Millennials are Not Aliens

And other obvious and not-so-obvious statements about our young professionals.

Broadly speaking, the millennial generation includes everyone born between 1980 and 1999. They are the largest generation in existence today. While it’s likely that every single person reading this has been working with at least one person of the millennial generation for a while now, a lot of non-millennials are still somewhat confused about exactly how to work with them.

How do you most effectively lead people who have experienced little, if any, of their life without the internet as a constant companion? What management styles do they best respond to? How do you motivate them?

First of all, it’s worth stating the obvious and reminding ourselves that millennials are actual humans with the same wants and desires as the rest of us. They are just as capable of developing new skills, even skills that don’t involve the use of a screen.

However, as with every generation, it’s the unique circumstances that they experienced growing up that has shaped the way they think about the world and their approach to it. Technology, gap years, a major recession, and several key transitions of power in the political realm have laid the ground work for a generation that values job security, but will rarely stay rooted to one role for any longer than deemed strictly necessary.

As leaders, these are characteristics worth paying attention to.

Fresh out of college, many of today’s graduates are establishing careers in organizations with a lot of baby-boomer employers and a large generational gap. As we hire more and more young professionals from this generation how does that affect our own organizations? And how can leaders create a framework in which they can grow and contribute, and change the way we live and work for the better? Here are a few ideas…

Give them a voice. Create time to engage with young team members and regularly request feedback and insight. Feeling valued and important to the organization for which we work is important to most everyone, regardless of age. But, it’s an especially important motivational drive for millennials. Even at entry-level positions, they want to work in an environment where they have a voice, and their ideas and insights matter.

They need to know the big picture. Does your organization have a clear vision of the future? If so, it’s important that the millennials on your team know exactly how their work plays into that vision. Millennials are often thought of as having a poor work ethic. In reality, this is far from the truth. The difference is that most of them need a good reason to work hard. Give them that, and they’re libel to become the hardest working members of your team.    

Respect their time. Technology and the Internet has changed the tools, rules, and pace of work. These advances mean there is more opportunity than ever to do more with less. No one knows this better than our millennials, who have grown up with technology that allows work to be more streamlined, automated and collaborative than ever before. In other words, millennials know how to get more done in less time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they work less. It does mean that they’ll be more motivated in environments that define accomplishment in terms of outputs and problem solving ability than time and effort.

If you want loyalty, you’ve got to give it. This generation of new graduates is not shy about changing jobs. A lot of them saw their parents’ generation get laid off, right-sized, down-sized, and out-sourced by organizations who treated them as dispensable. If you approach millennials as if they are baby-boomers, expecting them to comply, obey, get in line, and wait their turn, they will look elsewhere for employment.

The millennial generation, while often misunderstood, is adding to our world in exciting ways. Not only are they just as capable of producing high levels of quality output, they are changing the very foundation of how we define and “do” this thing called work. This is the truth of our current workforce.  As leaders, it’s in our best interest to embrace the best qualities of this generation, cooperating with who they are and supporting everything they’re capable of.


About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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