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They’re not asking for a gold star.

By Tien Tzuo
February 14, 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 Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora.

Millennials have gotten a bad rap across the board—from parents, bosses, and society in general. I’m not a millennial, but I work with them every day. And contrary to everything you’ve read on the Internet, I’ve found plenty of reasons to cheer them on—and a few ways to attract them to my company.

It’s essential to understand what millennials are looking for, and then build these principles into foundation of your company:

Offer them choices

Much of the millennial generation grew up with choice in every aspect of their lives—of food, clothes, entertainment, and education. Today they want it at work as well. They don’t like to be limited in any way—structurally by a desk, office, or planning meetings, or mentally with predefined ideas and solutions. So while they may walk in well past 9 a.m., it also means they’ll burn the midnight oil when required without a murmur.

This is because millennials don’t see work as separate from their lives, but as an integral part of their lives. Gen Xers for the most part were content with a 9 to 5 job, but that’s not true for this lot. They seem to have hit upon something fundamental, realizing that life’s too short to do work that you don’t enjoy.

Provide instant feedback

I love how transparent millennials are and their need for instant feedback. They grew up in the digital age, leading lives that are far more public than any generation before. This has huge implications for the way they work and the tools they use. They communicate with a sense of openness and have no patience to wait around for annual reviews.

Often decried as the “everybody gets a trophy” generation, millennials’ need for feedback and recognition can in fact have a positive impact on companies. It ensures that complacency doesn’t set in and has forced some companies to become more merit-based than their hierarchical corporate predecessors.

At Zuora, we’ve embraced this culture. We use a host of new technologies to keep the conversation going. It’s a very fluid work environment. We also encourage managers, who are often Gen Xers, to provide real-time feedback. It has been challenging, because most Gen Xers are highly independent and tend to have hands-off approaches toward their team. Regardless, we’ve tried to spur the interaction with some help from employee engagement and retention tools. Our Gen X managers have come to appreciate the ability to reward employees and collect feedback in real time.

 

Foster work-life balance

Make no mistake: Millennials work hard. But they also take time to enjoy life and take care of themselves. We organize fitness, volunteering, cooking, nutrition, and health-related activities for our employees to help facilitate this. Embracing work-life balance has not only boosted our productivity, it has also brought us closer together as a team.

As a Gen Xer, I’m now more conscious of my own work-life balance, and make it a point to carve out quality time for my family every evening. My inbox can wait until I tuck my daughter into bed.

My fellow Gen X CEOs would do well to nurture millennials’ growth, rather than remain confounded by generational differences. If you don’t know where to start, begin by hiring people who understand both generations and can act as a bridge. I call them the “millennial whisperers.” Then take it upon yourself to mentor your younger colleagues. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn from them.

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