Stop Blaming Millennials and Start Motivating Them

 As we enter the new year many will focus on things that they plan to change or obtain. I tend to think that the best way to approach a new year is to start by first focusing on what you hope to leave behind. Like most years, 2016 had many fads, trends, and clichés I’d be happy to part ways with. If there’s one thing 2017 can definitely do without, it is “Millennials” –not the people, the term.

Every time I hear it it’s like nails on a chalkboard—a reference many “Millennials” may not even get. They have likely grown up with white boards or smartboards, which is the point: they have grown up in a different time and we are in a different time. The question is, can you adapt?

Millennials have now surpassed boomers as the largest living generation and in the very near future will represent the vast majority of the workforce as well. This generation is also the most educated and tech savvy, so considering we are living in an ever more tech-driven world the chances of you not only working with a millennial, but for are growing every day. For some it may be too tempting to lament about these entitled brats that sit around all day drinking lattes out of their participation trophies, but for those that want to win the future your time may be better served learning why you’re so wrong about them.

Here at THINK 3D, whenever we consult or give speeches on millennials we always want to establish that they are not “pod people” nor are they aliens from mars or some other far off planet. They are from right here on the planet earth, and guess what? Many were raised by boomers. This means that their opinions, feelings, and frustrations about the workspace are informed by boomers. Many parents told their children to live better than they did, to see the world, and to change when necessary. Many parents told their children to make sure they have options, to make time for family, and that money isn’t everything.

Perhaps the reason why young professionals of today want to leave at 5 o’clock on the dot is because they had a parent that came home too tired to play catch or help with homework. Or, maybe they want that corner office in three years because as a child they bared the brunt of a parent’s frustration over a promotion they worked hard for and never got, but never asked for out of fear of seeming ungrateful or presumptuous. We have beaten this generation up enough and we have had our fun. It is now time to teach them, motivate them, and expect from them. Here are ten ways you can start today.

  1. Stop Referring to them only as Millennials.
    One surefire way to remain ignorant of any group of people is to only refer to them monolithically. The lack of willingness to view people as individually-motivated is a large part of the reason why so few leaders are truly effective at motivating their people.
  2. Use Benchmarks.
    One of the knocks against Millennials is that they want everything right now, but who doesn’t? As it relates to the work that they do however, it is as much about progress as it is about promotion. There are many ways to give a person more authority, liberties, and responsibilities without giving them a full-on promotion.
  3. Balance Tech and Social Time.
    We have all been in meetings that could have easily been resolved via email and for the sake of efficiency they probably should, but never view social interaction as inefficiency or a waste of time. In a healthy culture, inter-office relationships fix far more problems than they create. When you truly know someone, it makes it far more difficult to be difficult.
  4. Have a Belief System.
    When people have something to believe in, whether it is in the product, service, or environment they will give more and take less as most view money as a requirement, and fulfillment as a pursuit.
  5. Reward Ambassadors.
    If you asked leaders what they would do if an employee disparaged their company through social media, I’m sure you would find the response to be a reprimand of some kind, up to termination. Now, if you asked the same leaders what they would do if they heard an employee praised them on social media, you would probably hear crickets. Acknowledge, encourage, and reward the ambassadors of both your business and culture.
  6. Absurd Amounts of Honesty.
    If there is anything people of today—in particular young people—are thirsty for, it is transparency. Avoid cliché corporate speak and opt for tactful and empathetic honesty, which is the foundation of any true relationship.
  7. Manage Leader Workloads to Include Facetime.
    Have an open-door policy and mean it. The only way that will happen is to prioritize it and manage workloads around it.
  8. Develop a Farm System.
    Having a method to vet internal talent is vital to a long-lasting business. However, combating the entitled idea of, “Trust me, I’m talented, so give me the job” can be difficult. So, train your leaders to identify talent, and work to promote an environment that will provide space to explore employee talents if they will provide the proof.
  9. Get Them Involved.
    The best way to honor talent and potential is to use it. Going to your workforce for advice and guidance on items such as policy, procedure, and incentive will give them ownership and responsibility, and will give you the ever-elusive buy-in.
  10. Make More Sense than They Do!
    The best idea should win in any thinking environment. So, when an idea is presented, expect for it to be challenged. Be careful not to take offense, as they are not a sign of disrespect but rather a sign of engagement—something you should never discourage. Any idea worth having is worth defending, so if it makes sense share the logic and you will gain more buy-in. It is also important to explain the caveat that at times leadership will be privy to more information that cannot be shared or that time may not allow for a discussion. Steps 1-9 should earn you that latitude.

Effectively dealing with any aspect of business happens successfully when you give it targeted attention, focus and take intentional action. Our working environments are continually becoming more complex due to technology advances, the mediums in which business is conducted and the ever-changing workforce dynamic. As business environments continue to shift and evolve, what are you doing to shift and evolve your perspective on this critical component of our future success we’ve labeled “Millennials”?

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