Debra's Blog

A resource for the thoughts and writings of Debra Brennan Tagg

A Guide to Loving Your Millennial Employee

A Guide to Loving Your Millennial Employee

 

1.  Remember why you hired them.

2.  They’re innovative. Let them be that way. In fact, celebrate it.

3.  Be fascinated by what you and your millennial can teach each other.

4.  Mentor them.

5.  Admire their love for life - they want to make a difference and have fun while doing it.

6.  Give them structure.

 

Everywhere I go these days it seems like GenXers and Baby Boomers are talking about their millennials. They're not talking about Susanne - the new attorney, or Joe - the new hire. No, they're talking about their millennials. Just like women are not a marketing niche, millennials are not a generation of indistinguishable rubes that just want to go on vacation. I find it interesting that repeatedly one generation of people raises the next in a particular manner, but then lacks the awareness to recognize that the way we raise people - both as parents and as employers - will influence how they behave in the future. GenXers like me outnumbered other generations in the workplace for only about 2 ½ hours at some point in time, and then the millennials took over. They are - and will be for years - the dominant generation in the workforce. 

 

If you are reading this, it means you want to love your millennial. But maybe you’re having a hard time doing it. Whether you run a small business, a department, or a huge company, it’s a better idea to find ways to embrace and enjoy working with millennials than to roll your eyes at them. Here are some ideas from my own experience that might help.

 

1. Remember why you hired them.

 

Millennials are just young people who - by their nature - don’t have as much experience as we do. My industry loves to hire millennials and expect them to have wisdom about how to handle money, family dynamics, and complicated estate plans. If we stop expecting young people to be able to do what a 20 year industry veteran can, then we can turn our attention to why we hired them. If we hired them for the right qualities - for me, these are trustworthiness, innovation, a fresh perspective - we would learn that these are qualities that can’t be taught and are much more valuable than knowing everything that I do.

 

2. They’re innovative. Let them be that way. In fact, celebrate it.

 

Millennials are great at challenging the system, and they’re right to do it. There are many things done in a certain way because many smart people have tried other ways and found the best one. But there are also many things that are done a certain way because we forgot to look at it after a year to find out if the process can be improved. Since millennials were taught technology at a young age, and saw their parents go through the financial crisis, and have come of age in a world that knows no limits, we would be wise to see that they were raised with a mindset that the old guard may not be right and that innovation can yield huge opportunities. Embrace what that mindset can bring to your company, and remember to give them the history and context of how previous decisions were made so that the end result is a better process or product for you and your customers.

 

3. Be fascinated by what you and your millennial can teach each other.

 

Don't only think of the employment relationship in terms of what you can teach your millennial. Widen your perspective to what you can teach each other. For example, most millennials just know more than we do about technology. I asked one of my millennials, Lindsay, when she learned about how to do so many interesting things with Excel. 

 

Me: “Did you learn that in college?” 

Lindsay: “No, I learned it in seventh grade.”

 

The point is not that millennials are tech prodigies (ok, some may be). Instead, it’s that their basic learning of all concepts used the technology, and it’s integrated into how they think, whereas older generations are trying to learn how the technology can fit what they already know.   Lindsay continues to patiently teach me how to better integrate some amazing technology into daily processes. In the meantime, I teach her how to excel at client relationships, how to balance efficiency with compliance, and the importance of company culture. 

 

4. Mentor them.

 

Millennials want the most out of life, and I applaud them for keeping that focus. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn or improve their skills. Every prior generation learned through apprenticeship and built upon the work of the generation before. With the rise of the internet and technology, people are now so efficient and self-reliant that learning time is cut dramatically. Their peers are online, solving and sharing at a frenetic pace. This also reduces human interaction, so polished people skills may suffer. I expect that millennials will keep a focus on getting the most out of life, even when they have mortgages and children. As employers, we should be grateful. If I can pass on some of my hard-won lessons in running a financial planning business, breathe some of my passion for helping others achieve goals, and help young women understand what an ideal profession this is for moms, then I have held up my end of the relationship. As a mentor, you’re not just training employees for their job - you should be building people that can be superior in any job.

 

5. Admire their love for life - they want to make a difference and have fun while doing it.

 

I know that many people slugged away at jobs that were not that interesting in their early careers. And maybe some of that “penance” feels like something that should be passed down. Any guess what I did during my early career? I was a music publicist in Los Angeles. It was the most fun a responsible 20-something could have had. I saw hundreds of hours of live music from the side of the stage, and met all sorts of celebrities and musicians. And because the job was so rewarding, I worked like crazy. What in your world is the equivalent of “the side of the stage”? Help your millennial to understand the importance of the work, and make sure to throw in plenty of “side of the stage” opportunities.

 

6. Give them structure.

 

We have to remember as employers that we are raising the next generation of business leaders. It really is incumbent on us to make them leaders. When I hear people my age and older complaining about how millennials don’t want to work long hours, need work life balance, expect to get raises just because they showed up at work for 6 months, etc., I know that we need to be intentional about structure for this generation. We need to be firm about our company policies and explain why they are in place, we need to make it clear what qualifies them for a raise, and we need to help them understand that all of life is a balance, which means that there are consequences for underperformance.

 

Last year I was educated by Dr.Gustavo Grodnitzky about the characteristics (and challenges) of each generation that we see in today’s workplace. He had a key phrase that has stuck with me: “Millennials don’t job hop - they boss shop.” When viewed through that lens, it’s more difficult to fault an employee (or generation) for seeking employment that challenges, mentors and offers better “life-balance.” Hopefully with these six ideas you can be the boss that attracts, trains and retains our future business leaders.

 

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