7 ways millennials can thrive in your workplace

Nicole Smartt is co-owner and vice president of Petaluma-based Star Staffing.

NICOLE SMARTT, BY NICOLE SMARTT

Millennials are the most educated, connected, and diverse generation yet. They’re challenging us to think differently and reconsider assumptions about current ways of doing things.

They want to make an impact, so you can be sure they’re constantly thinking of new ways to adapt and change.

But are they really all that different? Researchers from George Washington University and the Department of Defense examined generational differences and concluded that meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist in the workplace.

On the flip side, the television show “Survivor” thinks there’s such a difference. This season they’re pitting millennials against generation Xers.

And the chat among the players is that they see themselves very differently too. In the first episode, the gen Xers got their structure built in advance of an oncoming storm while the millennials got to know each other, went for a swim, and then hastily constructed a shelter that wouldn’t hold them.

But maybe the differences are just a function of age and life stage vs. “generational membership.” And maybe we should focus on factors that lead all employees to join, stay, and perform their best on the job — factors such as:

Flexibility. Millennials want and respond to flexible options at the workplace in the same way that other generations do. For different reasons, yes, but if you want to attract them, try to offer some flextime and work-from-home options.

Impact. Organizations that are making an impact on the world and that help employees make a difference too are attractive to millennials. Share charitable giving and industry wins on a company and personal level and it will be valued.

Leverage. Most employees want to do a good job. That means working in a place that will let them leverage their skills — a place that offers the opportunity for them to perform at their best.

Opportunity to learn. Young talent wants to learn from someone with expertise and they want that hands-on experience to happen sooner rather than later. Create opportunities for mentorship, skills acquisition, and co-leadership.

Inclusion. Everyone wants to feel valued at work, especially millennials. There’s nothing worse than feeling as if your boss thinks you have nothing to offer because of your age or inexperience.

Respect. Similar, perhaps, to inclusion. People want to work in a place where they’re respected, valued, and treated fairly. They want their opinions to count, and they want their contributions recognized and rewarded.

Recognition. Whenever possible, add some money to the budget for an incentive program that recognizes achievements in a tangible way. In the current workplace, many workers won’t stay more than three or four years, so they may not see a sizable increase in salary. Recognition tied to performance is immediate and appreciated.

Deloitte’s survey of 7,700 millennials found the business world is just getting it wrong. Forty-four percent of millennials say they’d like to leave their current employers in the next two years, citing a lack of leadership-skill development, feelings of being overlooked, issues around work/life balance and the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values as the reasons.

Whenever possible, empower millennials by offering co-leadership opportunities. Give them a chance to manage or develop a new project that’s important to the company.

Pair a millennial with an experienced person to provide the resources needed for success. This kind of mentoring situation or pairing of new and experienced talent can draw the best out of a fresh mind that sees things in a new way and a more seasoned mind that can draw upon institutional knowledge and life experience.

Millennials are changing the way companies operate. Many desire the things mentioned here and will gravitate toward the companies offering it.

That’s what we hear most from the candidates we interview, especially the millennials. With an all-time low unemployment rate, it’s an employee-driven market. Employees are dictating how companies operate, from company culture to work schedules.

To remain innovative, impactful, and financially competitive, companies will have to go outside their corporate comfort zones to design roles for a millennial-weighted workforce.