldn’t object.
- Workers with different sets of skills needed managerial guidance to cooperate.
Today, though, businesses have embraced much looser structures, and uncertainty in the employment market means an employee staying with the same company for more than a few years is a relative rarity.
But most meaningfully for millennials, younger generations have grown up with a freedom to experiment with digital technology that has left them with much broader (if sometimes shallower) sets of skills — and a preference for self-driven research and learning.
If you try to micromanage a team of millennials, you’ll largely find that it frustrates them and slows them down.
Trust that your reasons for hiring them were sensible and give them space to flourish. They’ll become more productive and positive, and things will be smoother when the time comes to hand off leadership to them.
Allow Flexible Working
People have known for a long time that the regular 9-to-5 routine is unnecessary (and often counterproductive) for businesses that don’t have public-facing offices, but that’s just the start of it.
Millennials came of age in a time of portable laptops and smartphones. They worked on sophisticated personal projects from their bedrooms. Requiring them to don suits and ties and venture into your designated workplace every day is unlikely to make them more effective workers — if anything, it could make them less effective.
Many companies fear that loosening the reins will result in workers exploiting their freedom and ducking their responsibilities, finding ways to feign productivity while doing as little as possible (even though this can happen just as easily in a physical office).
This fear pushes them to reject change and stick to old-fashioned conventions.
But think about it this way: if a member of your team only does the work expected of them when under your direct supervision, do you actually want them on your team at all?
Every member of the team should be trustworthy and professional, and anyone worth having will be just as committed to their work on a flexible schedule as they would on a regular one.
Cultivate Personal Development
There was a time when the average worker had fairly predictable expectations for their career: bring in a solid and consistent income to support an old-fashioned nuclear family, work their way up to a managerial level, take retirement, and draw a solid pension.
Today, plenty of employees have no intention of starting families, no plans to retire or to retire incredibly early.
Some feel wanderlust and wish to experience as many facets of life as possible, caring less about making more profit and more about exploring.
Some just want to keep learning and growing as individuals and professionals.
To keep your millennial team happy, you’ll need to get to know each and every team member, learning about what drives them, what makes them happy, and what they plan to achieve in the long term.
Do they feel they could benefit from some training in a particular area? You can provide it for them. Are they having personal issues that are interfering with their productivity? You can help them address those issues.
The rigid professional line between employer and employee doesn’t really exist now, and you must treat your team members as people first and workers second. This will make them feel wanted and encouraged, and eventually win their loyalty.
Support Side Projects
This ties into all of the previous points, essentially. Think of it as a powerful middle ground between maintaining a classic rigid employer/employee arrangement and cutting ties completely.
If one of your workers is feeling dissatisfied with their current role and desires to do something different, you don’t need to let them go — you can contribute time, resources, and support to a side project that will be meaningful to them.
Imagine that one of your employees dreams of running their own e-commerce business. It's a flexible side-project that doesn't have to take anything away from their full-time job. You can partner with them on their e-commerce journey, working with them to find an e-commerce business for sale and customize it to make you both money with minimal oversight.
Or if a member of your team wants to take up a new hobby, why not suggest that they take a few hours from their regular workload each week to work on a blog about that hobby?
You can’t indulge every ambition, naturally, because you have to draw the line somewhere. No side-project should detract from a team member’s primary responsibilities.
But by supporting your employees with modest entrepreneurial enterprises, you can prove that you’re not solely driven by your company business goals — and even make a little profit in the process if all goes well.
The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals.
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