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How To Tap Into The True Potential Of A Millennial Workforce

Nicole Rodrigues
It’s hard to deny that the millennial generation has cultivated a bad reputation in the business world. I, like many of you, have encountered those select few twenty-somethings who have entered the workforce with a sense of entitlement that is not necessarily predicated on experience, education, work ethic or ingenuity. Yes, those select few can be difficult to work with, but I’m happy to report they are outliers. When properly selected, coached, inspired and empowered, a millennial employee can actually become one of the greatest assets your business has on its roster.

Take my business, for example. Aside from myself and some of my admin team, about 75% of our company (if not more) is made up of millennials, and I often get asked one annoying question from my fellow Gen Xers: “How do you put up with them?” I always respond the same way: Despite the stigma, I genuinely believe this generation has unlimited untapped potential. Those who are biased against or afraid to work with millennials often don’t understand the energy unique to that demographic. As the oldest of nine, I’ve been coaching and motivating millennials for almost my entire life. Tapping into their particular mindset is an art form, but when done well, it can be a game changer. Here are just a few of the top ways to transform your millennial workforce into your business’s crown jewel:
1. Inspire individual “intrapreneurship.” It’s evident that entrepreneurship is the new “American dream.” Millennials have only ever lived in a time when technology has made achieving anything actually possible. Because of this, they tend to dream a little bigger and expect more from themselves. Most don’t want to feel like a cog in the system, punching in and out in time to make a meal at home and sleep. They want to have a purpose led by their passion, and they will likely put in the extra effort to bring it to fruition. It’s in your best interest as a business owner to empower that spark. While your employees are learning the business from you within your company, motivate them to become intrapreneurs who take pride in their role. Rewarding their wins will promote the same kind of passion, dedication, investment and follow-through that first compelled you to create your brand. And that is a win-win for everyone involved.
2. Work alongside them. Set boundaries, but be present with them. Let them know that you will hold them accountable for their work, but will also celebrate their successes with them. That balance is important: Millennials tend to have respect for leaders who understand them and can lead by example without brutalizing their employees. It’s important to let them know they are part of a team and that every person plays a significant role in the process. A coach is far more valuable than a lazy totalitarian.
3. Cultivate a creative work culture. Millennials love the idea of being part of what’s trending, what’s important, what’s innovative and what’s exciting. They want a job that can pay their bills and spark meaningful conversations with their friends. Incorporating team-building practices such as work-remote Fridays, company outings, charitable projects and local networking can enhance the creative culture of your company. If your employees are able to enjoy their time during work hours, you’ll see that they’ll find value in their job outside of just their paycheck.
4. Experiment, pivot and promote. Be open to experimenting with the roles each employee plays in your company. Millennials are uniquely gifted at multitasking, and often possess many more skills than their job description reflects. Once they have settled into your system, best practices and culture, allow them to craft their real role in a lasting way. Schedule quarterly or bi-annual reviews to keep your finger on the pulse of their progress, pivot their focus when necessary, and always be willing to promote when it is earned. If you are a startup, you may not have the funding to offer generous salary increases or year-end bonuses, but you can build your employee’s roles within your company and offer them incentives they will still appreciate.
5. Be an accessible leader. To effectively coach millennials, you cannot be the standoffish, dictatorial boss of the past. Trust me, that won’t work with them. Millennials possess a unique kind of confidence that shines brighter through freedom and support than through micromanagement. And you must be willing to coach them. For years, bosses have required their new hires to go through a corporate training program, clock in and figure it out from there, while they are off playing golf with the board members. That inaccessibility is not going to motivate most millennials. In fact, it’ll likely irritate them. Instead, you have to show up, and show them that you are doing your part to keep the momentum moving. Even if I have to be away from the office for days at a time securing new business, my team knows I am online and available every night, checking in and answering their questions. If something is on fire, they know they can call or text me. That’s one of the main reasons my company has “group” in the title – it starts with me, but it’ll go nowhere without the team. I also remain very mindful of the need for one-on-one meetings, honest feedback and even my own reviews.
The best recipe for an unparalleled millennial workforce is a combination of motivational, intentional and available management with empowered, passionate and personally invested employees. Keeping the culture inspiring and creative, addressing the elephants in the room when they emerge, and allowing for transparency in communication promotes a healthy, successful energy that often yields the best results. When you step up to empower your millennial employees, I guarantee you will be amazed at all they are capable of.
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