Recently there have been a lot of articles on the opinions and feelings of employers who are hiring the new generation. Millennials. Simply put, they have been labeled as an elusive bunch of misfits. When not understood, millennials can wreak havoc in the office, but when utilized to their strengths, they can be just the change you've been looking for.
Allow me to summarize just about every article you've read about millennials: they don't work hard. They are lazy. They are easily distracted. You can't count on them. They want more time off and less responsibilities. They seem entitled. They are spoiled brats.
I don't believe this negative connotation was maliciously made up, but a deeper dive is necessary to truly understand millennials. They were born into a world where parenting shifted, technology boomed, and the borders we all knew were shattered with instant messaging, chat rooms, social networks, and instantaneous access to information.
It seemed no matter how hard their parents tried, millennials were destined to be consumed by these new advancements and would be raised entirely by a world where time wasn't an issue. You see, they didn't grow up calling someone, leaving a voicemail and waiting for a reply. They didn't write a letter, wait for it to be delivered and hope for a response, and they surely didn't have to go to a library to look up the answers to their never-ending questions. They were born into a world where every question, every desire, and every thought could and would be fulfilled with a few keystrokes. They texted and instant messaged their way into conversations with people around the world, things only their parents could dream of.
Gone were the days of tying a string with two cans at each end. They weren't limited by the block they grew up on for friends, and the world was at their fingertips. It became borderless.
When you realize this about their childhood, it starts to make sense how they can be so misunderstood by the experienced and seasoned workforce that is attempting to hire them. The older generations didn't experience these luxuries, so "doing things the hard way" was the way. They grew up being told that hard work and determination will get you places. A generation that was used to being self-reliant, self-guiding, and pushing themselves to be who they wanted to be, was now facing a new workforce that didn't have to work for those things.
To millennials, thinking outside the box wasn't a metaphor, because the box didn't even exist. If millennials had a question or a problem they Googled it. If they needed to learn something they watched tutorials on YouTube, and when a relationship faltered, they had a network of hundreds to share their feelings, emotions, and lives with. To grow with. The notion of secrets and internalizing thoughts slowly drifted away. Sharing who you were was no longer something you did with only a few, but with many. This polarity of experiences is what drives the wedge between them.
Below is a beginner's guide to help you navigate these waters, and reach the new world. Neither those who have forged the way and created their world one brick at a time, nor those with fresh eyes and bold hearts, can sail alone. The journey must be taken together.
Hire heart. Hire passion.
Millennial's were given the freedom to soul search, to be in touch with a larger purpose. In order to keep their fire burning, what they do has to matter. No, this doesn't mean you can't hire a millennial as a front desk clerk, or an accountant. This means you have to find the right millennial who sees these roles as meaningful, or better yet, a stepping stone to their passion.
The best talent is groomed.
Millennials don't have a problem starting at the bottom. They also don't have a problem putting in the work needed to get where they want to be. They just need a clear line of sight that the intrinsic value they crave will be at the end of the road they are on. It goes a long way to talk about opportunities for growth during the interview process. Not only will it help you understand if this is someone worth grooming, but it can help you weed out those who really aren't cut out (more on this later). Mentor them, coach them, and most of all, respect them.
Understand they might need space.
This doesn't mean you should give them a task and leave them alone. They need freedom and space to let their minds wander and to create new ideas. Their minds aren't hyper-focused on things like stability or getting a mortgage. They are less interested in being tied down, and they would probably agree that they like it that way. It's because of this fluid way of life that they possess the ability to brainstorm with the best of them. Point them in a direction, provide some constructive feedback, and see what they can come up with. After all, seeing the world in a new way is what moves this world forward each and every day, which could be a catalyst to move your company forward.
Praise or reward. Why not both?
Remember now, this is the "participation trophy" generation. It wasn't their idea, by the way -- it was given to them and they went with it. In the past, intrinsic gifts and monetized items or bonuses were the way to someones heart. Everyone likes these things, and I don't know a single person who would turn one down. But these types of incentives will not move their needle towards productive. They need to know that their job is recognized, and that they are good at it. This doesn't mean they need constant praise, but don't expect to fake it with them. If the feedback you give your millennial sounds like it belongs on an annual review from 1999, they will smell it a mile away. Millennials need praise in the form of constructive criticism, and they need it to know that the direction they took that project was a good one. These micro-moments shape their experiences and allow them to chalk one up for the home team as well as feel a little win.
Not all millennials are created equal.
Now for the important part: the disclaimer. As with every generation, you can't lump every potential hire into the same boat just because they are born in the same time period. But if you know what to look for, you can avoid a headache along with a preconceived generalization that all millennials are anything but what they really are. Train your recruiting teams. Know the right questions to ask. Listen. Be open to asking them how they would do things, and offer them the ability to ask questions to come up with a solution. Find questions and topics that will evoke heart and character, and you will see the difference in potentially the best employee you could find, and the ones you should avoid.
In order to hire a successful millennial, you have to truly understand them, and why they are who they are. This diversity brings fresh life and new insight to the workplace that when nurtured properly can be a major catalyst for progress. If you aren't willing to go this far, you aren't deserving of the potential they bring to the table.