With each generation that enters the workplace, entrepreneurs must adapt to the ever-growing multi-generational office culture. According to a recent Deloitte Millennial Survey, millennials, or Gen Y will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Millennials (born 1980 to the mid-1990s) bring to the workplace a combination of tech savviness, social attitude, optimism and a desirable ability to multi-task.
Conversely, millennials also have the unfortunate reputation of possessing a sense of entitlement or a poor work ethic. Many are labeled for having ubiquitous helicopter parents, a desire for instant gratification, or a need for an award or medal, just for showing up.
In order to work in harmony with this generation, it’s important not to stereotype, but to focus on a common goal and figure out how all generations can work together. Here are five ways to bridge the gap:
1. Focus on being a mentor.
Designate an “open door” policy where millennials feel welcome to ask questions. Don’t be surprised if they appreciate your sterling advice as well as your constructive criticism. Frequent feedback keeps them on track and increases their feeling of being valued. Many were raised by parents who valued their opinions and instilled in them the self-determination to achieve high goals. Tap into their inquisitiveness and give them projects that will foster their creativity.
2. Re-evaluate your incentives.
Promises of promotions and lofty titles don’t usually motivate the millennial to work harder. Millennials not only like to be rewarded, they want to select their award. Reward millennials with tangible incentives that bring immediate gratification, such as work-life balance, professional development opportunities, community-impact projects and the latest technological devices that boost engagement and encourage happiness. Use point-based programs where points can be redeemed for goods, and social-engagement incentives to build relationships.
3. Respect their independence.
Appreciate the unique ways in which millennials work. Many of them desire the freedom of autonomy; to work together in small groups to collaborate and brainstorm for the best results. Millennials are great at fleshing out ideas, asking for guidance and bringing fresh ideas to the table.
4. Answer the “why.”
There was a time when employees didn’t question a manager’s directives or decisions. Millennials, on the other hand, are sure to ask “why” before getting to work. Be prepared to share why you are asking them to do something, or why the company has made a specific decision. Better yet, include them in the decision-making process. Their ideas may lead to a bright new option or outlook.
5. Utilize their innovation.
Due to the huge advances in technology and efficiency, millennials are plugged in nearly all hours of the day. They enjoy spending their time on text messages, YouTube videos, Instagram photos and Google searches, so consult with them on how your company could benefit from trending technology. The world is virtually a few clicks away and they have the ingenuity, knowledge, innovation and passion to help you keep your products and services current and relevant.
Ask millennials during the hiring process what they can contribute to your company. Most will likely respond by saying they are reliable, team oriented and results driven. By engaging their youthful idealism, they will breathe new energy into projects and will make you and your company look good in the process.