Working With Millenials

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hurriyet Daily News (click here for Working with Millenials)

Last week we talked about Millenials, the young people who have started entering the workforce in recent years.  This week, let’s look at how we can maximize their performance and make full use of what they have to offer.

The first thing to remember is to accept Millenials as they are, rather than treating them like some kind of weird aberration.  They aren’t aliens from space.  They are your younger cousins or even your own children.  They are exactly what you want to see in a new generation:  Independent.  Free-spirited.  Self confident.  Tech-savvy.

Working with them is an opportunity for you to show leadership, because it requires you to shift your own perspective.   Leaders have a knack for being able to see the world from different viewpoints.  The Millenials definitely have a different worldview than previous generations, and if you learn how to see the world through their eyes, you will be able to tap into their generation’s creative and innovative spirit.

If yours is a generation used to working for the same organization for 10, 20 or 30 years, keep in mind that Millenials are wired differently.   If all you are offering is a desk, performance targets, and a dependable 4% raise every year, they will be neither loyal nor grateful.  They will move on with their lives on their own terms, not yours.

So what makes them tick?  Personal and professional development is paramount for them.  If you take the time to understand and coach them, they will be highly appreciative.  They need you to explain the inner workings of your company or business, and what you say needs to make sense, or they will challenge you.

Be articulate and clear about what you are asking of them and, especially, why you are asking it.  Don’t just tell them they need to sell more, explain to them why.  Millenials are looking for meaning in what they do, and they are very good listeners to boot.  If they understand the reasoning behind an instruction, they will impress you with their ability to follow it.  Telling them to do something “because I said so”, or because there is a reward waiting for them, is the surest way to make them run from you.

In old-style companies, loyalty meant longetivity.  Staying in one place for decades was considered a good thing.  But to a Millenial, that sounds like stagnation.  Instead, loyalty is about growth, and growth comes when the company’s goals match theirs.  In their eyes, the loyal employee is one who maximizes learning opportunities, builds value for the company, and yet maintains a work-life balance.

Millenial motivation is not the only thing that is different — communication style is, too.  Your trying to argue that their love of electronic communication is unacceptable and that they should prefer face-to-face contact will get you nowhere.  Instead, you need to learn how to use technology so you can speak their language, and then give them space to help redefine which mode of communication is best.

For example, one well-known company has put together an internal Facebook-like directory where employees can post any kind of personal information they want.  With this, people can be more than just their titles and job descriptions.  They can get to know each other better than they ever could if limited to small talk around the water cooler.  Starting a directory like this requires that you be open to seeing employees post information that has nothing to do with work, because that is how they connect and engage with each other.

In general, working with Millenials is not so much about managing them, but more about guiding and coaching them toward a common goal. You’ll find you can learn a lot from them, but you’ve got to retool the workplace in order to take advantage of what they have to offer.  Consider the approach of Deloitte in the US, which since 2002 has hired career coaches who not only guide Deloitte’s Millenials, they are actually helping them to transform the company.  Learn how to give the Millenials what they need and they will make it well worth your time.

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