Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | March 24, 2010

Do you speak Millennial?

By Diane Spiegel

Millennials, those born between 1981-1999, currently comprise only 15% of the nation’s workforce, yet their unique work styles and expectations are challenging corporate America to rethink the way they develop and retain younger workers. Whether an organization is in retail, hospitality or technology, understanding and motivating Millennials has become a strategic human resources issue for two key reasons:

1.  This group of dynamic, goal-oriented workers are the future of every organization, and

2. Most employers have not yet figured out how to maximize the talents of the first all-digital generation.

Focus group research and feedback in corporate classrooms shows that this generation is often underutilized – and disaffected – because it is misunderstood. In my work with companies across different industries, I consistently hear expereinced managers describing Millennials as entitled, tattooed slackers who are needy, narcissistic and without boundaries. However, that perspective misses all of the outstanding attributes of this well-educated and naturally collaborative group of workers. With the right training and right approach, there is every reason to believe that Millennials can become highly effective corporate leaders.

To leverage the talents of Millennials, it isn’t necessary to communicate in cryptic acronyms via text messaging. Rather, employers should implement training programs that motivate Millennials in ways that are consistent with their socialization and education – which is fundamentally different than the acculturation of previous generations of workers.

Translating The Message
By recognizing Millennials’ strengths, organizations can train managers appropriately and find ways to allow younger workers to be the super-achievers they know they are. Here’s how:

Understand The Rubric Model
Most Millennials have grown up in schools that follow the Rubric teaching model, which is based on well-defined assignments, clear benchmarks and continual feedback and discussion. As a result, it pays to structure workflow and responsibilities in the same Rubric model – define the job duties concretely, describe what success looks like in advance, and set expectations to minimize misunderstandings. Providing a framework and context empowers them to succeed. Clarity is what Millennials know, and it is the language they understand. Millennials are pursuing this goal.

Embrace Collaboration
Millennials are wired for collaboration. This is how they’ve been educated. They have been part of teams since they were toddlers, and they understand how to provide peer feedback and to use the group as a resource. The average Millennial has 220 Facebook connections, which they call upon regularly. Imagine the kind of research and problem-solving that can be obtained when you encourage Millennials to use their social networks to develop a solution and collaborate.

Encourage Your Technology Savants
Millennials are more technology savvy than any other generation. They are the first to grow up with the Internet. Moreover, they have internalized the pace of technology. They think, act and work fast and efficiently. They are wizards when it comes to using technology to work smarter. Employers need to tap into this digital talent and ask for their input to streamline projects and processes. Equally as important, when Millennial get their jobs done quickly, they should be rewarded with more challenges to streamline and create efficiency. When you do, your organization benefits not only from better process and entrepreneurial thinking, but also from gaining Millennials’ buy-in. Your organization also demonstrates that it listens and treats these workers as business partners, not order takers.

Celebrate Global Consciousness
Millennials are global citizens. They are tremendously sensitive about being connected to others in the world 24/7. They’ve grown up being eyewitnesses to global events and are keenly aware of how interconnected the world is. Employers need to leverage this global consciousness by challenging Millennials to come up with ways to give back. This can include creating new corporate environmental initiatives or improving local communities. When employers appeal to the global sensibility of Millennials, they win their loyalty and appeal to their instinct to be part of the broader world.

Promote Strong Relationships
Millennials have been raised by their “Helicopter Parents,” who have often made them the center of their universe. They know about strong, caring relationships and respond favorably when they are mentored and coached. By continuing this model of good communication, trust, mutual respect, and close working relationships with supervisors, Millennials are energized. When those bonds of trust are created, Millennials bring their creativity, innovation and productivity to their work. Developing Millennials into the next generation of leaders is one of the most exciting initiatives any human resources executive can champion. The task requires imagination and the confidence to think outside an organization’s current frame of reference. For those who take up the challenge, few accomplishments can be as personally or professionally rewarding.

Diane Spiegel is CEO of The End Result, a leading corporate training and development firm, and creator of the Sage Leadership Tools, which help managers work more effectively with Millennials. www.theendresult.com

Copyright 2010 PIHRA

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