How to Leverage Millennial Strengths

Fierce Ideas (purple lightbulb)

Statistics show that millennials now make up more than half of the current workforce.

And in case you haven’t noticed, millennials have received a wave of criticism recently in the news, via social media and in the workplace. This recent uptick in criticism is no doubt connected to the rise in working millennials who are mixing and mingling with individuals from previous generations.

Workplace friction has resulted. Older generations may be stumped as to how to accommodate and deal with the supposed millennial mentality, while millennials may be feeling frustrated, marginalized and unappreciated by their employers.

A recent blog from Born Again Minimalist goes so far as to say that millennials are experiencing a type of cultural gaslighting: “Generations before us completely drove the bus into a lake and it’s somehow our fault everybody’s drowning...the millennial generation has been tasked with fixing the broken system we inherited and chastised for not doing it right or for daring to suggest improvements.”

You might've seen the viral video featuring Simon Sinek who shared his take on the difficulty of managing millennials in the workplace. According to Sinek, millennials are perceived as lazy and entitled, but he stresses that their desire for meaningful work combined with their innovative mindset can be a genuine benefit. He argues that the millennial mentality has been largely influenced by unfortunate environmental factors outside of their control—including poor leadership and failed parenting—and advises corporations to make structural changes that nurture rather than alienate the younger workforce.

Whether you agree or not with Sinek’s advice to the millennial generation and to the companies they work for, it’s important to shift your perception to one that will allow you to work with rather than against what you’re observing about individuals in your work environment. The “one of us is right and the other is wrong” mentality will work against any positive result you’re trying to produce.

Regardless of which generation you identify with, here are a few ways you can take a courageous step in leadership and improve work relationships between generations:

Harness the creative vision.

In all endeavors, there is a gap that exists between where we are and where we want to be. Millennials often deeply feel the impact of this gap. Knowing that things can be improved and feeling passionate about that improvement comes with ideas for creative solutions to what may be painful problems, on both a global level and within the domestic workplace. An effective way to leverage this creativity and passion is to invite perspective—start the conversation that allows younger generations to share their vision of the future and the ideas they have that may potentially change the course of organizational decisions. Approach these conversations with the mentality that all perspectives are valuable and valid.

Request ideas for improving company culture.

As you may know, a desirable workplace culture can boost company reputation in addition to recruiting and expansion efforts. If millennials now make up over half of today’s workforce, their input is crucial to creating the kind of environment that attracts and retains workers from their generation. Take actionable steps to gather their ideas—consider implementing a suggestion box, appointing a culture committee with millennial members, hold company-wide meetings that allow the opportunity to share ideas and send out surveys or feedback forms prior to and following social company events.

Meet the desire for instant gratification.

The mentality of wanting results now rather than later is often associated with millennials. Fortunately, this can be an asset rather than a detriment. If this mentality is something you’re currently witnessing in the workplace, leverage it by delegating tasks that require the employee to develop efficient processes. The millennial “need for speed” can present plenty of opportunity for increased productivity, reduced spending, improved technology and faster results. And for someone who wants instantaneous achievement, this type of delegation can be incredibly gratifying. Ask questions such as:

What technology is available that we aren’t using that could potentially improve our process?

Is there a way we could make a specific process faster or more efficient?

What are some benchmark goals we can set for the very near future?

As with previous generations, the younger generation has important insight and perspective to offer, particularly for organizations that want to grow and progress. Set the intention today to maximize rather than resist the unique millennial mindset.

What has been your experience working with millennials? Share your story below, and let us know whether you’re a millennial or from another generation.