Talent Management

Should Businesses Change to Better Accommodate Millennials?

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Generation Y (also known as Millennials) can seem like a bit of an enigma.

They were still tweens when American Idol first aired, they cringed (and secretly cheered) when Justin Bieber found fame using YouTube, and they grew up alongside Mark Zuckerberg as he went from baby-faced student to billionaire.

Gen Y grew up with messages from society telling them to work hard, because “you can change the future.” The dream for this latest batch of fresh faces to enter the talent pool is distinctly different from that of previous generations.

Accommodating Millennials can be both a blessing and a challenge for the HR function. They often want encouragement but with independence, and want flexibility but in a structured environment.

So should you bother to make changes? How far should they go?

The Zuckerberg effect

A recent UNC survey found that 92 percent of 21-to-24 year olds felt entrepreneurship education was vital to the new economy and job market. You can leverage the innovative ideas this generation is eager to share by coaching them towards entrepreneurial opportunities within your company. Google is the pioneer in this department, famously allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on projects outside of their defined job role.

If you can help your employees find their passion, they’ll be unimaginably successful. The key is to recognize when young employees are getting listless in their jobs. Take the opportunity to coach them into defining their ideal job descriptions, and give them the opportunity to show how they can contribute.

Changes are worth pursuing, but how can you leverage the largely untapped entrepreneurial spirit of your young employees? Try quarterly business improvement pitches to senior management , one-day company idea hack-a-thons, or simply establishing a mold-your-own-job policy so that restless talent feels comfortable proposing ways to shape their role to be a better fit over the long term.

Real-time feedback

By all definitions, Gen Y is a generation of digital natives that live in real-time on the Internet. Making your team comfortable at work means incorporating the digital elements of their external lives into the office environment, and for some businesses this can be a burden.

The capital required to launch new engagement initiatives can be substantial, and the threat to workers from other generations is very much real. Moderate your enthusiasm for Millennials by remembering that while your workplace needs to be prepared for the employees of the future, you also need to effectively manage the team you have today.

Start fostering a culture of open communication with small initiatives. One TribeHR customer, a growing SME in Toronto, has a large screen in their break room that shows progress updates from every member of the team — including the CEO. Change is easier to manage when there’s clear buy-in from the top, but that buy-in isn’t always easy to get—and sometimes it’s not worth trying to get it at all.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director at a customer in the UK tweets regularly, so that his team can always see what he’s thinking about, providing a channel for powerful personal interactions with company leadership in real-time. While you can’t always meet the boss for breakfast, you can always knowing what he’s chewing on — but is it worth the time and effort?

Making it work

Generation Y is transforming the workplace daily, and given the right opportunities, they’re poised to make a hugely positive impact. They’re not only the most highly educated workforce in history, but they also grew up with the world’s information at their fingertips, and an ingrained culture of sharing that information with others.

Above all, Millennials believe in looking for a chance to make a big impact. With the right tools and strategies, you can leverage the young workforce to launch your business into a more social, more knowledgeable, more engaged future. And you don’t have to break the bank doing it.

Generation Y employees are young and restless. Tap into that potential.

Joseph Fung is co-founder and CEO of TribeHR, pioneer of the industry’s first social HR platform and headquartered in Boston and Waterloo, Ontario. Connect with him at joseph@tribehr.com.
  • http://www.facebook.com/minn.spark Mary Chasin

    Good article and thought provoking.

    Gen Y is the future. Anyone who still thinks they can be disregarded is living in a cave. Having said that, boomers (and gen x) bring wisdom born of experience to the future. It isn’t a question of either/or (gen y or boomers) but how to leverage both for better business results and a more engaged workforce.

    This is exactly what this article is proposing, and I like the breakroom progress updates initiative cited. One caveat: figuring out what to change (or not change) and how to effectively integrate it into the business is challenging. Managers who think they can throw a turnkey solution out there are going to be disappointed. This is real culture change and needs to be carefully planned and guided.