Employers should prepare now for the “Millennials” – the youngest generation of folks ages 18-30, nearly 80 million, who are entering the workforce in large numbers, comprising 21% of current employees – because they are going to require a totally different style of recruiting, supervision and development.
Oh, don’t misunderstand, these people have plenty of skills, and broadly varied interests, but not unexpectedly they are wired quite differently than the communities of folks in their thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. In fact, every generation has differences, but it becomes more and more difficult for older workers to “put themselves in the shoes” of those from younger and younger generations. And I speak from experience – my three daughters are millennials – and I’m a “boomer”!
It’s important to understand what each generation expects out of work, and that should drive your people strategy. If you don’t recognize and deal with the issue, you may be faced with difficulty in recruiting and retention, not to mention dealing with conflicts, misunderstandings, communication clashes and reductions in productivity, customer satisfaction, sales, profits, and – well, I think you get the idea.
So lets talk about what you can do. First, realize that millennials have a strong connection to their parents, where many of whom have dual careers and often been directly affected by downsizings. They have more technology, more time savings devices, more structured activities, and more comforts than any other generational group.
Many have been so-called “latchkey kids” who came home after school to an empty house. This gives them a far different perspective about work and certainly a skepticism about the wisdom of management. Instead of “poo-pooing” the idea that a young man wants to build custom motorcycles, you might want to remove the blinders and take a look at the market potential for those vehicles. One thing is for certain, they are looking for work that is not only interesting, but meaningful – and hopefully fun.
As an employer of millenniums you must also understand that their parents involvement is still intact, and even though it’s not quite the same as soccer, swimming or spelling bees, and some companies have chosen to collect information that allows them to include parents in recruitment and career activities.
Millennials also come ‘hard-wired’, where almost 100% have gone to colleges with wireless, or at least wired, computer networks. They are multitaskers, and will work at the office, from home, on an airplane, or in a hotel room. This means that if your business isn’t as technologically advanced as they are, you’ll have more difficulty in finding and keeping the best workers. And these are the next wave of employees who you will need in order to bring innovation, creativity, and productivity to your business which means that you will be a much stronger competitor in your marketplace.
I’ll bet you’re asking “What about this ‘generation gap’? How do I overcome it?” Well, I think it’s fairly easy. I believe that most of these young folks listen carefully to what information or skills they can glean from “more experienced” workers – especially if they are effective communicators. And finally, they have a built-in process of staying in touch with those close to them – personal networking – through technology, whether it is via cellphone, email, or text-messaging. Oh, and by the way, (or in mobile-speak, BTW) they loath cubicles because they prefer to readily share information. It’s how they learn.
Brian Howe is a professionally-trained executive and business coach, writer and speaker, who owns ThinkTank Coaching. He is also a Certified Mediator, and holds the highest human resource certification, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). He has worked with over 300 business owners and professionals, coaching and consulting with them on leadership development and other aspects related to people in business. He can be reached at (770) 922-6007 or via his website www.coachbrian.com