The workplace is getting younger – you can’t move for articles about the millennial generation and how the professional world is going to change as more members of Generations Y and Z flood businesses as replacements for retiring employees.
Businesses might be understandably – but unjustifiably – worried about the impact that an influx of young people might have on their dynamics and ultimate success, but there is no need for them to.
Although millennials might have slightly different priorities and ways of working than their predecessors, they’re not likely to be any more disruptive or difficult to work with. If anything, they bring a range of advantages, such as fresh ways of thinking and new ideas, to the table.
Treat them as individuals
Some millennials have gained a reputation for being flighty, never staying at one job too long and essentially not being particularly reliable. Don’t tar them all with the same brush – millennials tend to have a lot to contribute and will only leave if they feel they’re not being taken seriously or valued enough to stay. With this in mind, you shouldn’t make any assumptions about what they’re looking to achieve or what they’re thinking.
Have regular catch-ups where you can discuss how they’re finding life within the company and what they might change or improve about their day-to-day experience. Whether it’s possible to meet them in that regard or not, it does demonstrate that you’re listening and willing to do whatever’s appropriate to make their professional life as comfortable as possible.
Offer a diverse range of development opportunities
One of the things that millennials value the most is the opportunity to develop their skills and become more valuable members of a team as quickly as possible. If their company were to provide these opportunities, this would keep them engaged and motivated as well as enabling them to work to a higher standard in more areas – this way, everyone benefits.
You can offer them places on training courses, give them material to study or simply allow them to get stuck into new tasks and responsibilities while they’re on the job – placing trust in them and showing that you value their progression ensures that they know you have their best interests at heart, whether they remain with your organisation for years or whether they decide to try their luck elsewhere. That commitment to them should result (most of the time) in commitment to you.
Recognise and reward their input
There’s nothing more demoralising for any worker than not having their contributions and good work recognised and rewarded, and this is especially true for millennials who want to feel that they’re making a difference. This is one of the things they especially value, and if they don’t feel like they’re being rewarded, they will leave for somewhere that does make them feel that way.
If they do noteworthy work, sometimes all that needs to be done for them to feel appreciated is for an email to be sent round the company highlighting their achievement. If you wish to go further, you can do so, but be wary of keeping praise consistent amongst all employees in order to avoid favouritism.
Encourage their contribution
As alluded to above, you should do everything possible to make your Generation Y and Z employees feel part of the wider picture – just because they are young doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute. If that were true you wouldn’t have hired them – in fact, many businesses hire them specifically because they want to tap into new ideas and ways of thinking.
With that in mind, you should make sure your younger workers feel like they are part of the company and that their role is important. It may be the case that all you need to do is be transparent – keep them abreast of company developments, their team’s input and even individual contributions to let them know where and how they fit in.
Make the most of their unique skills and knowledge
Typically you may expect the younger workforce to have a great knowledge of technology and all things digital, and while this may largely be the case, there will be other areas where they have insight that older generations may not.
Understanding the younger consumer, for example, is an highly important aspect to capitalise on; they will be able to advise on how to best market to and engage with this particular audience.
Similarly, the younger generation often also have a much greater insight into the latest and emerging trends as they traditionally spend a lot of time on social media so get access to news and updates quicker than other groups. This can give your business a conspicuous advantage in terms of accessing tools and trying new techniques out before anyone else.
By Doug Chapman, L&D Consultant focusing on Management and Leadership at Thales Learning & Development