Can You Crack The Millennial Code?

Be honest: when you saw the word, “millennial” in the title of this article, did you roll your eyes?  You’re not alone.  Many employers’ first reaction to “millennials” is that they are “lazy,” “entitled,” and generally annoying to deal with.  But, this little workplace problem isn’t going away.  According to Forbes Magazine, by 2025 millennials (the generation born between the mid-80s to mid-90s) will make up a large majority of the workforce (and about 75% of the world’s population)!  Then, get ready for “Gen. Z” . . .

So, instead of bemoaning an entire generation for “laziness,” it’s time to for us to alter our perceptions as managers and really try to understand that our younger workers generally possess different characteristics and motivations than the “baby boomer” generation.  Remember, these differences are not good or bad.  They just are.  Here are some things to think about to begin to adapt your workplace’s policies to maximize the millennial potential:

Play To The “Video Game” Generation:

Millennials (and especially those who grew up in the 90s) are all about the instant gratification of text messages, video games and social media.

How this is a good thing: Younger workers tend to be able to handle (and juggle) a lot more stimuli than those who didn’t learn to use a cell phone at age 8.  This means that a manager should feel free to assign multiple projects, ideally, with shorter term deadlines, to their millennial employees.

What to do: In addition to assigning multiple and different projects to millennial workers, consider creating short-term goals with opportunities for frequent check-ins and feedback.  Ultimately, this benefits both the manager and the millennial by setting concrete expectations and checking-in frequently about how those expectations are being met.

– Re-Frame “Job Perks”:

Millennials are experts at managing several social media platforms, while texting and ordering groceries online (i.e, multitasking!).  Because of this, younger workers crave as much flexibility and autonomy in their work as they have in their non-work lives.

How this is a good thing: Millennials are all about results.  Face-time in the office and long hours locked in the conference room are not the marks of “hard work” or “getting the job done” for these young workers.  This is a good thing!  As long as a project deadline is being met, why not encourage your younger workers to work on a project at home on a Sunday or in the wee-hours of the morning if that’s what suits them?  Less water-cooler gossip and more getting the project done!

What to do: If it is feasible for your organization, varying hours, working from home, and more autonomy should be standard aspects of the job and work environment.  Put the emphasis on meeting the clients’ needs, doing a great job on a project, and working efficiently ahead of face-time in the office.

– Make “Passion” and “Culture” a Priority:

Millennials are famously (or infamously) motivated by factors in life other than money.  Perhaps this is owed to a more ubiquitous political and social justice presence on all social media outlets.  Perhaps it’s a reaction to the perception of older generations’ lack of focus on work/life balance.

How this is a good thing: Separate and apart from the number on their paycheck, millennials most value the work itself (Am I passionate about this work? Am I making a difference?), mobility (both geographical and between assignments), the opportunity to meet people and network, and a relaxed atmosphere.  It’s nice to know that employers can make a millennial employee truly happy by just shifting some “soft” aspects of the job, like atmosphere and opportunities, and don’t necessarily have to spend any money.

What do to: Communicate!  Why are you important to this organization?  How does this company make the world a better place?  How does your role in this company make the world a better place?  What is the company’s 5 and 10-year plan for you?  Your millennials (and really, all your employees) should know the answers to these questions.

If you’d like to dive deeper into conversations with millennials, consider joining Central Maine Human Resources Association (CMHRA) for its presentation on February 19th at 7:45 a.m. at the Franco Center in Lewiston.  David Pease, Senior Vice President/Director of Talent, Diversity & Inclusion at Bangor Savings Bank, James Brissenden, Director of Business Development at Clark Insurance, and Jordan Payne Hay, Attorney at Skelton Taintor & Abbott, will be providing practical advice on how to handle a variety of issues posed by the millennial generation that is leading the charge on generational conversations and improving the environment for retaining talent.  Click HERE to register:

This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of employment and corporate law. Rebecca S. Webber, Amy Dieterich, James F. Pross, and Jordan Payne Hay, are employment and labor law attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.