What words come to mind when you hear the term Millennial? Is your list full of words like lazy, entitled, job-hopper, easily distracted and want a trophy for showing up? If so, you’re like many individuals, including Millennials, who believe the predominately negative stereotypes about this maligned and underestimated generation.
Yes, there are job-hopping Millennials who are lazy, entitled and believe they deserve a trophy for showing up. There are also lazy, entitled Boomers and Gen Xers who think all they have to do to get a paycheck and a raise is to show up.
Human tendency is to see ourselves as individuals while viewing others as part of a group. This goes awry when the stereotypes we hold are primarily negative and lead to pigeon-holing people.
As Millennials close in on being half of the workforce and are poised to comprise up to 75% of workers by 2025, it’s time to get serious about knowing who they are and what they really need.
Millennials are first and foremost individuals with vast differences, experiences and expectations. Instead of assuming you know them, take the time to talk to your millennial employees individually. Learn what motivates them, their career aspirations, what they need to perform at the highest level, the skills they need and want to learn, the best way to reward them, how they best receive constructive feedback and what they need to feel their work life balance is respected. Then act on the valuable information and road map they provide.
I can hear some of you thinking, “No one ever asked me those questions. I had to come in and prove myself. They should do the same.” Perhaps you’re right. At the same time, rock star leaders know that understanding and motivating the individuals they lead is critical to success.
My first semester as a professor, I remember thinking, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, let’s get going!” When course evaluations came out, I received comments like: “Doesn’t care about students.” Ouch!
I spent Christmas break pondering how I could be so misperceived. I concluded that in my haste to accomplish course objectives, I failed to build relationships or learn anything of significance about my students as individuals. So, I made one change the following semester. The first night of class, I asked my students about their career aspirations and the most helpful way I could give them feedback. My evaluations sky rocketed. Once they knew I understood and cared about them, they were much more willing to accept my leadership and high standards.
Unlike academia, few bosses in the garden industry get anonymous evaluations every four months. Unless you solicit feedback and refrain from getting defensive when it is offered, you are missing a key component of enhancing and refining your leadership skills.
Millennials need and desire mentoring and supervision. Effective leadership entails far more than telling someone what to do. It requires ensuring they understand the task, that their performance is up to par and that their job is challenging. The clearer the path to success is, the greater the likelihood of Millennials thriving, producing and staying with your organization.
Millennials desire to utilize their skills, engage in professional development and be compensated fairly. When you provide these things, Millennials are far less likely to jump ship to another company or a more promising job.
If you want to increase Millennial engagement and loyalty, see and treat your Millennials as individuals, invest in their growth and increase your leadership interaction. Who would want to underperform or leave such an incredible boss or company?