The Millennial Workforce
Most organizations right now are trying to figure out how to attract and keep millennials. According to research from PWC, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. What makes this difficult for organizations is they face the same decision point I faced after my race last fall. They can blame the workforce itself for changing or they can ‘revamp their training’ to face new challenges. Regardless of how much the workplace is changing it’s silly to blame the workforce shift itself. Therefore, the only sustainable solution is to revamp and move forward. Of course that’s difficult to do because it’s new territory and there are many unknowns. So it depends on how you view the shift.
If you are a ‘course blamer’ then you may be seeing millennials as lazy, self absorbed, narcissistic, self serving and flighty. They want high pay with the least amount of work, they want to be the boss and they want it now. On the other hand, we can look at this as new terrain and a new course that requires a variance from what we’ve done in the past. If we take this view it’s likely that we may feel some of the above, but we also look at millennials as focused, optimistic, determined, aspirational, tech savvy and energetic. They don’t want to do things the way they’ve always been done because they are creative and constantly being introduced to new ways of doing new things. They seek to learn and grow as individuals and want to climb the corporate ladder. Yes, sometimes very quickly..
The numbers of millennials entering the workforce is only going to go up, so below are some simple ideas to reframe how you approach leading millennials today.
4 Ways to Revamp Your Thinking About Millennials
Stop stereotyping millennials into a box. No one likes to be generalized. We can debate how accurate the descriptions may or may not be, but either way you’re better off leaving it alone. This generalization takes away the individual attributes that make all employees unique. You must recognize that employees are individuals and it’s pretty likely that they (like you) want to be more than they are, better than they are, and smarter than they are. They may not know the path to get there yet but if this is true, then as a leader you should operate in a way that cultivates these desires.
You’ll have to come to terms with the fact that “what got you here won’t get you there”. Instead of hoping that you find a way to get a millennial to conform to you it’s wise to take some time to consider what you may be doing that could be sending them elsewhere. The days of order taking and punching time clocks are over. And besides, organizations don’t need those people anymore. They are salivating for people who are strategic partners, innovative thinkers and passionate producers. But it all starts with you and the approach you choose to lead them. No more driving in the truck watching your team run hills. Tie your shoes and get moving.
Get Hands On
Most research on millennials shows they are seeking more mentor and coach and less sergeant and general. They seek someone who will teach them, support their growth and most importantly give them opportunities to learn new skills and spread their wings and fly. I believe this is because with this generation more than ever we are faced with a complete divide between the industrial age (stand on an assembly line and do your job) and the informational age (here is the information, now figure it out). Millennials parents understood the “just do what I tell you to do” mentality because they had front row seats to their parents (millennial grandparents) living it every day in factories all over the country. When they entered the workforce they were just happy to work in an air conditioned office, were able to go to college, and help their kids go to college. This helped them survive leadership absenteeism because they were collecting a paycheck and working their way to retirement. With ‘retirement’ as a big question mark the only way for millennials to look at the future is to evaluate how much they’re making, how much they’re learning and how they can turn it into more of both.
This puts leaders in an awkward position, now they have to add value as determined by those they lead [gulp!]. There is a process to this development and a core component of this is ‘facilitating accomplishment‘ which requires a genuine leadership presence.
Build The Vision
Perhaps more than with other groups in the past, the millennial employee wants to see that their work is meaningful. They want to be part of a cause, a direction, or a vision that matters. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that the antecedents to employee engagement are made up of 1) A shared personal vision 2) A positive team mood and 3) Perceived organizational support. Beyond what the organizational goals are, a leader needs to know what individual goals are and be great at aligning daily work and development toward them. They need to be good at leveraging resources to support personal and professional objectives. The best leaders will be excellent at tying these together in a way that drives peak performance inside and outside of the office. This means less managing by data, and more leadership through influence and accomplishment.
What Will You Do?
Are you tired, aching, or maybe a little overwhelmed? Are you where you thought you’d be and performing as you’d hoped? Do you hope for a return to yesterday’s normal? Or will you cinch up your sneaks, seek out the hills and build yourself for performance in the new normal? You can do it… I believe in you.
Perhaps you’re wondering why you should listen to me about leading millennials. One reason is the majority of those I have led (100+) have fallen into this category and I’ve had great success using the principles above. I have also worked with many organizations as an Enterprise Talent Consultant to support this challenge and others today’s leaders face. But perhaps the most significant reason you should listen to me about leading millennials?…
I am one.
Greer Method Complete Coaching provides one on one coaching for executives and business owners. Through expert coaches, habit locking technology, and proven processes we help leaders create, manage, and sustain personal and professional performance. Jared J. Greer is the founder of Greer Method Complete Coaching. He is an executive coach, 6-time Ironman finisher, marathoner, ultra-marathoner, husband, and father of four.