millennial

Stop Worrying About Millennials — Start Leveraging Them to Change Your Company

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll probably hear it again: Millennials are lazy and entitled workers. Their habits and modes of thought, the story goes, are corrupting the principles of older generations and degrading the way business gets done.

In Millennials’ minds, though, it’s another story entirely. Their bosses are just stodgy traditionalists who can’t use a smartphone. They’re just trying to improve the old way of doing things, and their superiors won’t stop trying to put a leash on them.

Whatever your opinion of Millennials, the fact remains that they comprise the largest segment of the American workforce. Rather than worry about them, it’s time to leverage and listen to them to breed the kind of innovative thinking that will propel your company forward.

Here are a few ways Millennials can make a positive impact on your organization:

1. Millennials Are Capable of Great Loyalty

While Millennials do think and act differently than Boomers and Gen Xers, their bad rap is — in general — wildly misplaced.

Millennials have a reputation for prolonging adolescence, being the “boomerang generation,” bouncing from job to job, and expecting their “dream job” to fall from the sky. Yet statistics don’t back up this characterization.

While Millennials do think and act differently than Boomers and Gen Xers, their bad rap is — in general — wildly misplaced.

In fact, a recent White House report shows Millennials stay with their jobs even longer than Generation X did at the same age. This points to a simple fact: If you give Millennials what they want, they’ll give back. Intelligence Group studies of Millennials have discovered that they value a flexible schedule, work-life balance, corporate social responsibility, bosses who serve as mentors and collaborative work environments.

Considering these desires — soon-to-be expectations — represent more than just the Millennial generation, placing a little more emphasis on a Millennial-enticing work culture might be in your best interest.

2. Millennials Are Technological Assets

Young people’s reliance on digital and social media has drawn judgment from pop culture as well as from the corporate world. And the fact that technology is actually forcing evolution in society and our brains isn’t music to everyone’s ears.

It’s no surprise that older generations feel threatened by Millennials’ technological prowess. Even the oldest Millennials — now in their early 30s — were raised on computers, Game Boys, and CDs. The youngest have touch technology and social media practically running through their veins. For older employers, this can be threatening: At what point will Millennials simply replace them?

The answer here isn’t to struggle fruitlessly against Millennials in the workplace — or to decry technology altogether. Technology is here to stay, and companies that leverage Millennials to run social media campaigns, code websites, and to enable excellent digital communication with clients, customers, and prospects will come out on top.

Companies that leverage Millennials to run social media campaigns, code websites, and to enable excellent digital communication with clients, customers, and prospects will come out on top.

3. Millennials Can Work From Anywhere

Millennials aren’t satisfied spending eight hours a day dwelling in a sea of gray cubicles.

In 1980, only 2.3 percent of Americans telecommuted full time. By 2012, that number had nearly doubled to 4.4 percent. Today, the number of people working from home at least some of the time is 24 percent. These trends are reflected in the U.K. as well, where 2.1 million people worked from home at least part time in 2001 and 2.8 million did in 2011.

Yet many old-school business owners and team leaders have trouble with this idea. In many Boomers’ minds, work is supposed to take place in the workplace. The idea that it could happen anywhere else seems lazy, self-serving and unproductive.

However, workers who contribute from home some or all of the time will actually save you money — no physical workspace means no rent or utilities to pay. Nontraditional work hours will also allow you to serve your customers and innovate around the clock. Finally, when you shake off the chains of a physical constraint, your hiring pool can include anyone from Cleveland to Shanghai.

4. Millennials Know How to Self-Advocate

While Boomers might cringe at the thought of sharing their feelings with their bosses, for Millennials, it’s only natural. After all, they were raised on social media and self-esteem. And statistically, speaking up and communicating leads to a whole host of benefits in the workplace.

Speaking up and communicating leads to a whole host of benefits in the workplace.

According to McKinsey & Company, better communication and collaboration via social technologies can boost productivity by as much as 25 percent. What’s more, one Deskmag survey found that people who work in teams feel more confident, creative, and productive — and even healthier. Consider engaging your Millennial workers by putting them on advisory councils, task force groups, etc., to get their take on initiatives and weave a culture of collaboration into the fabric of your company.

The benefits of a collaborative workplace will eventually trickle down to your customers, too. An Aberdeen Group survey found that companies with an enterprise social collaboration policy (which uses social media and other integrated tech) increased their customer response time by 96 percent over the course of just one year.

Sure, Millennials’ willingness to speak up might ruffle some feathers, but the benefits of this trait far outweigh the possible burdens. In this sense, Millennials can help encourage the collaborative environment employers have known was necessary and possible for decades now.

It’s time to end the conversation of concern surrounding Millennials. This generation is loyal, useful, technologically engaged, and in touch with modern workplace trends. Millennials will surpass older generations in many respects, but they still want to learn from their superiors — who they wish to see as coaches and mentors.

The Millennial generation can provide insight and streamlining in the modern workforce. Companies that are smart enough to take advantage of the Millennial asset will see marked improvement and innovation over competition that’s too slow or unwilling to do so.

 

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Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell Communications Group, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City. Mitchell is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network and has more than 300 offices in 110 countries. Clark is one of the top strategic communications professionals in the country, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications and an exceptional track record in protecting corporate reputations and redefining perceptions in key areas of business.

  • A great post Sarah and so refreshing. As I am a 55 years young baby boomer with two millennial sons, every one of your research-validated points make sense. I think the issue quite often for baby boomer managers is they unintentionally think of millennials like ‘adult children’ and this framing negatively impacts their decisions, communication and behaviour in relation to the millennials. The result is the millennials pick up on the negative framing and a spiral of distrust and disengagement is created…which is paradoxically the very thing that management is trying to avoid. Thanks again for your thought leadership Sarah. Warm regards, David.

  • Couldn’t agree more Sarah! As a millennial in my early 30’s I was advocating for all of your ideas from within a large corp 2 years ago. This was at time when the research was still being compiled and people were not as receptive to the fact that we’re the largest population in the workforce. It’s refreshing to see non-millennials take on this attitude. It will be even more refreshing when we see meaningful inclusion and change within legacy organizations… Great post!

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