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Employing The Millennial Generation

Wednesday, January 19, 2011   By Mike Reddy


There’s been quite a bit of talk amongst business managers and owners about the way new employees behave, largely it must be said, negative - too much entitlement, not enough loyalty, no work ethic, only interested in themselves, and so on.

Well, there’s a saying going around – ‘build a bridge, get over it!’ In other words, things will run more smoothly, and your company will thrive if you just accept it as being a different era, and tailor your workplace and management style to meet the needs of the upcoming workforce.

Gen Xers (born 1965-1979) and Millennials (born after 1980) operate in this world with a completely different perspective.  What you need to understand first is how they view concepts of loyalty, time and success, and then motivate them using that knowledge.

A different work ethic

Millennial employees will be dedicated to completing their tasks well, but they won’t be looking around to see what needs to happen next. The younger they are, the more work will be something that happens in between their real life of weekends and nights out.

They ask ‘What is MY job’, and develop the most efficient and best way they can quickly complete it. End of Story.  Your job is to take the long view – but don’t expect them to do that.

Younger team members especially are interested in completing assigned tasks, rather than being at the job per se, in the weekly pay check, rather than the long term career. Give them a clear link between the tasks you need them to do right now, and their pay check. Don’t talk career prospects, fancy titles and promotions.

Be creative about ways to motivate and reward them in their kind of currency.  Since they are more motivated by completing assigned tasks, tie in their efforts at the task with rewards of the kind they value most – such as paid time off!

In an economic downturn many employers anxious to retain good staff, but struggling with falling cash flows, found that putting their team onto one unpaid day’s leave every two weeks was a popular move.  Since their employees highly valued time off, one less day’s pay to keep an income seemed a fair trade.

Investing hours to get ahead v Work-life balance

In youth we are immortal - at least in our own minds!  The future is way out there, stretching endlessly; today is what matters. When you think about it, there’s truth in that approach; death, divorce, war, global financial crises, big corporate collapses, who is to say what’s around the corner. Baby Boomers invest ‘time’ to achieve some future goal or payoff.  Gen Xers and Millennials view time as a kind of ephemeral cash in hand. Use it today, or lose it. It doesn’t buy the future for you, it pays for the NOW.

That translates into generations that demand work-life balance and paid time off. They want to get the job done, then put it behind them and enjoy life.

To get results, don’t lose them with talk about the five year plan, talk about short term certainties. Make your plan’s time frame short enough for them to picture. Fulfill your promises – their trust quickly evaporates – and reward successes along the road. Buy yourself the time you need by making small regular steps towards your longer term objectives, while at the same time building their trust.

You’ll probably also find they are less rigid about the 9 – 5 working hours.  This generation is connected 24/7 on iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, Internet etc.  A quick call over a specific project out of hours will probably get them! Change your strategies. Tap into the benefits of their technical skills, and quick, flexible approach to creating faster, better ways to get the job done. You might find it results in better tenures with your company as well.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.