Overcoming the Millennial Stigma

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In 2015, millennials will become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Results of a study titled “The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce”found that millennials are considered the best at the key skills to help businesses be agile and innovative, and that their advantages over prior generations include “the ability to adapt, come up with fresh ideas and keep up to date on emerging technology.”

Millennials are also grappling with mountains of student debt and have the highest rate of unemployment. Tim Elmore, CEO of Growing Leaders, talks about “The Young Employee Dilemma” wheremillennials understand three things: the classroom doesn’t get them ready for a real job, the skills needed in a career are not learned or experienced at home, and employers are looking for some experience but most students haven’t held down a job prior to graduation.

This young generation is also no stranger to stigmas. Millennials are often branded as sheltered, entitled and lacking motivation. It’s easy to get swept up into stereotypes and statistics, but by taking a closer look at the youngest workers and understanding what makes them tick, we can tap into this labor force more strategically and overcome those labels.

Millennials are the perfect avenue to bring new thoughts and ideals to the workplace. They seek to apply creativity and innovation to everything they do and genuinely believe they can change the world for the better. This perspective empowers their work, the team they belong to, the organization’s bottom line and future prospects. Millennials are known to work and play well with others, hence the moniker “We Generation.” A heightened sense of community means they collaborate well in a group and seamlessly work alongside boomers.

When expectations are clearly articulated, millennials typically assimilate well. So while reports of free lunch and nap pods have been cited as ways to attract young workers, it’s not truly necessary to turn your business on its head. Think instead about the basics of building a strong cultural foundation that fosters inclusion and empowerment. Here are some ideas.

Rethink the status quo.Create programs and internal structures that encourage and support new ways of thinking and accepting ideas. Make changes that will value and encourage creativity from all employee ranks.

Retool workplace incentives.Reassess employee benefits — what may have been considered absurd years ago may now be an easy way to attract a younger generation. Implement tactics like contests for an extra hour of paid time off or restaurant gift cards to motivate young employees. Flexible work options are also very appealing. Remember that different motivators drive each new set of workers.

Prioritize soft skills.Communication abilities and willingness to solve problems are just as important as the technical aspects of the job. Millennials are a quick study, so put a priority on ambitious and hard-working individuals that will quickly gain the necessary skills to advance.

Be real and make the time.Millennials are quite savvy and can see they are being blown off and lied to. If they ask for feedback, make them feel appreciated by giving them undistracted time and kindly give it to them straight. If you invest in them, they tend to return the favor and give right back.

Hiring millennials is an effective way to bridge the growing skills gap, balance the staffing equilibrium and fill the demands of an ever-evolving workforce. While some retuning may be necessary, attracting these young and ambitious workers should be a relatively painless option to decrease worker shortages. Embrace this valuable and important opportunity to improve your workplace and cultivate new ways of thinking