It’s been the plight of the business owner for eons: these younger workers just don’t have the work ethic, the professional attitude, the loyalty to do quality work, make customers happy, and stick around long enough for me to make some money.
And the chant is growing louder as the largest generation in history is already edging out older workers. They’ll work cheaper, and that appeals to business owners trying to keep costs down and prices competitive. But these millennial workers seem to have different expectations of “work” and “advancement” that can make them appear transient, unreliable.
Employee culture and engagement expert Sandy Geroux offers these four ways business owners and managers can better communicate with and motivate millennial workers.
What motivates Millennial employees is the same thing that motivates all employees: respect. However, the difference is in how actions are perceived by the different generational groups, and how certain things come across as disrespectful, even when no disrespect is intended. Here are 4 ways Xer and Baby Boomer bosses can change the way they interact with Millennials that will help lessen perceived disrespect and encourage millennials to comply, engage and feel loyalty to their leaders:
1. Explain the Why – Not Just the What
While Boomers and Xers are often satisfied with an answer of “I don’t know,” Millennials want to know the answer to everything… immediately! They have grown up in an age where the answer to almost anything is literally at your fingertips at any moment via the Internet.
Boomers and Xers had to work harder and wait longer for answers because they often had to research answers in printed books, encyclopedias, and other resources – which many times they didn’t possess, so they had to (gasp!) drive to a library, or call and ask a librarian to research it for them. Thus, they were used to having to forge ahead without ALL the answers in their possession.
Millennials don’t want to do anything without the answer to the question “Why?”. So explaining the “why” behind the policy, rather than simply telling them what the policy is, will inspire them to comply of their own free will because it makes sense to them.
Remember that when someone decides to do something, it has to be for his/her own reasons, not yours; and if they don’t know the why, there is no reason to do it.
2. Ask for Their Input
Millennials are the most socially-oriented generation ever. They love to discuss things, get advice, and offer it in return. In fact, if they are not asked for their advice, they feel disrespected, as though their opinion doesn’t matter and the person making a
decision that affects them doesn’t feel they have anything valuable to offer.
While this didn’t feel disrespectful to previous generations because that’s just the way it was in the past, it does feel disrespectful to this generation where everything is socialized before being acted upon. In addition, Millennials also place much more emphasis on their peers’ opinions than on their elders’ views; thus, they will respect someone much more if that person asks for their input, especially if the decision involves or affects them.
Again, the “why” comes into play, so at least hear and acknowledge their opinions on the matter. They’ll feel less like a policy is being rammed down their throats without input, and you’ll gain buy-in more easily. However, this also means that if you don’t take their advice, you MUST at least let them know you heard it, as well as the reasons why it is not possible, at least right now.
3. Help Them Learn and Grow
Millennials have grown up in a learning environment, so it comes very naturally to them. Therefore, giving them opportunities to continue to learn and grow are vitally important.
They will not stay or engage in a workplace where there is nowhere for them to go, where there are no opportunities to improve themselves and build a foundation for later success in their career and their life.
These opportunities include job training, leadership and other soft skills training, as well as mentoring from their leaders at various levels who can offer advice and guidance on their careers, mindsets, and other important life- and career-related skills.
4. Take an Interest In Them
No one will go to the wall for a leader who acts as though their people are just another number. If leaders don’t take the time to find out the first clue about their people – and also don’t let their people get to know them, why would their people care about the leader or the organization?
Remember, people don’t work for organizations; they work for people. So, start engaging with them. Ask about their lives, joke with them occasionally, share your hobbies, find out the names of their significant family members. You don’t have to be best friends with them, but you do have to at least look like someone they would want to be friends with.
The best way to eliminate the Us vs. Them mentality is to let them know just how like their leaders they really are.