Are you taking your young employees seriously enough? Too many companies aren't.
Case in point: In my consulting work, I once visited a large -- strike that, very large -- company, one of the leaders in the tech sector. Something stood out to me, something that none of their executives had noticed. There were no millennials working in the C-suite or anywhere close to the C-suite for that matter. In addition, few if any were in important strategic meetings. And this organization doesn't stand alone. It is shocking how many companies promote employees to those top-level positions based on tenure, rather than skill, talent or knowledge.
Take a look at the key positions in your own organizational chart, or at the people who attended your last strategic meeting. Is it segmented by age, with your youngest workers filling entry-level roles and attending tactical meetings, while your oldest workers take on the highest leadership positions and attend the most critical meetings?
If so, what message are you sending to the young people in your company?
The age-old belief that experience trumps everything else when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder or being part of critical meetings is just plain worn out, and the best of your youngest employees might be planning to leave so they can work for a company that will allow them to make a significant difference now.
In fact, according to the Millennial Compass Report, more than 40 percent of millennial workers expect to be in a management position within two years. Perhaps even more alarming is that 50 percent of those surveyed said that they would depart from their companies after two years.
So, in short, your youngest workers want to help shape the future of your organization now and to feel like there is opportunity to move into a management position, not just when they get older, but once they have had a chance to prove their value. If you don't offer them that opportunity, they have no qualms with jumping ship. And when they quit, they take all of the knowledge and training you gave them, along with their energy and forward thinking, elsewhere -- potentially to a competitor.
While projections are all over the map when it comes to what we can expect in the near future regarding the number of millennials in the workplace, one thing is certain: As Boomers retire and more Millennials infiltrate the workplace, the influx of youth is changing the way we do business.
At the same time, it is causing complications like we've never experienced before. There seems to be a huge divide between the youngest and oldest workers in any given company, a problem perpetuated by myths concerning today's youngest workers.
The bottom line is that not all 20-somethings are self-entitled, job jumpers who expect the world to be handed to them. In order to break those stereotypes, companies must start seeing the leadership potential of people at every level in their organizations, regardless of age or tenure. It begins with truly acknowledging the value that millennials bring to the table.
There is no denying that millennials are tech-savvy, given that they were raised on technology. But beyond that, many young workers possess intrinsic qualities that make them great leaders -- and good for business.
Having grown up in a time when teamwork is consistently reinforced and being social is everything, they are natural collaborators who share openly, and consistently look to their social groups for advice on everything. That level of collaboration and transparency is critical if you want an agile organization.
More than other groups, they are able to see past color, gender, sexual orientation, age and physical characteristics to build truly diverse teams that lead to better ideation and problem solving.
In addition, the age of Google has made them pretty self-sufficient in solving their own problems, and they are consistently looking for better, quicker, more efficient ways to do things. That can save you money and time, while avoiding hassles and obstacles.
Perhaps most important is that they want to make a difference. They want you to value their creativity. They want you to see the merit in their ideas, and they are motivated to work harder if their work has meaning. Imagine a workplace full of that kind of enthusiasm.
Based on the growing, transformational impact technology is having on every aspect of your business, are you doing everything you can to maximize the potential of your youngest workers? Or are you just waiting for them to either get older or move on to an organization that values them?
Are you actively grooming them to take over your leadership positions? Or do you merely use them for the grunt work and leave more prestigious positions for people who have "done their time"?
It's time to end the war between the old and the young. It's time to start respecting millennials for the unique high value they bring to the table. It's time to stop putting an invisible age requirement on promotions. It's time to make fostering loyalty among your newest employees a priority. Otherwise, you are going to experience a huge talent drain that you may not be able to rebound from.
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