Chances are, Millennials are a significant part of your team now. Do you really understand what makes them tick?
Millennials, or the generation of people born roughly between 1980 and 2000, are quickly becoming the most important workforce demographic, especially for companies whose core business is based online. They account for over 80 million people in the U.S. alone, and they are the first generation to have grown up with with cell phones, the Internet and even Facebook as integral parts of their lives.
As a Millennial and an entrepreneur myself, I believe there are four key areas leaders must focus on in order to understand what is of value to these individuals and what will motivate them to perform best in your company.
Compensation: It's Not Just About the Salary
Modern companies have greatly evolved their compensation packages to cope with the demands of the Millennial worker. A $50,000 annual salary plus two weeks of paid vacation is no longer such an attractive offer to a recent grad. Whether it's flexible work hours, stock options or company-provided lunch, Millennials are looking for more from their employers.
Often, this can be an advantage for companies too. Providing subsidized health benefits or public transit credit will provide increased returns in productivity over simply raising take-home pay. For startups, granting stock options or equity is an easy way to decrease a potential employee's desired salary while giving that person a stake in the success of the company.
Create a Culture of Inclusion, Transparency and Creativity
Creating a working environment that caters to the Millennial employee goes far beyond official company policies like vacation time, dress code and the holiday party. Company culture is about getting the best work out of your employees by creating an environment where they can thrive. The following are each important aspects of culture that Millennials value.
- Transparency: Millennials want to know how the sausage is made. How much money did we make this month? What are management's plans for the future of the company? What does that person do? What's his equity stake? They want to know every detail so they can figure out if this company is where they want spend the next years of their career.
- Structure: As a manager of Millennial employees, having the right amount of structure is important. This is the generation that no longer grew up expecting to become doctors or lawyers or accountants; it is the generation that first defined their own college majors, and now they want to have greater control over their careers. Employers shouldn't dictate every minute of the workday. Allow employees to choose a style that works best for them. For example, Millennials may not rely as heavily on formal meetings and email, but it is important to establish standards of communication between team members so that no important information is lost in translation.
- Expectations and feedback: Inclusiveness is key here. A Millennial employee wants to have a seat at the table when setting goals and expectations for their short-term deliverables and career goals. A good way to make sure that an employee feels involved is to design an employee review process so everyone can receive feedback from everyone. Employees should be urged to give constructive feedback to their peers, their managers and most importantly, themselves. Using self-generated feedback as a rubric to set new expectations ensures that the employee will respond to the process and continue their development.
- Fostering creativity: Millennials are the poster children of innovation, and encouraging employees to find and utilize new solutions and outside-the-box thinking can have huge benefits--not only to the employee, who gets to learn a new skill or do something different, but also to the company by cutting costs or becoming more efficient. It can even be beneficial to allow employees to pursue a side project during company time. Even if the project has little to do with their day-to-day tasks, it will reduce burnout and monotony. For some companies, ideas that started as side projects turn into hugely successful revenue generators. Tapping into a Millennial employee's full potential involves letting them spend time doing something they are passionate about.
Lead by Example
Work ethic within an office is often contagious. When a small portion of the team goes above and beyond--whether it's coming in on a Saturday or consistently being ahead of schedule--it can rub off on others and become the norm. As a manager, you are often the genesis of this improvement. Your enthusiasm and motivation to get things done and produce the best work will not go unnoticed by peers, and will hopefully inspire them to follow suit.
Remember, Every Employee Is an Investment
Perhaps the most important way to motivate a Millennial is to take them as seriously as you would any (older) employee. Millennials have been much maligned as the "Me" generation, but their creativity and new ways of thinking and doing can provide real value in any business. Commit to their future, not just their contribution to the company. If they feel as though you are nurturing them as a person with a skill set, rather than an employee with a task, there will be more mutual respect and motivation in the office.