Three years ago, millennials became the largest generation in the American workforce, making up more than 35% of American workers. While you may see “hit pieces” on millennials, poking fun at them with stories about avocado toast, laziness and mooching, and participation trophies, these stereotypes don’t live up to my observations of the millennial generation.
The list of products, businesses, and industries millennials are “killing” grows with each writer and blogger’s need to put words to page. Any businessperson worth their salt will recognize that some of these killed items are simply the inevitable outcome of creative destruction, an economic idea that industries change for the better by destroying the old to bring about the new. It’s why we no longer have buggy whip makers in an age of automobiles.
I’m not a millennial, writing to defend my generation here. Even by the most generous timeline, I miss being one by about two weeks. I have, however, led millennials in the workplace, and that experience makes me optimistic about how they will save your business… If you adapt it to becoming a more sustainable endeavor.
As millennials overtook Baby Boomers as the dominant generation at work, a Gallup pollfound that only 34% of American workers are engaged at work. That means that nearly seven of the ten sitting just outside your office are likely not. This disengaged workforce certainly isn’t helping productivity, though there is hope, and it rests on the shoulders of our largest segment of the workforce, the millennial generation.
Luckily, I’m not alone in seeing the high quality attributes of this cohort. Millennials excel when working as part of a team. They use the latest technology and adapt to innovations with ease. Most importantly, they want their efforts to have meaning and purpose. They value their work with as much or more importance as their family, when thinking about their dream. To not tap into this passion is a big mistake.
After decades of management practices focused on reports, endless meetings, and performance reviews, we find ourselves unable to tap that potential in this generation. They feel ground into dust by the aforementioned interactions with their boss. Their desire for meaning and purpose in their work requires that we move away from the WHAT that we do to focus on the WHY that motivates us to do it. If you’ve read Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why,” you already have a head start on understanding how to lead your team, especially the youngest players on it.
By sharing, exemplifying, and leading the mission and purpose of the work, you motivate them to buy into the vision of your team, rather than seeing it as a quick stop on their journey to their ultimate career. Their buy-in leads to a stronger affective commitment to the organization. Couple that commitment with their blended work and social spheres and the skills they bring with them, and you can build a company swimming with talented millennials onboard for the long term. Their desire for the work they do to have meaning is met when you cast the vision of your mission.
Luckily, this desire for purpose goes beyond the workplace into purchase decisions. In addition to having your team unified behind your mission, you will also have an edge when marketing your brand to the millennial generation. Not only that, the rock star millennials on your team will also be your greatest evangelists. This is key to a demographic who doubts the advertisements they view and hear, preferring the recommendation of someone within their network.
So, when do we start outlining your mission and communicating that to your team?
You can find me on LinkedIn here.