They often get a bad rap – self-indulgent, selfie-obsessed, whiners and lazy – but there is so much more to millennials than their reputation for being brash and entitled. In fact, there’s much start-ups can learn from one of our youngest working generations.
Also known as Generation Y, millennials include anyone born between 1982 and 2000, so those aged between 19 and 37. When we speak of millennials, we’re not necessarily talking about people straight out of university. Rather, the generation encompasses a cohort spanning a wide range of ages, and more importantly for start-ups, experience. Many of them have lived in the big, wide world already and have an excellent understanding of the workings of modern society.
However, regardless of the age gap, as a cohort, millennials have some common wants and needs. In order to help them thrive in the workplace, it is our role as managers to harness these, ensuring they feel engaged and valued.
The new way
Managing millennials using old methods is simply not going to work. The respect is not automatically there, and millennials won’t necessarily immediately defer to management decisions, like generations before them. Rather, they question decisions, ask for explanations, and do things in their own way.
So how does management cope?
First, being a non-millennial can make things even more challenging. However, once you have a sense of why and how millennials work, bringing them into the fold can enrich your workplace, especially when it comes to diversity.
Four tips to getting the most out of millennial minds
The Giving Report recently highlighted that millennials are the most charitable generation, basing big ticket decisions, such as where to work and which businesses they spend their money with, on the organisation’s larger mission and whether it resonates with their own sense of purpose.
So, when it comes to millennial employees, how can you get the most out of them?
- Ensure that the workplace is fun and relaxed – millennials need to feel engaged at work but a big part of that is the social atmosphere. It is not just about the salary, but about feeling like the workplace is a fun, inviting and a place where they can engage with like-minded people. Social gatherings, volunteering days and meetings where everyone has a voice will help to keep millennials motivated and satisfied.
- Be open to flexible working hours – according to a new study by Bentley University, 77% of Millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. If you decide to implement flexible working hours, make sure there is a clear arrangement in place, detailing the hours of work and what is required of your employees if they work flexibly or remotely. There is no reason why flexible hours can’t work, so be open to doing things a little differently.
- Relationships with managers need to be on an equal footing – millennials want a voice and they expect to have a relationship with management that is more like a friendship. The traditional models of leadership won’t resonate so be prepared to listen and have a mutual exchange of ideas and solutions to problems. Include millennials in this discourse and you will be rewarded with ideas and commitment.
- Ensure that your purpose is at the fore –for many millennials, purpose and ethics is far more important than salary. You need to ensure that the organisational purpose is clear and that ethics are considered in organisational decisions.
The future starts now
When it comes to the future, Generation Y is in the driving seat, especially when it comes to our economy. Being able to engage with millennials on an emotional level is crucial to a start-up’s survival. Tap into their emotions and their values and you’ll be rewarded ten-fold.
Sue Karzis is the first female Chief Executive Officer of State Schools Relief, a Victorian based not for profit organisation that supports the needs of financially disadvantaged school students.
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