Management July 2, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,800 Reads share

How to Bring Out the Best in Your Millennial Employees

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When you hear the term “Millennial” what comes to mind? Lazy? Unmotivated? Renegade?

This generation tends to get a bad reputation in the workplace. The employees in their mid-20’s and early 30’s are often thought of as rebellious and hard to motivate. For older generations, working with Millennials is perplexing. How do you bring out their best talents and use these up-and-comers to your business’s advantage?

A Look at the Millennial Employee

Millennials are the future workforce. The unique styles of this generation are something to be embraced rather than shunned.

Millennials grew up around technology. Mobile connectivity, social networking, and flexibility are ingrained in their behaviors. Perhaps that’s why 71% of Millennials don’t always follow their employer’s social media policies, according to a Cisco news release. 73% of Millennials feel entitled to modify and customize their work environment – including their work computer. If necessary, 63% will go around IT to make the solutions they need work, according to Mobile Enterprise.

Considering only those statistics, you might think that your company will have to drop all policies and bend over backwards for your Millennial employees to thrive. That’s not the case.

A different study by Culture Amp found that 74% of Millennials said that confidence in managers was a key driver of engagement. And another study by Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business found that 84% of Millennials would rather make a difference in the world than receive professional recognition.

This generation respects authority. More importantly, the majority of Millennials want to improve the lives of the people they serve instead of receiving accolades in the workplace. With this in mind, here are a few ways you can bring out the best in your Millennial employees and use this unique mindset about work to your company’s benefit.

Define Your Purpose

Your Millennial employee wants her work to matter. She wants the job she does to make a difference in the world, even if it’s in a small way.

Define your purpose on day one. Let your employee know why her work matters and the impact she’s having on the world by showing up and giving her all. By giving a bigger reason to work than just earning a paycheck or having a shot at a promotion, your Millennial employee will perform better and enjoy her work more.

Leverage Connectivity

Millennials grew up in the age of social media. They know how to stay connected and use those connections wisely.

Give your Millennial employee the freedom to connect to others – even while at work. She will spread the word about the mission of your company and all the good you’re doing. You never know, it could land you a few new customers or some stellar publicity.

Shying away from this connectivity silences your brand and weakens your presence. Leveraging the social network your Millennial employees have built could open up new doors you didn’t realize existed.

Be a Helicopter Manager

Millennials grew up with helicopter parents. They were constantly under close supervision and had to report to an authority about their actions. While that might not sound appealing, it can work to your advantage.

Create clear goals for your Millennial employee and then stay close by to give her the support she’s used to. She doesn’t need your help executing (after all, Millennials are exceptionally resourceful). She just wants your guidance and feedback at important stages of her work.

Give Opportunities

Your Millennial employee doesn’t just want a pat on the back or an ‘attagirl’. She wants opportunity.

Providing the chance to learn new skills, work with other teams, and lead in organizations outside of the workplace (such as nonprofits or local Chambers of Commerce) gives your employee the chance to spread her wings and fly. Many companies fear this because they worry they will invest in an employee and then lose out while they grow. That’s not always the case.

Providing opportunities to improve competency will work as a boomerang to send your employee out in the world and then right back into your side with a new set of skills. It’s a win-win. Your employee will see it that way too, giving her incentive to stick with you for the long-run.

Encourage Flexibility

Many businesses fear flexibility in the workplace. What technological risks will that expose you to? How will you know your employee is truly working for your company and getting the job done right?

Although your employee wants a helicopter supervisor, she also wants the flexibility to work where and when she’s most comfortable. That’s not always possible, but to the extent you can, encouraging this flexibility will bring out the best in your team.

Don’t worry. Just as much as Millennials value freedom in the workplace, they also value face-to-face meetings. 10% more Millennials than Gen Xers said that attending frequent face-to-face meetings was important, according to MarketWatch. By balancing the two, you’ll get better results out of your employee and you’ll have a healthier, happier workplace.

Experiences > Things

When it comes time to reward your Millennial employee for a job well done, don’t offer a free company tote bag. Give her something she wants – an experience to remember.

Experiences value more than tangible items. Millennials would much rather win a trip to somewhere exciting than a plaque or trophy. Use this as a motivator to encourage your employee to work hard and earn the reward.

The Bottom Line

The biggest motivators for Millennials are personal growth, personal fulfillment, and support. Many companies mistake this generation’s desire for flexibility and creativity as laziness and apathy for authority. That’s not the case. By harnessing the ingrained passions and connected lifestyle your Millennials lead, you’ll get more out of this future generation and see the results in your bottom line.

Images: “Millennial Employees words on a worker or staff member on an organizational chart to illustrate finding and hiring young people/


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Jon Forknell

Jon Forknell

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