Ultimate Software's Blog

Live from #UltiConnect 2013: 4 Ways Today’s Business Leaders Can Embrace Millennials

Millennials. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them. But some business leaders would like to think that they could. Or at least that’s what some business leaders think. Words like lazy, entitled, impatient, spoiled and naive are tossed in the general direction of the Millennials coming into the workforce.

But thinking that way is so 2010. The Millennial generation is the future of business! Literally.

Today, there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the US, and by the year 2020, they’ll comprise roughly 50% of the workforce. So it’s imperative that we, as business leaders, rethink our “World of Work”, because the Millennial generation’s expectations are definitely different.

This week, at Ultimate Software’s Connections Conference in Las Vegas, Lisa Sterling – Senior Director of People Engagement at Ultimate Software, provided some practical tips and insights for embracing Millennials in the workplace, including:

Understand what motivates the Millennial generation. Salaries and benefits are still important, but when it comes to Millennials, they’re very focused on work and workplaces with a compelling purpose. Does your company support the environment, provide opportunities to volunteer in the community or support philanthropic initiatives? Can employees see a connection to the Company’s results with their own efforts? If so, your organization may be more attractive to Millennials in terms of both recruiting and retention than your industry counterparts.

Rethink the “HOW” of communicating. Millennials are hyper-connected. They prefer texting or instant messaging to talking on the phone. They’ve grown up in a world where answers are available in seconds just by texting or tweeting someone, or asking Google or Wikipedia. They thrive in a world of instant feedback and information – and on their own terms. Leading organizations are figuring out ways to embrace this need for constant communication through the use of online social collaboration tools like Yammer, Chatter, Jive, in-house systems, etc. Harnessing the opportunity to share ideas and connect with others throughout the company can produce extremely positive and creative results.

Rethink development programs and training. In general, Millennials view their careers differently than past generations. They’re not looking for a company to join and commit to for the rest of their working life. They’re interested in “portfolio careers” and are seeking opportunities where they can grow and develop – both personally and professionally – and have a wide variety of experiences. Sitting through a multi-day training class is uninteresting to them. They’re more interested in experiential learning opportunities and on demand or self-paced learning. Effective delivery of training and development programs of the future (and today) might include podcasts, YouTube videos or Google Hangouts. The Millennial workforce may prefer to consume this content on a Saturday afternoon while taking a hike or during their commute to work. They’re interested in career opportunities that work with their lifestyle, so why not create ways to allow them to blend their work and life as a part of growing their careers?

Provide more feedback/increase frequency. According to a recent MTV study, over half of Millennials want feedback on their work performance at least once per week. Traditional annual Performance Reviews? Not appealing. If this is where your organization is at currently, consider a small step such as moving annual Performance Reviews to semi-annual, or quarterly, and focus discussions on the employee’s “Journey” towards achieving Goals, not solely on the Goals themselves. Track what they’re working on as well as how they’re getting there and provide continuous feedback. Millennials don’t want to wait for a performance review once per year. They’d prefer to have continuous feedback from managers and peers – because they want to be able to make changes and perform better.

To embrace the Millennial generation in today’s workplace, not every company has to have unique spaces and activities for their employees. It’s more about evolving our current workplace policies and practices to meet the needs and expectations of the incoming generations.

In the future, they’ll be the generation trying to figure out how to deal with their successors. So teach them well!