Leading Millennials

A reported 80 million people make up the next surge in market shifting dynamics called the Millennials. Based on recent projections, nearly 50% of all workers will be represented by Millennials by 2020!

Every time I speak with business owners and CEOs the topic of hiring and managing Millennials surfaces. For many Boomer executives, it is believed that Millennials are extremely different than the Boomer generation.

Below is a quick comparison between the perceived Millennial “needs” and those of the Baby Boom generation. You may be surprised how similar the “needs” of each generation are. If there is a big difference, Boomers suppressed their desires as young professionals while Millennials are making conscious choices to live their lives as they desire “now” vs. wait until “middle age.”

Consider the following “needs” most workers desire.

Real-Time Feedback

Millennials: The younger generation prefers to be “in the know” regarding their manager’s perceptions and opinions. They are hungry for feedback and dislike NOT knowing how they are doing on the job.

Boomers: Most engaged and hard working Boomers are interested in being treated the same way. Most everyone values being appreciated and recognized for a job well done. Similarly, most people would prefer some gentle feedback in real-time vs. being put on probation at year-end for underperformance. The big difference; Boomers were taught at an earlier age “no news was good news.” Younger workers simply want to get feedback now vs. later.

Job Flexibility

Millennials: Younger workers place high value on work-life balance. As savvy users of technology, they can easily access to the office through intranet sites, VPN connections and other tools.   As the workplace becomes increasingly virtual via video conferencing, Face Time and group chats, the younger set believes offices, cubes and desks are not required to get the job done. They want clarity on deliverables and flexibility on where and how the work is to be accomplished.

Boomers: Technology is unquestionably a game changer in today’s marketplace. Yet, Boomer parents that had small children in the late 1980s and 90s sought the same type of flexibility. Being able to attend Junior’s soccer game mattered. Being able to work from a home office offered uninterrupted focus and creativity. Pagers, faxes and cell phones provided “instant access” when the boss need to talk “NOW.”

Today, technology simply makes connectivity easier. Top performers want to be trusted and allowed to flourish even when not sitting in a cube five days a week ten hours a day. Many outside sales professionals have successfully worked in home offices for years. In fact, remote office locations near large customers have been in place for decades.

Being a Part of the Big Picture:

Millennials: The next generation wants to have clarity on how their roles tie to the company vision, mission and greater good in the community. Having a purpose beyond a pay check matters.

Boomers: Every sentient being has a similar need, to become part of something bigger than self. This is why team sports, project teams, brand teams, departments, divisions etc… rally around making good things happen. Beyond producing great business results, many “older” workers have volunteered, gone on fund raising walks or organized Habit for Humanity community events for years! Many, if not most people want to contribute.

Personal and Professional Development

Millennials: The younger generation wants to learn, stretch and grow. They are hungry for new projects that provide skill building and creative self-expression resulting in added recognition, promotion or compensation.

Boomers: Again, nothing has changed. Naturally smaller companies must be more innovative and creative about developing career opportunities. Larger firms have continually provided strong training, special projects and career advancement for their high potential employees. Today, with flatter organizational structures and many Boomer’s extending their working years, employers must creatively offer mentorships, reverse mentorships or cross-functional job training as a means to challenge and inspire workers, regardless of age.

Are there differences in generations? Yes! Do today’s CEOs, business owners and leaders need to better appreciate and understand their future work force needs and preferences. Again yes! Considering People Development will continue to be the fulcrum of revenue growth and business efficiency, now more than ever, business leaders must invest in selecting, hiring and developing the very best talent they can find. Their company’s future may hang in the balance.