Of the generational categories, the majority of my clients range from Gen X to Baby Boomer. I have to smile to myself when my clients mention their frustration with their millennial employees. Throughout history has any generation every understood the generations that followed?
Millennials are entering the workforce in droves, and yes, they will soon become our business leaders. That’s why most of my clients are starting to ask, “How are they different, how do we recruit them, and how do we motivate this often puzzling generation?”
As with all people, if you can discover what they value, you have discovered their motivation. Millennials value social awareness, big dreams, and a desire for autonomy/freedom. Their ideas about what “work” or what an “office” should look and feel like are different from your older employees.
Your leadership skills may often feel challenged because millennials simply don’t respond to a command/control style of management.
Millennials tend to have a strong preference for fun and relaxed work environments. They have a mindset of continuous learning, which makes them far more flexible and able to grow and adapt in the workplace. And good news, it also means team building is a welcomed experience!
According to an article in Entrepreneur, one company found that “more millennials (79%), found ‘team’ or ‘culture’ building activities in their organization significantly helped retain talent, while only 46% of baby boomers (aged 51-60) felt the same. Asked if team building was worth the time and effort, 88% of the millennial employees responded positively, versus just 76% of boomers.” So as your talent pool begins to shift toward millennials, team building will likely become one of your more powerful tools to help manage retention and growth.
And even more good news; millennials are more interested in personal growth and seek out a workplace that better suits these needs. Some of the things that this group looks for include:
- A flexible schedule – Creativity may come outside the hours of 9 to 5. If you can also offer virtual work, this is a plus!
- Trust – Micromanagement is one sure fire way to chase your millennials away. Learn to spell out expectations and collaborate on measures of success i.e “Given your expertise I expect you to lead this project. How should we measure the success of that?”
- Flexibility – Aside from the schedule, millennials prefer to figure out their own approach to problems and make their own decisions. This is where understanding how to coach your employees becomes vital. Learning to ask your employees, “What’s the plan?” will always go over better than telling them what it is. (See “Asking Great Questions” tip sheet here.)
- Feedback – While they want to make decisions about how to get work done, millennials also need feedback (good and bad) as to how they are doing, and not just once a year. Creating regular feedback loops, such as 1:1 check-ins and/or individual performance planning, quarterly and even monthly, work far better than performance reviews, which are quickly becoming a dinosaur. (Read “Death of a Dinosaur” here.)
- An open office space – Walls keep ideas and relationships closed off. Millennials want to be connected. Rethink your space, environment really matters here.
For teambuilding activities to be effective with millennials, they should be high-energy, innovative, creative, interactive, collaborative, engaging, and insightful. Some examples include:
- Social Activities – Millennials are highly interactive, and prefer opportunities to connect with others, so getting out of the office can be immediately rewarding.
- Community Involvement – Millennials want to impact the world around them. They want to add value and make a difference. Always be sure that has a worthwhile purpose with outcomes that actually make a difference.
- Engagement – Millennials enjoy being present and engaged. Constructing something as a team is a good idea, or using activities to focus on a problem that will require the entire team in order to succeed. Millennials love to solve problems and to come up with new approaches, so tap this energy in your next team building event. Check out our alignment workshop where we do exactly that!
Activities to avoid:
- Sports – Managers often turn to golf, softball, or paintball as a group bonding experience. Sports tend to encourage aggressive behavior, focused on destroying the other side, while teambuilding leverages competition to drive the collective team to higher levels of success. Be sure to leverage the millennials love of competition in ways that build a strong and cohesive team, not aggression.
- Singled Out – Avoid activities in which one team member is singled out, with his or her performance independent of the rest. Not only does this risk embarrassing and alienating the individual, but it does little to help the collective strength of the team. Find ways to explore the individual strengths within the team, without putting individuals on the spot (such as Behavioral Assessments).
There are many reasons to celebrate this new generation of workers. They invite us into flexible thinking, challenge the status quo, expect to have a life, and invite us to do the same. It seems to me they are setting a great example for us as business leaders!
Next time you have a complaint about millennials, look in the mirror. It’s possible that it is not them. Maybe it’s time for you to also embrace some fun, flexibility and collaboration!
About Alicia Marie
Alicia Marie, Founder and Managing Director of People Biz, Inc., has become a national leader in the field of leadership development. She founded People Biz, Inc. in 2000, with the intention of providing total personal and professional development solutions for individuals, teams and organizations. She specializes in creating customized programs based on desired outcomes that include learning vehicles such as training, professional coaching and consulting.