Black millennials are early adopters, new data shows.
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By Lisa Hovey
February 7, 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 Lisa Hovey, head of people at Vacasa.

Complaining about millennials has become commonplace. I often hear, “They’re lazy, selfish, and entitled.” “They expect to be coddled.” “Their childhood bedrooms are lined with — God forbid — participation trophies.” “They never put down their phones.”

More than a quarter of Americans are millennials, meaning that they were born between 1982 and 2000. Clearly, they’re here to stay, and they’re only becoming more ubiquitous in the workplace. They’re a huge, diverse population, and instead of complaining about them, we should be leveraging their experiences and passions to make our businesses work better — to iterate, to improve, and to innovate at every level.

As head of people at Vacasa, I work with lots of millennials. While there are lots of opinions on the vast differences between millennials and other generations, my experience tells me that their core motivations aren’t that different from people in other age groups. The main difference is that older people have more experience understanding business frameworks, setting career goals, and navigating challenges. Millennials don’t have this depth of experience, but their enthusiastic, innovative approach to projects makes them an invaluable asset to any organization. So the question is: How can we empower younger employees to create better teams, products, and organizations?

Here is my advice on how to turn millennials into engaged employees who will drive your business forward.

Harness their energy and passion.

Millennials get a bad rap for being listless and self-absorbed, but as a generation, they’ve been encouraged to pursue their passions and develop their talents. Managers have to point them in the right direction. When we do this, we get great work and innovative results.

It’s no secret that passion is a key ingredient in motivation, for people of any age. It’s an organization’s responsibility to connect its employees to the big picture. Millennials want to feel connected to the reason they spend so many hours at work. It’s crucial to articulate your vision and connect your employees to the “why.”

I advocate a “choose your own adventure” approach to work and career. Set clear goals and define expectations for millennial employees, but allow them to take initiative, approach challenges from different angles, and figure out where they excel. Millennials are great at blazing unconventional paths to success.

Millennials have a reputation for hopscotching from company to company, for never being quite content in their jobs. However, I’ve found that people in this generation, just like everybody else, want to know how to fit in and succeed at work. If we offer them a clear path to advancement, they’ll stick around.

Take advantage of their unique perspective.

My first job was at a well-known international tech company, and everyone else on my team had been there for 30-plus years. Fresh out of college, I had a different perspective on problem-solving and product development. But when I suggested trying things a different way, I was often met with responses like, “We tried that 10 years ago, and it didn’t work.” The reality is that use cases and customers evolve, and bringing in younger voices can help your brand evolve with them. If you don’t include millennials on your team and embrace their diversity of thought, you’ll miss tremendous opportunities to solve problems and connect with new customers.

Millennials also make invaluable brand ambassadors. It’s second nature to them to share reviews and promote brands they identify with across social channels. Build strong relationships with your millennial employees, and they’ll help promote your company — not just to customers, but to potential new hires.

Speak their language.

One of my team’s responsibilities is creating training programs for our employees. Everyone learns differently, and it’s not just millennials whose attention spans have been shortened by constant digital distractions. Our content, tools, and techniques have to be accessible across mobile devices, computers, and in person. Our challenge is to create material engaging enough to compete with your Twitter feed.

In our recruiting process, Vacasa makes sure applicants are adaptable, comfortable with change, and excited to roll with new challenges. All these aspects of our culture tend to attract millennials. In my experience, however, people of all ages are increasingly likely to prioritize flexibility and work culture over salary and job title, so emphasizing these offerings will bring in great candidates across the board.
None of this is rocket science. A shift in how you perceive and communicate with millennials will help you attract savvy, motivated people who can make your company stronger and smarter.

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