Around the water cooler, it's not uncommon to hear chatter about how millennials (the demographic cohort that follows Generation X, currently comprising people in their teens through early 30s) are perceived as impatient and entitled. The prevailing view seems to be they want it all and want it now.
From my perspective leading the human resources function at a company where half of our employees are under 35, there's some degree of fiction and reality in that assessment. Yet I would argue millennials clearly bring more than attitude to work; they also bring their passion, love of experimentation, and eagerness to collaborate with others and make a meaningful impact.
Millennials add a unique perspective to a multigenerational workplace, and it's important that managers help coach and mentor these young workers to prepare them for future leadership roles -- particularly as millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Employers who tap into the unique strengths that millennials offer will have the edge over their competitors. For me, this advantage boils down to four qualities:
- Passion. According to a recent study conducted by Bentley University's Center for Women & Business, 84 percent of millennials view making a positive difference in the world as more important than professional recognition. We need to tap into their desire to make an impact by ensuring they understand our organizations' vision and values, and how the work they do supports our strategies. Enlisting their support for charitable and philanthropic activities is another way to put their passion to work. Note to managers: Tap into their passion, increase their engagement.
- Leadership. According to a recent study by Deloitte, almost one in four millennials are "asking for a chance" to show their leadership skills. And 75 percent believe their organizations could do more to develop future leaders. As managers or leaders, we should be finding ways to enable millennials to grow on the job and practice their leadership skills. By doing so, we're not only retaining talent but also building stronger succession pipelines. This may require managers to think less traditionally about how to give these folks a chance to show their stuff, but the creativity will only enhance the experience.
- Innovation. Technology has shaped millennials to expect and embrace rapid change. In their vision of the workplace, constant innovation and strategic creativity are the norm. This eagerness to try new approaches can spur product development and fresh perspectives that all employers need to be successful.
- Collaboration. It's practically impossible for millennials to imagine a world that isn't connected across cultures, communities, ideas and attitudes. Diversity isn't a goal; it's a way of life. According to recent research from Ernst & Young, millennials rank ahead of Baby Boomers as the most inclusive leaders, opting to involve a diverse set of people in developing strategies and making decisions. Millennials look to more than one person or point of view for the answers they seek, and they appreciate the talents and skills others bring to the offering. For a global company, these skills are essential for both culture and better outcomes. Simply put, they are good for business.
Every generation wants to make its mark on the world, and millennials are no different. Having grown up in an era where technological innovation and global inclusion are the norm, they come to the workplace with a different set of ideas and expectations. We can harness these qualities not only to build organizations where strategic innovation thrives, but also to begin preparing today the leaders of tomorrow.