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Leading Millennials:

We Have it all Wrong

Heather Nicole, Founder/Owner

Why are Millennials so lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and obsessed with food? Believe it or not, these questions are the most popular Google searches for this generation (at the time of writing this article). I can answer the ‘obsession with food’ question with one word: Instagram. Hello #foodporn. But these labels are sweeping stereotypes. And we now have research to back it up.

Gallup released their latest research, How Millennials Want to Live and Work, in May 2016. Gallup defines this age group as those born between 1980 and 1996. This groundbreaking research demystifies a group that has been so harshly judged. As a leader, I love this generation. But not every leader feels the same way. In truth, if we don’t adapt quickly, we are going to miss out on great talent. These individuals aren’t sticking around just for the paycheck.

According to Gallup, Millennials want a life well lived. Here are six findings you should know as a leader, and how you can effectively lead these individuals.

1. They want a purpose.

Gone are the days of just showing up for an hourly wage or salary. This group wants to know that their work has meaning. As a manager, connect their job to the company mission, and a greater purpose. Show how their job fits into the bigger picture. No matter how simple or repetitive their job tasks are, authentically paint a picture of why this work is critical to a bigger purpose.

As an employer brand, make sure your Website speaks to this audience. Talk about the company’s mission, purpose, and social contributions. Connect the brand to the community and show how employees are serving a greater purpose. And let me tell you, Millennials can sniff out a company that is paying lip service to social causes. Be authentic in your mission.

2. They want to be developed.

Millennials are stereotyped as wanting to be CEO the minute they walk in the door. When in reality, they want to know the company will invest in them so they can grow. They want their life to continue improving, to experience more, and earn more along the way. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Discuss their aspirations and possible career paths. You are part school principle, part guidance counselor, and part basketball coach. Ask thoughtful questions about their goals, what they want to learn, and share your career experience. By showing your employees that growth can come in many forms, not just through a promotion, you can provide them with opportunities that challenge them.

As an employer brand, ensure your Website paints a picture of how the company grows your talent. Highlight any career paths, rotational programs, and leader or skill development programs that are in place at your company.

3. They want coaching.

Along with opportunities to develop, Millennials also want feedback and coaching. With the use of technology and social platforms in formal education, this generation is comfortable asking a lot of questions and getting real time feedback from their instructors. With this ‘always connected’ generation, conversations can happen via text, IM, email or face-to-face.

As a manager, be sure you are setting clear expectations. When goal setting, ask your employees to come up with their own goals (as opposed to handing them down and dictating). Then give feedback so they can make adjustments to be in line with your expectations. When coaching your team, you can also grow and develop them by seeking ideas and input. This shows the team you value their opinions, and you are challenging them and growing their skills.

4. They need ongoing conversations.

The twice a year performance review process and infrequent manager check-ins are not going to cut it with this generation. Throughout the year, ensure you are having frequent touch points with your team. Quick daily check-ins and regular one-on-one meetings will help ensure you continue setting expectations, coach and give feedback.

5. They want to leverage their strengths.

Everyone has natural talents, and this generation is no exception. Rather than show up for a pay check and work a steady nine-to-five to get by, this generation wants to be in a role that allows them to do their best work every day.

As a manager, have a conversation with your employees to uncover their natural talents. Ask quality questions about a time when they had a peak experience and what made that experience so great. Or what work excites them and lights them up each day. And what work drains them and makes them dread coming in to the office. Chances are you will learn new insights and find new ways to challenge and grow your team.

6. Their job is their life.

Generally speaking, Millennials are getting married later in life, if at all. And they are waiting to have kids. Many choose to live at home with their parents to pay off student loans and travel. Owning a house is not their top priority, they want to spend money on experiences, rather than acquire possessions. And work is not just a job, it is a life. Millennials want their work to matter and it is very important to them. They also want work-life balance and flexible schedules. A routine nine – to – five work schedule is unappealing. Personal life and work life are fluid and co-mingle. And this generation wants to enjoy it all and have a life well lived.

How are you showing up as a manager? Gallup’s research indicates that Millennials will change companies 17 times. Think of the turnover you will face if you don’t take action. What is the cost of doing nothing for you and your company? It is time for us to adapt, move beyond the stereotypes, and lead this generation. Lead with these six strategies in mind, and you will get the most out of this talented generation.

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