Three Latest Ways to Engage Millennials at Work

With Millennials outnumbering Baby Boomers in the workplace, tensions arise as older workers struggle to understand Millennials. Hoping to gain insight into the mind of 19-32-year-olds, Author Silvana Clark spent six weeks living with 120 Millennials at a residential camp. She joined in their team building activities, shared the laundry room and met their parents on visiting day. This diverse group ranged from 19-year-olds entering an Ivy League college to 27-year-old married couples wanting to “give back” to a camp that influenced their lives. Here’s what she learned:

  1. Millennials want constant feedback from busy supervisors on how they measure up at work. Positive feedback of course! Millennials have grown up with mentors and even high school life coaches, so they are used to people building them up and commenting on their accomplishments. What can a supervisor do?  Set aside a very specific time each week when Millennials can meet with supervisors. One company has a weekly 20-minute time during the lunch hour for Millennials and supervisors to meet for casual interaction.

  1. Many Millennials (not all!) lack a strong work ethic. Supervisors give numerous examples of Millennials actually saying, “I don’t do that type of work”, when asked to do a specific task. Many want to set their own assignments and work hours. What can a supervisor do? Be very specific in describing specific job duties during the hiring process.

  1. Yes, they do have a sense of entitlement! Over and over, supervisors share stories of Millennials complaining because they are expected to be at work on time and even dress a certain way. One 26-year-old told his boss, “I have a Master’s degree…do you really expect me to be an assistant on this project? I should be the leader.” What can a supervisor do? At times tough love is required in letting Millennials know promotions and increased responsibility comes only from demonstrating a willingness to work hard at any job assignment. Prepare a written list of specific tasks to be accomplished for promotions.

Clark, co-author of Millennials vs Boomers, Listen, Learn and Succeed Together, (Sourcebooks, 2016) states, “I’ve been a speaker for over 25 years and have never run into such volatile discussions as when I do a presentation on Millennials in the workplace. One man actually shouted that he would rather have an unfilled position than hire a lazy, apathetic and self-centered Millennial.” The book has the unique format of being a “flip-book”. One side of the book discusses work topics from a Boomer’s perspective. Flip the book over and the same topics are seen from a Millennial’s point of view. Topics include team building, work-life balance, communication and seven other subjects. One book, two viewpoints giving practical tips on how different generations can develop a professional and productive working relationship.

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