How to get the most out of your millennial employees

July 19, 2015, 6:00 PM UTC
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By Zeynep Ilgaz, Entrepreneur

Armed with a new set of perspectives, skills and motivations, the millennial generation is gearing up to take the modern business world by storm. In fact, people between the ages of 18 and 31 this year have recently surpassed Gen X to comprise the largest share of the U.S. workforce.

Contrary to popular belief, Gen Yers are some of the most productive people around, priding themselves on working smarter, not harder—far from the lazy, self-absorbed bunch older generations often peg them as.

As an employer, you need to harness the unique millennial skill set to survive and flourish in today’s business landscape. Here are some fundamental ways to keep this generation engaged and invested in your company’s future:

1. Change it up.

Millennials thrive in environments of creativity and change. They don’t like to stay static for long and constantly look for fresh ways to ramp up productivity and efficiency. This attitude can be an amazing asset to your company, so use it. Invite millennial team members into your business development brainstorm. Ask them for suggestions. Chances are they’ll come up with something new and exciting.

2. Give them independence.

Millennials don’t need much hand-holding. They’re happiest when given responsibility and independence at work. As the generation of startups and coding languages, Gen Yers love creating something from nothing. Don’t micromanage this group; give them space to take initiative.

3. Create a diverse workplace.

Generation Y is the most ethnically diverse generation in history and actively looks for workplaces with a similar blend of cultures and perspectives. Having a variety of experiences, viewpoints and backgrounds is a wonderful advantage for your company. Show millennials you’re on their wavelength by diversifying your workplace, and they’ll want to work for you.

4. Invite them into tech conversations.

Milliennials are naturally tech-savvy. In fact, 53% of millennials say they’d rather give up their sense of smell than their digital devices. So give them a chance to show what they can do. When I invited my Millennial employees to experiment with our tech, they suggested we create some apps to accompany our products. That choice has made a world of difference in the user experience.

5. Instill meaning in their work.

Millennials are obsessed with meaning. According to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey, most millennials choose jobs based on their “sense of purpose.” They want to make a difference and will soon leave if they find more meaning someplace else.

Give your millennial team members a reason to stick around by always connecting tasks to your company strategy and objectives. They’ll use that purpose as fuel for innovation.

6. Invest in their continued education and growth.

Millennials are a highly educated bunch, having more university degrees among them than any other generation. They work best in companies where co-workers and superiors look out for them as individuals, not just resources, and value their growth and continued learning.

Establishing a family-like atmosphere and taking care of one another has enabled us to grow at full speed. Become a mentor to your employees so they feel comfortable talking to you when problems arise.

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7. Provide regular, honest feedback.

Another way to get the best out of your millennial workforce, according to Millennials themselves, is to provide consistent feedback. In research by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, millennials crave regular feedback from their managers. Whether it’s praise or criticism, Millennials want to hear it. Feedback makes this group feel more connected and in control—and maximizes their output.

When preparing for the millennial rush, it’s important to keep in mind that making employees feel valued, empowered and engaged at work is a fundamental need, not a generational issue. These practices should underpin companies of all shapes and sizes.

Embedding values of teamwork, feedback, diversity, mentoring, purpose and innovation into the fabric of your company will keep it ahead of the curve. Your team will pull together during the tough times and prosper through the good times. So appreciate your millennials’ unique skill set, and they’ll repay you with relentless passion to see your goals through.

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