Photograph by PeopleImages.com/Getty Images
By Joshua Hebert
January 27, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you help millennials feel like they’re part of the company?” is written by Joshua Hebert, CEO at Magellan Jets.

I’m a Gen-Xer who has raised millennials alongside my peers, and I understand how they’re different and where some of the departures come from. I was taught early on that hard work meant long hours to create opportunities. Millennials, though, take the task at hand and find the smartest route to get the job done most efficiently instead, saving what they value most: time.

I’ve heard so much about how millennials should be managed. It’s an important topic, as the majority of our employees fall into that demographic. But making them feel a part of the company isn’t about “managing through” their perceived weaknesses. It’s about understanding their strengths and creating an environment they can thrive in.

So here are a few tips on creating an environment that engages millennials and makes them feel they are part of the solution:

Get support from the bottom up

All leaders know that to move initiatives forward, buy-in from the management team is critical. Like it or not, support from the ground floor is just as important.

Whereas we Gen-Xers believed you paid your dues by following your boss’ commands, millennials are given more leeway when it comes to taking orders. Give them a boring task without a reason, and they’ll give you boring results. Give them a share in the idea you’re putting into play, however, and they are more likely to turn in work you never imagined.

That’s one reason we invite staff at all levels to join in sessions that help shape our next steps. They have the opportunity to be involved in new initiatives from the beginning, which encourages a team environment that has everyone pitching in.

One major internal change came when employees in our operations departments decided it was important to meet weekly to discuss new ideas and issues. With an executive serving as moderator, these employees (millennials) have regularly practiced problem solving in a new way that enables each member of the team to contribute without having to go through upper management first. Without even knowing it, they implemented the IDS model of identifying, discussing, and solving issues with a spin that comes from their perspectives.

Ask for real solutions and you just might get them

As digital natives, millennials are incredible at finding answers and figuring out how to apply new knowledge. What took prior generations days to learn (for example, digging into the Encyclopedia Britannica) takes them minutes. Instead of micromanaging them, present them with the big picture challenge and they may surprise you.

One of my “a-ha” moments regarding this came when our team was working on a significant project that revolved around pivot tables. We got stuck building the tables and I asked an employee to track down a consultant who could help us on short notice. Ten minutes later, he came to my office and had fixed the tables. When I asked how he knew how to fix them, he responded simply: “I looked it up.”

I was amazed. He not only solved the problem, he saved us the time and expense of bringing a new vendor into the equation. That experience taught me to give employees like him the space and resources to solve problems instead of a path to a built-in solution.

One of the great qualities of millennials is that they thrive on learning, and if you set aside a budget in each department for training and educational purposes, that budget will be used well. In turn, they’ll make your company even better. Remember, whatever they went to college for probably isn’t what you hired them to do, but their experience and passion related to learning new things will dramatically develop value in your company.

You need to be transparent (that much is clear)

Like a lot of companies, we find that getting communications processes in order is one of the toughest tasks. We can’t do without it, though. It is a tremendous piece of the puzzle in making the environment the right fit for millennials.

It’s not enough to just send traditional internal newsletters or announcements. We make sure that all levels of the company attend a monthly meeting so our president can give in-person updates on the progress of our departments and what’s going on in our industry. I also send out weekly emails that include interesting items from around our locations to keep all employees in the loop regardless of their ability to attend every monthly meeting.

Magellan Jets isn’t a typical workplace – if there is such a thing anymore – and our environment reflects that. We’ve found that when they are heavily involved in tackling our challenges, they make us better every day.

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