October 24, 2017

Help! Millennials are Taking Over the Workforce

That’s it. The world is ending. These millennials are going to ruin what is great about our businesses. You know, they’re lazy. They don’t communicate well. They’re completely self-absorbed. They’re… they’re… going to do amazing things if we allow them to!

I’ve been helping national leaders recruit talent for more than 15 years, and I’ve never seen a time when the generational gap has been more obvious. Today, most leaders and managers within an organization are baby boomers or Gen Xers. The boomers are all about value and mission. They are brilliant communicators and message crafters, and are driven nuts by millennials who appear to not subscribe to their value system. Generation X is similar; they look for contributors and seek feedback. They look for autonomy and expect others to do the same. Millennials? Well, not so much.

So, where does this leave us? After all, according to the Governance Studies at Brookings How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America report, millennials will account for 75 percent of our workforce by 2025. Personally, I say, “Outstanding!”

You may be asking yourself why I’m so happy about this. The answer is simple: I believe that millennials have tremendous value to organizations and are not the plague most professionals make them out to be. Let me explain:

They strive for creative challenges, individual development and purposeful careers.

Millennials don’t mail it in. They want to be challenged, and they want the opportunity to make a difference. This drive is sometimes misunderstood as questioning authority (which they do at times), but their true purpose is to make things better or more efficient, or to find a new way to solve a problem. Who doesn’t want more of this in their organization?

It’s official: We can stop asking candidates if they are capable of multitasking.

This is the generation that grew up watching television while having a conversation with their parents and texting/messaging a friend through social media at the same time. Millennials are capable of multitasking—in fact, for them, it’s the norm. What baby boomers and Gen Xers see as their inability to put down their phone is a result of their ability to do more than one thing at a time.

“This is the way it’s always been done” is never a good answer.

As a Gen Xer, I grew up hearing, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Really? This is unacceptable to millennials. What if they can create a new, more efficient process or make the situation better? This is where some of our generational angst starts. While more experienced generations are OK with performing a task the way it’s always been done, this is a painful request for the younger generations. They’ve grown up in a world where everything is rapidly becoming more efficient. Here’s an example: In college, we went to the library and looked up materials to write our papers. Millennials Googled it or went straight to the topic-specific website. Growing up, if I wanted to watch a movie, I needed to walk to the corner video store, see if the VHS tape was available, rent the movie, walk back, watch the movie, rewind the tape (unless I wanted a rewind charge) and return the movie within a certain amount of time (or else receive a late charge). Millennials use pay-per-view. Again, they grew up seeing the world become more efficient. Why aren’t we allowing them to help our businesses become more efficient?

But they refuse to work long hours!

This is a massive misunderstanding between the generations. Whereas baby boomers and Gen Xers see value in the people who spend 50 to 60 hours in their offices every week—making sure they are seen by their colleagues—the opposite is true for millennials. Millennials have seen their parents and grandparents miss their soccer games and their school plays. They don’t want to live that life, but they are willing to work hard. They just work differently. Millennials are always connected, always answering emails and always responding to texts. Just because they aren’t sitting in their office doesn’t mean they aren’t reviewing work on their iPhone while sitting at their son’s or daughter’s soccer game. They believe they can do both—work hard and have a better quality of life. Maybe they can help the rest of us figure that out too.

So, have I convinced you that there are some redeeming qualities to these new employees/leaders coming into our organizations? Good. Now let me give you some advice on recruiting them into your organization.

Tips for recruiting millennials:

  1. Think first. This generation does everything via their mobile phone. Make sure your job opportunities are easy to review and apply for on a mobile device.
  2. Think social, but beyond just Facebook and Twitter. It’s time to think about how to use platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and others to represent your organization’s unique employment value proposition.
  3. Promote innovation. Millennials don’t want to feel like they are wasting their time doing something the way it’s always been done. Showcase the innovation that’s taking place in your organization and how they can be involved in doing great new things.
  4. Promote work-life balance. If working from home, a flexible schedule or other unique benefits are available, make sure you promote them. Not all work needs to be done between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Brilliance can happen at any time, so why limit them?
  5. Build your reputation in areas they care about. What is the purpose of your company? Is it something that provides your employees with purpose? If so, promote it. Let them jump in and feel great about what they are doing, day in and day out.
  6. Stop telling them what is great about you. Start telling them about how they can grow and do great things by working with you. It’s not about you; it’s about them and how this is a great opportunity for them. Make it clear that, together, you are a winning team.

So it’s time to stop panicking about how millennials are taking over our companies and time to start understanding what we should be promoting to attract the right members to our teams.