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Millennials, Millennials, Millennials! (Or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Next Generation)

 

For a Gen-X professional like myself, all the recent talk about millennials in the workforce can make you feel a little bit like Jan from the Brady Bunch when it seemed like all she ever heard about was, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”. These days, it’s almost impossible to pick up an HR trade publication or even a top-tier business publication and NOT read something about, “Millennials this,” or, “Millennials that.” With all this talk about millennials, if you are not part of the generation that was born between 1980-2000, it’s hard not to feel like the neglected middle child. Except it’s not our metaphorical over-achieving older sibling who’s getting all the attention, it’s our hipper, hungrier, younger relation that’s nipping at our heels, hogging the spotlight and challenging our assumptions.

But the truth of the matter is, with millennials making up more than 50 percent of the workforce and growing (they surpassed that milestone in 2015, according to Pew), there is no longer any denying the current and ongoing impact they are having on the way businesses operate today. And that’s a good thing. Millennials are precipitating change in many important and significant ways, I would argue for the better.

As baby boomers continue to retire, companies are facing the challenge of attracting and retaining millennials to replenish their ranks. With this backdrop, understanding the kind of corporate culture millennials desire and the forces that motivate them is key. But when you dig a little deeper, you will find that many of the same forces that motivate millennials also have a broader positive impact on the entire workforce, no matter their generation or demographic.

Millennials: They aren’t as different as you think

Despite differences, millennials share more in common with other generationsThere has been a lot of talk about how millennials are different from other generations, but the latest studies show that may not really be the case. The differences between the older and younger generations have more to do with age and life stages than with the different generational experiences they had growing up.

Millennials share many of the same long-term career goals as older workers. These include making a positive impact on their organization, helping to solve social and environmental problems, and working with diverse people. They also want to work with the best, be passionate, develop expertise and leadership capabilities, and achieve both financial security and work–life balance. In fact, only a few percentage points separate the number of millennials, gen-Xers, and baby boomers who claim these as their top goals.

That doesn’t mean that companies don’t need to adjust and evolve to attract and retain millennials; it just means that the changes they make will resonate with, and increase employee engagement among, all their employees, not just the youngest. And while there are technology solutions that can help out in this area, technology alone won’t compensate for a corporate culture that doesn’t focus on showing workers true appreciation.


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How to stop worrying and embrace the millennial transformation

If you’re a business looking to boost millennial appeal and improve overall employee engagement, consider making the following changes:

Emphasize a broader purpose. Create excitement around the company’s mission and purpose by connecting to broader social causes and cultural movements.

Encourage collaboration. Break down silos and encourage collaboration between diverse teams across your organization. Use team-building activities to help employees get to know each other and build interdepartmental connections.

Provide frequent feedback. Recognize contributions. Encourage employees to develop their skills and expertise by providing with training opportunities along with frequent feedback. Create a culture that recognizes and rewards achievements.

Provide opportunity. Look for employees who are ready to take leadership positions and give them the chance to show what they can do. Hire and promote from within rather than bringing in outside experts.

Reward and recognize. According to the “Happy Millennials” Employee Happiness Survey, 64% of millennials want to be recognized for personal accomplishments, but 39% of them report that their companies don’t offer any rewards or recognition. Show employees you appreciate and value their hard work by recognizing and rewarding their efforts and achievements.

Getting the most out of millennials and other generations in the workforce requires creating a culture that encourages, supports and rewards success. When companies do this it has a positive ripple effect across the entire organization, regardless of generation. So don’t fear or resent the millennial onslaught. Embrace them and the positive changes they are bringing to a workplace near you.

Josh Danson, AchieversJosh is Director of Content Marketing at Achievers. An accomplished marketing and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience in the fields of marketing and PR, Josh graduated from Kenyon College and lives in San Francisco with his wife and 9 year-old daughter. In addition to work and family, he is passionate about music, politics and fly fishing (not necessarily in that order). Twitter: @dansonshoes