Millennials, also known as Gen Y-ers (80 million, born between 1980 and 1995), were raised by overly doting parents who coddled their self-esteem like fragile Fabergé eggs. They played in little leagues where the score wasn’t kept and where everyone was a winner and everyone got a trophy for just showing up.
Having hired, worked with and trained many, I had concluded that millennials were simply lazy, undisciplined, unmotivated, over-entitled and disengaged, with the attention span of goldfish.
Then I joined the Board of Directors of an organization called Invisible Children, founded by and made up entirely of millennials. I was quickly humbled to the fact that it is not that they are unmotivated, inattentive or disengaged—they were just unmotivated, inattentive and disengaged in working for ME!
The three leaders behind Invisible Children and their mostly volunteer army of incredibly motivated, hard-working and passionately engaged millennials have pulled off achievements in the last half dozen years that even SUCCESS hasn’t in the last 116 years. They have organized marches on Washington, simultaneous overnight rallies of millions of people in over 100 cities worldwide and pulled off wild stunts to get themselves on the Oprah show (which they did three times! video1, video2). They even wrote a bill that they personally pushed through the Senate and Congress all the way to the Oval Office and stood there while the President of the United States signed it. You cannot tell me this is an unmotivated, lazy and unfocused generation anymore. Go here to help support this group.
Having seen the talent, passion and capabilities of the millennials up-close, I now believe they pose one of the greatest strategic opportunities for companies today… if they know how to properly respect and mine their talents.
Your Strategic Opportunity—Learning to Mine the Millennials
The millennials are the largest generation to hit the workforce since the baby boomers. They are taking over whether you like it or not, but learning how to mine their talents and appeal, connect and support the values of the millennials faster than your competition will give you a huge jump-start in the marketplace.
The Four Ps of Millennial Values
PEOPLE—They are not the ‘rugged individualists’ of yesteryear. The interesting paradox is they like to be part of a team and a members of a community, yet they still want to be valued as an individual. This is why they might have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but still want to have their page and profile customized. Or they buy the same iPhone (to belong to the Apple cult, ahem, community), but they want their case, welcome screen and ringer to be unique.
Leadership Action: Talk in terms of “the team,” not “employees,” “staff” or “the company.” Build an internal culture that has them feeling part of something special, valued and important. Invest not only in helping them do better at their job, but also in their lives. Treat them as valued people, not task-driven employees. Don’t try to homogenize them (think old-school IBM conformity). Allow them to express and contribute their individuality and uniqueness.
PURPOSE—They don’t need to read The Magic of Thinking Big—they already do. They want to tackle the impossible, something never before attempted. Big problems, big visions and great causes. That’s what gets them excited and they will sacrifice greatly and work like crazy to pull it off.
Leadership Action: The goals and objectives of the organization have to be bigger than just turning a profit. Speak in terms of revolutionizing a market, fighting an injustice, solving a big problem, making a significant positive difference. Make sure your company practices community contributions and environment-sustaining principles.
PROFIT—They want money, but it is not an objective unto itself. While my generation (Gen X) might see money as a measure of achievement, millennials see money only as a necessity to fund their pleasures and lifestyle fun. Money really is only a means to them, not the end. When it comes to motivation, praise, recognition and appreciation are more far more motivating than bonuses or excitement of ROI.
Leadership Action: Recognize their contributions and have them feel appreciated. Celebrate important life occasions—weddings and births, and make a big deal about their birthday (their parents did). If you really want to endear yourself, send a letter to their mom telling her how great they are doing.
Productivity—They are digitally native. They don’t know a world without the Internet, fast-action video games and seemingly endless media and entertainment options. They are consummate multi-taskers and they loathe more than anything waiting or wasting time. They are also not gripped by loyalty for loyalty’s sake. They will only stay with an organization for as long as it serves their ideals. They think nothing of having worked for four different companies in the past 18 months.
Leadership Action: If your organization is not tech-centric, they won’t even know how to operate. It will be up to you to keep them focused on the few key priorities by repeating and reinforcing them repeatedly—far more than you think is necessary. And the onus is on you to keep them engaged, happy and fulfilled. Do not assume they will stay because having the job is some sort of privilege. They will move on to greener pastures if you don’t keep the lawn fertilized.
What are the couple adaptations you will make in your organization to be more attractive to and supportive of the millennials? Identify in the comments below.