The Millennials are Just Like the Rest of Us

Are you sick of hearing the tired rhetoric about how Millennials are so different — difficult to manage, entitled, impatient, and idealistic? Well, I am and encourage us all to think about this generation, that is now the biggest share of the workforce, a bit differently.

There is a great body of research on this topic and while each generation is unique, most evidence suggests that employees of all generations are much more alike than different in their attitudes toward work. I remember when my generation, Generation X (now known as the workaholics) were seen as slackers (sound familiar?). The extent to which differences exist are most likely a function of age, stage in life, and new technologies — the differences that have always existed between different generations — and not a result of the Millennial generation, per se.

The Millennials may have grown up in a digital world, amid uncertainly and helicopter parenting, but they want the same things that every employee wants: autonomy over their schedules and work, meaningful work relationships, fulfilling projects with the opportunity to make an impact, regular performance feedback, and the opportunity to grow and learn. As a Generation Xer, I still want all of these things. And survey after survey across U.S. organizations reveal that most of these factors are drivers of engagement for all workers.

So, don’t waste time pursuing Millennial-specific engagement strategies; instead focus on these factors that compel all employees to join, stay and put forth their best efforts:

  1. Provide a work environment where your employees can use their talents and skills. Ensure they have the resources and training, and then give them the autonomy to deliver.
  2. Cultivate an environment of trust and respect. Solicit opinions and implement employees’ ideas. Make them feel valued, recognized and rewarded (both financially and psychologically). Strive for the greatest level of transparency possible.
  3. Help your employees find purpose in their work. Know what is meaningful to your employees and help them see how their works fits into your company’s success.
  4. Be flexible. Technology is a gift and we all benefit from the flexibility it affords us. Treat adults like adults and let employees have a say in when and where they work.
  5. Provide regular feedback. The annual performance review should never be a surprise. Have regular one on ones with your employees to discuss goals and provide feedback, assist in removing roadblocks, and talk about growth and development (and then give them these opportunities).

Millennials aren’t the enigma everyone makes them out to be; they want what every generation before them wanted. By focusing on your company culture and the aforementioned factors, you will ensure that all of your employees, including your Millennials, are actively engaged in their work.

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