Millennials – who’d have em?

When people moan about millennials, I occasionally share the sentiment… however, my response is usually “well, who bred em?” rather than “yeah, who’d have them”.  I also like to point out that it’s their birthright to be different in order to keep pace with the modern world. 

Isn’t every generation different to the last? And doesn’t each generation lament change and moan about the young! OK, so the rate of change has sped up but they’re having the last laugh: the world is their oyster: Millennials are usually well educated, cushioned at home, challenging, protected, entitled, smart, impractical, uncommercial, hard working, funny, opinionated and oh did I say smart?

Maybe we have had a rate of change that’s created a whole new personality, but each generation has a label, characteristics and certain set perceptions. I tend to feel it is up to us as employers to seek out the right fit for our teams and to interview more stringently to pick out the best and then, our job to learn how to deal with them better – however challenging that process.

Millennials are those born between 1982 and 2000 and they now make up 30% of the labour force. In a world dominated by social media and the staged selfie, where people with little talent or qualifications can become overnight sensations and super rich, life is judged on how it looks rather than how it is, and anything appears possible. You can’t blame our Millennials for having experienced no major hardships, no wars, a relaxed approach to discipline and a world that on the whole is a prosperous place. Happiness is a right, respect is demanded and political correctness is the way to go, even when it just doesn’t make sense. Note the Millennial commitment to social impact and the demand for equality, acceptance and diversity in and out of the workplace.

However, dig a bit deeper and most millennials are refreshingly normal and if they appear out of the ordinary, it may be because they just haven’t been taught or experienced life and values as we knew it. If they are choosy, why shouldn’t they be. They have SO many choices.

I’ve pretty much experienced it all through the Millennials I’ve hired, including first-hand learnings from two of my own now adult children plus my experiences of ever younger clients driving the startup agenda. I love that they have guts. I also love their line of questioning and the fact that they consistently push me to challenge the status quo. After all, who is in business not to be challenged, adapt and pivot to new ways of doing things?

Here is some advice for successfully engaging millennial employees based on my interactions with Gen Y:

  1. Get your team to review the new millennial recruit and listen to their feedback.
  2. Make a millennial employee responsible for managing the new recruit.
  3. Create personal development plans for each millennial and expect them to change/adapt constantly.
  4. Listen to what is important to them and expect them to change their mind.
  5. Work out if you can provide what IS important (and if you can’t deliver, make it clear to set expectations).
  6. Remember with no stable datum of historical expectations of the workforce, each Millennial will have a different view of the world.
  7. Be prepared to train on things you take for granted.
  8. Keep the channels of communication open constantly – informally and formally.
  9. Don’t expect stereotypical Millennial behaviour from all Millennials – expect them to be awesome and they will be.
  10. Remember, ultimately, in business it has to be clear that all team members are accountable and while demands can attempt to be met, there is a business to be run.

I am the first, as an employer, to benefit from how smart the modern Millennial is. And if all else fails, if you can’t beat them join them and go get ‘litfam’ but don’t get ‘shook’, ‘Yass Qween’! 

About the author:

Sharon Williams is a pioneer in the Australian marketing and PR industry. She is a CEO, Fellow of the PRIA, international speaker, personal brand expert, entrepreneur, mentor, marketer, media commentator and frequent mainstream editorial contributor. Under Sharon’s leadership and entrepreneurial flair, Taurus is now recognised as one of Australia’s highest profile agencies, offering unparalleled levels of service to global corporations including Advance, UTS:INSEARCH, Appster, Napoleon Perdis and Clean Up Australia.