Millennials Forge Their Own Paths -- Don't Force Them to Follow Yours

Feb 25, 2016 |

By Smooch Repovich Reynolds

Today’s young professionals crave influence over acknowledgment. They care more about finding meaning and fulfillment in their work than they do about titles, promotions, and raises.

Don’t get me wrong: Millennials want to lead. They just place a higher priority on actionable leadership than résumé-building titles. They crave purpose in their working lives, and they’re happy to let someone else take a fancy new office if it means they can keep getting their hands dirty and making a real difference.

Consider two of the most prominent millennial-driven successes, Uber and Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is now worth billions of dollars, but he didn’t get there by persistently climbing the corporate ladder. Rather, he sought to fill a void he thought needed filled, and in the process of doing so, he revolutionized social media and made a whole lot of money.

Similar to Zuckerberg, Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp sought to address a problem that no one else was working to fix. Uber challenged the norm of consumer transportation, slashing a taxi monopoly that existed for decades.

These notable millennials wanted one thing: to initiate genuine change. And yet, companies continue to treat their youngest employees like any other workers. Leaders expect millennials to climb the same ladders they climbed and feel motivated by the same things that motivated them when they were younger.

Not only does this strategy drive away potentially great workers, but it also stifles the future growth of these businesses.

Making the most of millennial employees

For CEOs, understanding what piques millennials’ interests is the first step toward creating a more innovative, effective workforce. You must acknowledge a millennial’s risk tolerance, problem-solving abilities, and forward-thinking nature, and then give her ample opportunities to demonstrate her unique value.

Of course, the last thing you should do is make generalizations about a demographic. Even within like-minded groups, there will always be differing personalities and outliers. I work closely with three millennials, and each is an individual petri dish of thoughts and passions.

However, for the majority of millennials, these two management techniques will be welcome changes to traditional corporate life:

1. Scrap formal training.

Millennials don’t want to sit and watch 40 hours of dull training videos. They want to learn on the fly and do They’re not afraid to take risks, fail fast, or make mistakes.
Don’t just hang them out to dry with zero training, though. Instead, clearly define their goals, and provide them with the tools they’ll need to get there. In all likelihood, they’ll surprise you by finding a better, more efficient way of accomplishing their tasks — one you never knew even existed.

2. Show them their impact.

For millennials, purpose in work means something radically different than it does to other generations. They don’t believe every career move has to be to a larger cap company with more management responsibility and bigger paychecks. They view advancement as playing a larger, more influential role in a company’s big-picture mission.

This doesn’t mean millennials don’t need to be paid as much as their peers (or that they’re happy to sit at the bottom of the ladder forever); it simply means that if you want your millennial workforce to be the best it can be, help them understand the direct impact their work has on the mission of the company. If you can show your young workers how your company makes the world a better place by solving the problems of the future, you’re illustrating the exact impact they want to see.

Millennials aren’t the enigmas some people make them out to be; they’re just a different breed of professionals. When properly understood, they are people who can help your company grow in ways you would have never imagined yourself.

Invest in your millennial employees, give them opportunities to lead, and solicit their feedback. By providing them with a chance to grow now, you can ensure that the future leaders of your company will be well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Read the full CEO,com article here.