So many business owners call or email me regarding how to work with and manage the growing numbers of millennial in their employ. To many owners and managers, it seems impossible to balance what this new generation wants and needs with the needs of the business being productive and successful.  

Since Millennial’s will comprise one third of all U.S. adults by 2020, and 75 percent of the global workforce, maybe we should look into this. My intention here is to help us understand them better, and see if we can focus their energies, leverage their strengths, and find a win - win for everyone.

Time Magazine said in May of 2013 that Milliennial’s are shallow, self-obsessed (narcissistic), easily distracted, lazy, entitled, impatient, want instant gratification, and often still living with parents.

If that’s the truth, business owners and managers are seriously in trouble!

I say they have been misidentified. Another much more empowering and useful interpretation is that Millennials are seeking a mission and purpose through their work that’s bigger than merely making money. For many owners of an older generation, that’s a radical departure in the way they think and manage their business operations. In addition, Millennials are philanthropic, wanting to make an impact and difference in their world and communities, are open minded and passionate about equality, are liberal, upbeat, and more tech savvy then previous generations….especially when it comes to social media networking.  

Of the two above stories, only one is going to stand a chance of making you money.

I say let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think there is a way to take these characteristics and turn them into strengths that benefit the business. We just have to look at them from a different point of view; and they have a few things to learn as well.

One of my favorite speakers and authors, Simon Sinek, says that Millennials are very goal-oriented; they see the summit, but not the mountain itself. I say that’s a coachable thing. They have the ambition for money and advancement and are usually coachable, but also need to learn patience. They value transparency and equality, two qualities that benefit the company culture to drive productivity.

So how do we make this work to be a win-win? Here are some ideas.  

Pay Them Wisely

Regarding compensation; pay them enough money to keep the concern about money in the background. That’s not their biggest motivator, nor is it what you want them thinking about all the time.

Harness & Embrace their Passion

They do have a strong sense of purpose; they want to feel like their making a difference in the world. So communicate the vision of the company often and frequent. That supports them in thinking about their results and accomplishments. That’s as important, and in some cases more important than pay and cash incentives.

Help Them Grow – They Want To!

Another value that’s important: ongoing growth and development. Be a mentor, be a coach. Give them feedback, straight talk, and make it challenging, realistic, and inspiring. Empower them to learn through performance on the job without telling them what to do.

Emphasize Accountability

That leads us to another strong need they have, which is to be responsible and accountable. They need the opportunity to take ownership. That’s includes being accountable for clear goals, and their own results, and solving problems that arise.

They need challenges as much as they love working collaboratively in teams. So your coaching needs to include performance challenges, along with the straight talk, peer review feedback on how they are doing.

Show Them the Future & Let Them Achieve It

Lastly…they need to see that they have a future career path in the company beyond their current assignment. You can set that up so they are responsible for that as well.  Ask them where they want to be in a year or two. Keep it short, three years out max. Work with them and coach them to set up a training pathway to get there. Make it challenging for them, with clear objectives in time. Then let them report to you in their responsibility to fulfill on this.

So what we now have is we have taken some, not all, but the main characteristics of the Millennial generation and transformed them into current business values that actually drive productivity and business success.                                                                    

Coming up in this special series:

In April: Embracing the Talents of Millennials

In May: Inspiring Accountability in Millennials (& Your Whole Team!)