Managing the rapidly growing millennial workforce (born between 1980 and 1996) can be a challenge or an opportunity. Either way, they currently represent between 35 and 40 percent of the workforce and are rapidly growing toward 50 percent and beyond. They are a significant force of over 73 million people and they are having incredible impact on all segments of life. They are better educated than past generations and are far more technologically literate. They bring significant skills to the workplace and have strong views about how they want their work life to be.
The workplace has been changing significantly over the past few years. If you as a leader have made changes in how you lead and manage to stay in tune with the evolving workforce and keep them engaged, you will find managing the millennial workforce an opportunity and pleasure versus a daunting challenge that seems impossible to overcome. Workforce engagement has been a hot topic for the last few years. If you have embraced the workforce engagement idea you have probably made changes in a variety of things you do to optimize the performance and retention of your workforce. If you have made these changes you are ahead of the game in terms of how to lead and manage the millennial workforce. One difference with the millennial workforce, they are demanding workplace changes and they have the large numbers to force change.
Millennials have many more commonalities with the current workforce than differences. However, those differences will be much wider if an organization has not already taken the steps necessary to support and engage their workforce.
?The five items below are very important to the millennials:
Purpose. They are interested in knowing why your organization exists, and to make money for shareholders will be an inadequate answer. What?s the big picture, what value is the organization bringing to the world, what difference are they making. They want to be able to take pride in what their organization stands for. In addition, they will want to know how what they do fits in to the big picture. It is important for leaders and managers to keep the purpose and mission visible. Providing information including stories about the purpose, how it evolved and why it is a cornerstone of the organization is important. This group of workers is interested in much more than just the paycheck and benefits, they want to be engaged in something bigger.
Learn and Grow. They are upwardly mobile and want to continue to build their expertise. They are looking for opportunities to learn and grow. These opportunities don?t always need to be promotions, but they do need to be adding value to their capabilities, making them more marketable. They want a work environment that offers challenges and developmental
opportunities. They want to know that their managers support their continual development. They are interested in tuition reimbursement for additional education. They are interested in certifications that add more credibility for them. There are many things that organizations can do to support this desire for learning and growth without spending large amounts of money. They are interested in autonomy. They are also interested in self-development if their organization will support what they want to do.
A Great Boss. Millennials want to work for a great manager. They want a manager who can support them, position them for promotional opportunities, empower them, stretch them and care about them as people. This generation is looking for coaches not bosses. They want managers that communicate with them frequently, they want to understand the why behind assignments. They want to know where they stand on a current basis. The annual or even semiannual or quarterly review will not be enough. They want frequent performance related feed back and it must be delivered in a coaching style. They want their manager to assure that they have the tools necessary to do good work. In addition to wanting their manager to care about them as people they want to get to know their manager as a person as well.
Clear Expectations and Accountability.?Millennials want to clearly understand what is expected of them without vagaries or confusing information. They want to know what success looks like, what they are accountable for delivering and when. They also want to know how what they are accountable for contributes to the big picture of the organizational goals, mission and purpose. They want to know how their performance is measured and understand it thoroughly.
Work-Life Balance. As life and work have become closely integrated with many overlaps, millennials want to work for a company that invests in them as employees. Millennials are not willing to sacrifice life for work. They are looking for organizations and managers that will enable them to integrate the two and honor them as people with a wide variety of needs. They value programs that recognize that they are looking for wellbeing in all parts of their lives. Employers need to understand this workforce well enough to be able to offer programs that address the wellbeing needs of this diverse population.
In addition to the five items above there are many other items that are important to millennials. However, there are many items that need to be in place to engage the entire workforce. The millennials are having a very strong influence on everything that is happening in the workplace today. They will continue to have a strong influence on many workplace behaviors and initiatives for many years. They will drive diversity, parental leave programs, broadening benefits including financial planning help, child care, flexible work hours and locations, focus on continual professional development, sabbaticals and on and on.
The millennial workforce is large enough educated enough and tec savvy enough to drive major changes that have not yet surfaced. The employers that want to optimize their opportunities with this talented workforce must be agile, proactive and have a focus on what is possible versus what has existed up until now.
Take steps now to become an organization that is leading the charge in attracting, engaging and retaining this talented large and influential work group.