Thoughts on Millennials…

I spend my days now running a small manufacturing operation that has a substantial millennial population. Every day, I am challenged by how I need to think and react based on those team members. In my recent book, “Growing Comes from Planting Seeds”, I talked about millennials and their expectations of the workplace.

… if we don’t try and think the way our new generation of future workers thinks, we will lose the battle and the war. Millennials think very differently, and we can probably learn a lot from them. We manage today thinking about Baby Boomers and Generation X, but don’t Millennials have a very different way of looking at the same problems? (Remember they are what the future is going to look like, and we have to prepare our organizations for this upcoming group of workers.) How do Millennials look at mentoring and coaching? Do they have a sense of entitlement about it? How are we as an organization prepared to look at this in the future?

Karl Moore and Sienna Zampino, in an article for Forbes, entitled “The Modern Mentor in a Millennial Workplace,” say that:

Millennials have a bad reputation. They are seen as spoiled, lazy, and having high expectations. Put simply, they’re considered immature, but we think otherwise. Based on our research, we believe that Boomers and Gen Xers have important roles to play in mentoring Millennials and helping them harness their valuable talent.

They say in their article that this new group of workers is more intent on finding mentors to help them navigate the waters of the workplace than previous generations who might have insisted on finding those pitfalls on their own. The managers of today need to embrace that within the new workforce and adapt. Moore and Zampino tell us that:

Millennials acknowledge, albeit not out loud, that they have certain limitations. They are aware that they lack some crucial elements in order to move forward. They view mentors as meaningful contributors to their personal growth. Millennials consider them confidantes; wiser individuals who can provide guidance. At times, Millennials’ topics of interest can be controversial, requiring feedback prior to official discussion. Annual salary increases, for example, are best addressed with prior consultation. Mentors serve as fountains of knowledge for these kinds of topics.

When searching for mentors, Millennials do not limit themselves to their work settings. After all, they are active in many different forums, the world of LinkedIn, for example, which provides immediate access to industry professionals from around the world. In the case of Millennials, users are able to quickly connect and contact influential people. Don’t be surprised if you notice that your LinkedIn profile is being viewed by unknown faces.

I, in fact, reach out to many younger people, simply because if I am looking to build a sustainable business, these are the leaders of tomorrow. Moore and Zampino go on to say, “Millennials are naturally curious. They want to learn more about your academic background and personal career path. Knowing this contributes to their overall understanding of how to move forward in a career.” This is a very different way of learning and engaging than the previous generations. While researching information for this book, I ran across a very telling graph created by Jeanne C. Meister and Kalie Willyerd in The Harvard Business Review, entitled “Mentoring Millennials.” They write:

Millennials often look at mentoring as a two-way street, an opportunity to learn as well as share exactly what they have learned through their advanced use of social media, as well as their view of today’s marketplace, buyers, consumers and users of products. They look at this as their value-added contribution to the company that has hired them. They have expectations from their bosses that they will provide direction and a solid career path for them. They believe that the company they work for will provide them challenges and opportunities for them to learn and grow, while allowing them the opportunity to blend work with the rest of their lives. They also believe that they have the opportunity to learn and grow while developing skills that they know need honing and developing, while giving new concepts and ideas back to the organization. This provides the millennial with a two-way street of learning and support. They lack the industry-specific knowledge that the older workers’ may have, but this is their opportunity to learn and grow.

In short, Millennials are well connected, multi-taskers, and very technologically savvy, which is what we all want on our teams—but remember, this comes with the caveats of having transparency (I have found this the most difficult trait for a business to have, especially in the corporate world), as well as instant gratification and rewards (remember, they grew up in the technology era, where everything is instant). They believe their career paths will be collaborative and they will be part of that plan, as well as have a work life balance that will give them other opportunities to pursue their dreams.

Embrace the change and think how exciting it will be to adapt and just how rewarding success will be with the millenials.

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