By Mike Maughan of Qualtrics
Millennials are changing every aspect of our culture and economy, and nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. By 2025, millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce. I’m always surprised to hear people talk about how to manage millennials and the misguided attempts to apply old constructs to a new and different group of people.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Maughan)
You can’t manage millennials. But there are ways to channel their energy, enthusiasm and drive in a way that’s good for them and the company. At Qualtrics, we’ve done significant research to better understand what millennials want out of their work. For small businesses, in particular, it’s important to know what makes this group tick as the war for talent continues to escalate. Accordingly, here are seven tips based on our research.
1. Provide opportunities for professional growth.
When asked about the most important factor millennials consider when looking for a job, the top response was opportunities for professional growth. Research tells us millennials want to make a difference in the world and they’re doing it, but it’s wrong to believe they are shying away from traditional business.
The general assumption about millennials is that they’re solely focused on changing the world or personal development. While both may be true, it’s clear that millennials still want to do well professionally and financially. Providing opportunities for professional development and upward mobility is key to keeping top talent.
2. Cultivate a collaborative work environment.
Millennials have been raised in the social media era and have been trained to think differently about interaction with others and the world around them. Millennials are the first “always connected” generation and everything is a social experience to be shared – including work. It’s no surprise that more than half of millennials ranked a collaborative work environment as the most important thing in terms of company culture. Not every project can be a group effort, but giving millennials opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues keeps them engaged.
3. Assign challenging and rewarding projects.
Millennials hold opportunities for professional growth as most important when they are looking for a job, the same holds true once they land one. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work, costing the U.S. economy roughly half a trillion dollars every year.
Often we call millennials impatient or unwilling to wait their turn. That may true, but instead of looking at it as a negative, harness those traits into making your hires productive members of the team. Give them problems to solve and be there to remove obstacles. Instead of telling them how to do everything, tell them what you want them to accomplish and then get out of the way.
4. Promise regular and consistent feedback.
The days of stuffy annual reviews are over. Social media has trained millennials to expect engagement and near constant feedback in almost everything they do. This has stretched into millennials’ attitudes toward work, with more than 60 percent reporting they want feedback at least weekly.
This may seem like a lot, but consistent feedback doesn’t have to be a burden. Giving daily accolades when employees perform well, or constructive feedback when they miss a deadline or make a mistake, are simple ways to let employees know where they stand to help them improve.
When it comes to constructive criticism, 55 percent of millennials reported they would prefer to hear it face-to-face from a direct supervisor. Only 1 percent said they don’t want corrective criticism, even if it means missing opportunities for development. Not only are millennials open to feedback — they crave it.
5. Compensate fairly.
After opportunities for professional development, compensation is the second most important factor millennials look for in a job, according to our research. All things being equal, they want to change the world. But all things aren’t always equal, and millennials are less willing to forgo compensation than people assume.
Millennials won’t work for free – not being compensated fairly was reported as one of the top reasons they have trouble staying motivated. Fair and competitive compensation is one of the best ways to get them to keep working hard.
6. Provide an experience, not just a job.
Unlike generations before them, Millennials are less interested in the accumulation of things and more interested in the accumulation of experiences. They don’t just want a job – they want to be a part of something rewarding. We need to embrace this attitude and find a way to channel that need for experiences into the company’s larger mission.
7. Give room to run and safety to fail.
Micromanaging is always a bad idea, especially with millennials. Instead, give them room to run and make it OK to fail. The speed of business has increased dramatically, but empowering your workers to help tackle big problems can be part of the solution. If they know it’s OK to take risks, experiment, and ultimately to fail once in awhile, they’ll be more willing to stretch themselves and take on projects they’d be afraid to try otherwise. Provide the right playing field and let them play.
This article is written and provided by Mike Maughan. Mike is the head of global insights at Qualtrics. His focus is on introducing data to important conversations, thereby elevating the level of discourse from opinion to informed, data-driven discussion. Prior to his role with Qualtrics, Mike earned an MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and an MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he also taught public speaking and communications at the graduate level.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.