Collaborating with Millennials

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Ah, millennials! You can hardly attend a business conference without everyone talking about this age group and their incredible impact on businesses.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born anywhere from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. There aren’t precise dates for this group, but they are generally the offspring of Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964, and Gen Xers, born 1965 to 1981; they have become the U.S. Census Bureau’s largest living generation. So it stands to reason that more than one-third of American workers today are millennials, making them the majority of our workforce.

Never before has a generation created such angst and outright confusion.

If you are one of the many employers who still believe millennials haven’t arrived, you and your company will be left in the economic dust if you don’t adapt. The good news is that it’s not too late to begin adopting what experts have called the millennial mindset.

To understand this mindset, it’s a good idea to know a few things about this group. They are the most educated and technologically advanced demographic ever, with their own set of ideals on workplace culture.

Most generations burst on the scene with their typically overly optimistic views that some would label too idealistic to work in the real world. But this group isn’t playing around. They want to engage in a truly different manner, shifting the way we work, turning their ideals into meaningful results. They are open minded and they have a strong desire to make a positive impact on the company they work for.

Collaboration is key. Millennials value the opportunity to share their ideas and creativity openly. On a list of criteria for their optimal employer, collaboration was high in importance. The order was workplace flexibility, compensation, career progression and collaboration. Further, millennials are apt to see coworkers on a spectrum, instead of too liberal or too conservative, or black or white, Muslim or Catholic. Personal preferences and prejudices just aren’t that important to them.

What’s important are trust, community and collaboration.

In addition, they view diversity a bit differently than older generations. They still believe embracing diversity is morally imperative, but they also believe it benefits the bottom line because it incorporates unique perspectives, opinions and thoughts.

Millennials believe they should be able to express their perspectives and thoughts freely within their workplace. In doing so, they feel they are more engaged, empowered and more likely to stick around. After all, they grew up with immediate access to data, constant connectivity and little censoring.

It’s up to companies to understand this need for a work environment in which technology and social business should be free to develop. Millennials often make the best social sales force because they are incredibly familiar with social media and can land lucrative deals with other like-minded techies.

All generations are defined by their era and sharing similar experiences during their formative years. They tend to develop similar core values and attitudes,as well. The millennial generational core values and beliefs are beneficial to employers, almost acting as roadway signs. If employers learn to identify and understand millennials’ strengths, it should pave the way for successful recruitment. Even going beyond the hiring process, it should help to retain and promote these individuals. If all goes well, this should maximize the productivity of all their employees.

For example, just because a company has “always done it this way” matters little to a millennial. Working set hours each day, say, from eight to five, doesn’t necessarily mean the work will not get done. Why not work from home, the car, the soccer field? Using their massive knowledge of technology could rewrite this very rule.

Millennials are serious about collaboration within their communities too, both at work and in their off time. They want to work for a business that is built around them, not one that forces them into an old way of working, stifling their innovative talents and tearing them away from activities they love. Millennials also don’t appreciate being labeled lazy or entitled. You may hear them ascribe those same traits to Baby Boomers they know!

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials in general “express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits…millennials feel underutilized and believe they’re not being developed as leaders…They often put their personal values ahead of organizational goals, and several have shunned assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.”

It is clear, if given the choice, that one in four millennials would quit his or her job for a new opportunity more suited to their desires and lifestyle. It is also clear that if employers want to retain and build a solid workforce, they need to implement more collaboration within their businesses or watch as others do so. ■

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