Because I own a technology company, I get the privilege to work nearly exclusively with Millennials. I am at the cusp of the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X, so I am old in my employees’ eyes. My generation frequently complains about the Millennials – how they don’t want to work hard but still want kudos for everything they do. For my part, the experience of working with the Millennial generation has been truly rewarding for me, both personally and professionally.
It’s important to understand that the Millennials are the first generation that is truly native with technology. These young adults have had computers in their homes since they were toddlers, and they have had 24x7 access to the internet through their teen and adult years. They also have been indelibly impacted by the two most significant events of their lifetime: 9/11 and the Great Recession. We can’t assume that they see the world the way that we do, and we should be thankful that they don’t, because their skills are absolutely necessary in today’s workforce.
Here is what I have learned about the Millennial generation:
- Millennials will work hard if they feel that their work has meaning and purpose. The Millennial generation has grown up with much uncertainty. They were adolescents during 9/11, and they came of age in the Great Recession. They don’t take anything for granted, and they look for meaning in their lives. In this respect they are much closer to the Baby Boomer generation (the generation of the instability of the post-Vietnam war era and Watergate). If you give Millennials a job with meaning, they will work tirelessly to get it done.
- Millennials will work anywhere, anytime they are needed. Unlike my generation, Millennials don’t distinguish between their personal and work lives. Because their technology is always on, they are accustomed to moving seamlessly between their work and business activities. If a client needs something at midnight on a Sunday night, they will gladly oblige. Conversely, they will expect you to reciprocate by giving them the freedom to do personal activities during normal business hours. If you properly take advantage of this Millennial characteristic, you will have some very happy clients.
- Millennials detest busy work. They have grown up in an era where computers perform much of their menial tasks, and they believe that if something can be automated, it should be automated. If you try to give them a task that could clearly be automated, they will want to automate it so that they will not need to do it manually the next time. This is a positive for the organization, because Millennials will make the investment to make the job easier in the future. This is in contrast to older generations that will plow through mundane tasks over and over without asking whether the job could be done easier and better.
- Give Millennials freedom, and they will give you 110%. Millennials are accustomed to anywhere anytime access to all of the information on the Internet. They know more about music, culture, politics, and the world than we ever dreamed of at their age. The key to tapping into this vast knowledge is to give them the freedom to access their knowledge base in the way that is best for them. It’s a mistake to limit them to working certain hours of the day, accessing social media during non-working hours, or using the internet only when necessary. Business owners that complain about the work ethic of Millennials are usually trying to force the Millennials to work the way that they do.
Now that the Great Recession is over, the Baby Boomers are retiring in droves. Generation X is a very small generation, so the Millennials will be promoted into management roles soon. I feel very good about our prospects, because this generation is well-equipped to move us forward. We just need to let them be themselves.
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