Creating a Win-Win with Millennial Employees in Nonprofits

Love ’em or hate ’em, millennials — born between 1980 and 2000 — are this country’s future. According to a newly released report by Deloitte, they make up one out of every three workers in the United States and will account for 75% of the workforce by 2025. Although corporate types have complained about their lack of commitment and constant need for hand-holding, nonprofit types have reason to rejoice — 60% of millennials are looking for jobs with purpose, making them prime candidates for the work we do daily. Instead of focusing on what millennials aren’t, the social sector can harness their energy to get what organizations want and need. Here are a few ideas we can borrow and tweak from the corporate world to help us maximize millennials’ talents:

Nonprofits Want: Results
Millennials Have: Desire for Achievement

As we’ve said in past blogs, the social sector is evolving, with a greater focus on delivering results and proving the impact our programs have on those we serve. Millennials are a perfect target to help the social sector reach its goals. They have been primed for progress. They are used to getting constant feedback, love recognition and want to advance. Nonprofits can direct these energies toward organizational performance targets.​

Example: Consulting firm, Accenture, has abandoned their annual performance review in favor of regular check-ins. With the help of our friends at WorkMonger, we have documented the best practices for effective performance reviews.

Nonprofits Want: Collaborators
Millennials Have: Years of Practice in Group Work

The name of the game in the nonprofit world today is collaboration. Government and private funders are encouraging it; nonprofits are merging to capitalize on efficiencies; and partnerships abound! There is no generation that has been better prepared for the demands of collaboration like millennials. From the day they entered kindergarten, they were put in groups and asked to work together to achieve common goals. They are also the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history — and greater diversity in teams leads to better results.

Example: Accenture’s Arlington, VA, office has tried to capitalize on millennials’ desire for collaboration by creating an office space that sparks a healthy balance of group discussion and individual thought. By designating fluid “hoteling” work spaces, millennials and other employees are free to move around the office to create synergies that improve the firm’s work product and environment.

Nonprofits Want: More Entrepreneurial Staff
Millennials Have: Purpose

The key cost driver (and differentiating advantage!) in the social sector is talent. It seems we never have enough to fund all the projects we want to implement, and our infrastructure is what often suffers most since unrestricted dollars are so highly coveted. Good news for nonprofits: millennials care less about their titles and salaries than their ability to take on meaningful projects that make a difference. Try to leverage this enthusiasm and turn it into real outcomes through cross-functional work, stretch opportunities and leadership experience. I am proof positive that treating younger employees as social intrapreneurs for your organization will lead to amazing results.

Example: Software company Cornerstone OnDemand has leveraged millennials’ passion by allowing employees to start various groups in the workplace to address both personal interests and professional needs. Nonprofit managers can use this idea to start ad hoc groups that address some of the organization’s pressing needs and create a cadre of intrapreneurs continuously working to improve the workplace.

Millennials present a great opportunity for the social sector — never before have we seen such a talented, diverse group of changemakers motivated by purpose and a desire to work together to change the world. In addition to seeing them as donors, nonprofits should invest in revamping their talent strategy to attract and retain this talented generation long-term as a force for good. We are always looking for creative ways to engage millennials and other employees in the workplace. If you have great examples of ways you have been successful at harnessing the talent of millennials, we invite you to share them.

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