By Lauren Elmore, President of Firmatek. Published in Forbes Online.
Whether it’s through flip-flops and jeans or the sound of ping-pong tables in the atrium, millennials have placed a spotlight on corporate culture. For this generation, quality of life matters, but so does a career that offers purpose and rapid advancement. I know because I have vast experience working with the millennial generation.
Your corporate culture will determine who you hire and for how long. Considering that millennials make up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, it would be wise for corporate leaders to listen to their wants and needs in the workplace.
Let’s talk about millennials.
Unlike prior generations, millennials aren’t job “lifers.” Some millennials are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for better career development and flexible work arrangements, and many don’t stick around long if they’re disappointed. Millennials tend to change jobs four times in their first 10 years after college.
Millennials care more about the social impact of their work and what the company stands for, too. To successfully attract and retain millennial talent, it’s important to convey the “why” behind what your company does.
Younger employees are also hungry for growth in the form of promotions and raises. As a manager, I’m seeing quicker asks for raises and promotions, but I’m also seeing a hunger for new opportunities to grow and develop new skill sets. Members of this generation are figuring out how they want to grow professionally and trying to find a way to do that within company boundaries.
It takes one to know one.
As a millennial, I recognize in myself that same hunger for growth that I see on my teams. One of the best things about the way millennials approach work is that they are open to new ways of doing things.
Millennials understand that there is often an app for solving a problem or improving a process, and they know that information is only a Google search away. This generation is full of curiosity and initiative, and millennials are willing to stray from traditional ways of doing things if it means finding a more efficient way to work.
For example, this year alone, my company has tested different marketing programs, websites and communication applications. We don’t proceed with all the ideas and programs we test. After all, not everything needs to be done differently, and some traditional ways of completing tasks are worth keeping. But we give them a try because it’s a process of learning and discovery.
I understand the millennial thought process, and it has helped me be more focused on creating a culture that aligns with the generation’s mindset. However, as a manager and someone who has grown up around businesses, I also understand and respect the reasoning behind the old way of doing things. When others in the organization don’t understand the behavior of some of our employees, I step in and help explain where both sides are coming from.
How can you manage well in the age of millennials?
While many of the fundamentals of management remain constant, it’s important to customize your approach to the unique individuals you’re leading. Here are some approaches I’ve used to manage today’s millennial-dominated workforce:
1. Provide opportunities for communication and feedback.
Millennials want to be heard, so take the time to listen to them and their ideas. Give them the opportunity to share their opinions. You might be surprised by the innovative ideas they come up with.
We have quarterly town hall meetings in which we share updates on what’s going on in the company and how we’re progressing on our priorities for the quarter. I also host virtual office hours each week in my Zoom meeting room. Anyone can talk with me about work, ideas or life. We also use tools such as Disco, a recognition and reward software tool, to call out great work. All of these tools help us create an open environment in which all employees feel like they have an opportunity to provide feedback and be heard.
2. Help them grow professionally.
Find ways to help millennial employees develop professionally through training or by creating specific programs. If you do, they’ll reward you by staying with your organization longer and being better team members.
We’ve created multiple levels within positions at Firmatek, and each level requires increasing capabilities and responsibilities. We also rolled out individual development tracks in which employees choose their path and are paired with a mentor to develop skill sets. By helping employees grow in their professional roles, we’re helping them find the meaning in their jobs that they’re craving. We benefit by having engaged employees working on special projects and bringing their skills and talents to new parts of the organization.
3. Focus on culture and values.
Your culture is often the reason people join, remain with or leave your organization. That culture should be authentic, and everyone who interacts with your company should be able to see what your company stands for. Clearly outline your values, culture and purpose. Display them on your website and in your office spaces, and continuously have conversations about them with your employees.
At my company, we give out quarterly awards to those who are living out each value, and I personally meet with each new employee to go over our purpose, values and priorities. These efforts will ensure that your team is working toward the same goals and that potential employees know what you stand for before they even submit their resumes.
Culture matters to millennials. If you listen to them, act on their opinions and create a values-driven culture, the results will be faster products to market, greater collaboration and an unshakable team dynamic.