Baby boomers are likely in charge at your office. They’re the ones serving in executive positions, making the big decisions, and determining the business’ direction.
It’s also likely that your company employs a fair number of Gen-Xers and millennials. Millennials, people born from the mid-1980s to 2000 or so, tend to be the group that makes baby boomers scratch their heads. Millennials are doing things differently, which sometimes rubs baby boomers the wrong way.
How can these two generations mesh in the workplace? The key for owners is to understand millennials’ experiences, desires, and world views and to appreciate how these traits can positively influence the business.
Defined by Trends
Several trends define the millennial decades:
Technology informs how millennials get their news, form opinions, communicate, and socialize. Quick response, instant information, and fear of missing out, or “FOMO,” have impacted millennials’ expectations. Many baby boomers see this as impatience.
Millennials grew up with school and neighborhood violence. Some believe that this exposure to violence has made millennials eager to make the most of every day and encounter. Baby boomers sometimes view this as short-term thinking.
Millennials have been reminded of their inherent value as human beings since they were children. This translates to the belief that their opinions count and that they are valuable contributors. The upside is that millennials are often willing to speak their minds and aren’t cowed by authority. The downside is the expectation of “participation trophies,” self-importance or neediness in the eyes of baby boomers.
What They Want
All good working relationships require respect, so managers who honor millennials’ cultural, social, and behavioral experiences are sure to get more from their millennial employees. Generally speaking, millennials seek the following:
Work-life balance: Many millennials have a different expectation of work in their lives. Family often comes first in terms of scheduling and hours in the office. Money earned is often earmarked for experiences—travel, for example—and is a means to an end.
For managers, this one is simple: Find out what your employees value, and support those things to motivate and incent your team.
Authenticity: Work that matters, matters. Millennials seek meaningful work. They want “ownership” of their responsibilities. With this comes a desire to forge their own plans and strategies—which can be accomplished with the help of a hands-on mentor.
Let millennials flex their brains. Get on board with their desire to have an impact, and the results can be exciting and mutually beneficial.
Trust: For this generation, it’s not about when and where they work, it’s about getting their work done. So don’t expect your millennial staffers to be the first ones in and the last ones to leave. This “appearance” of productivity isn’t as important to them as results.
Make performance measures explicit and distinct. Trust that your millennial employees will get their work done, but maybe not when and how you would have done it.
Be Open and Encouraging
As with all employees, appreciating diverse opinions and work styles goes a long way. Learn what makes millennials tick, and they just might be your best employees.