THE BLOG
01/28/2013 10:47 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2013

Millennial Workers: Understand or Lose Them

Suppose you're the owner of a small business, and you're trying to hire some new talent. Money is tight and you need good people. So you interview a variety of promising candidates fresh out of college because you want energetic, low-cost help.

Now, when the new recruit learns that Internet access is blocked for websites not related to her job responsibilities, she suddenly loses interest in your company and say "thanks, but no thanks."

And you wonder, what gives!? Why is it so important to young employees that they have Internet access during the work day?

Can't they can wait until they go home to check Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram? If it's critical, they could do that at lunch, right? They don't need to be connected 24/7...

Except, they do. Millennials, those born between the late '70s and the early 2000s, will soon make up 36 percent of the workforce. And they have vastly different expectations for the workforce than their baby boomer managers do.

They have grown up with technology, and are used to having 24/7 access to it. Millennials love technology so much that half of them would rather give up their sense of smell than a critical device. And one-third of them would rather have a flexible work environment and access to social media than a bigger paycheck.

What?! Where are their priorities?

Thus, these stats reveal this isn't just some fleeting trend. Millennials are here to stay, and in order to have happy workers, managers should listen. Talk with your Millennial workers about their workplace expectations. Sure, some expectations will not be reasonable, and it is okay to simply reject some of them.

However, to be successful in the new world, managers must consider implementing flexible policies. Millennials have their own philosophies regarding how the work day should go, with more flexible hours, and more time to develop friendly relationships with their coworkers.

Millennials who are allowed more freedom in the workplace will get things done the way that comes most naturally to them, which will probably include a lot of collaborating over technology. Allowing them to work with the mediums they are most familiar with will help projects go faster and more smoothly.

You don't have to make all the concessions, though. If Millennials seem too distracted by social media, give them some structure during the workday. Give them guidelines for when they're allowed to access their favorite social media sites, such as only once every two hours. Or allow them two paid fifteen-minute breaks a day where they're allowed to do whatever they want online.

If your Millennial workers are wasting too much time chatting with co-workers, tell them it's fine to chat for a few minutes, but not much longer than that. Let them see that you're willing to be flexible, and they'll be more likely to want to please you by working hard.

If you're a small business owner, chances are that you'll be seeing most of your employees daily. You need to be able to understand the way they think, and they need to be able to understand the way you think. The generation gap may seem wide, but it can be bridged. Allowing such free access to social media can be scary, but it could actually help your business.

Happy workers work more efficiently, and waste less time sneaking in social media because they know that your company has a policy for when it's okay to check Facebook or Instagram, which means that they're more likely to get work done the rest of the time.

The world is connected by the Internet and those who live in it... and you cannot succeed by ignoring it.

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