Staff Development

How to Use Communication to Engage Millennials and Inspire Top Performance

May 23, 2017 3:31 pm

Last year, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the United States, with an estimated population of more than 74 million, according to the Pew Research Center. Many Millennials today still struggle with the negative characterization of being deemed the “lazy” or “entitled” generation.

From my experience, many of these young professionals are simply misunderstood, and this misunderstanding is based on false assumptions. I’ve had the opportunity to directly mentor and employ Millennials over the last several years in the healthcare IT and healthcare business fields.

In my time overseeing senior capstone projects at Ohio Northern University’s Dicke College of Business, one group sought to give themselves more accurate representation of “The Millennial Truth.”

In this video, future employers can see that Millennials know the stereotypes they’re working against. They’re volunteering for worthy causes, feeling grateful for unpaid internships, and trying to make the organizations they work for stronger.

If you’re a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer who wants to start bridging the gap with Millennials, try to remember what life was like when you started out in the workplace. You had something to prove and wanted to be respected while leveraging your hard-earned education. You wanted a company and your manager to give you a chance so you could make a difference.

Although older generations grew up with different defining cultural events and economic standards, they can relate to the core motivation to want to lay a career foundation. So, what can employers do to eliminate this generational gap? Consider these five steps to improve employee understanding and motivation, inspired by direct feedback from our Millennial workers. 

  • Allow flexibility, but require responsibility. When possible, allow remote work for higher employee morale while keeping workers accountable for project measurables and timelines.

What Millennials say:

“Having the opportunity to work from home can be very empowering. It enables me to strengthen my time-management skills while allowing some individual freedoms that do not come with the suit, office, and a standard 9 to 5. For instance, I like to spend my lunch doing yoga in my living room … remote work allows me to be just as efficient as I would be in a cubicle, if not more so, while also providing the space to feel creative.”

  • Trust, and avoid micromanagement. Be clear with your expectations, but allow young professionals to be creative. Guide them, but don’t belittle them or take tasks from them.

What Millennials say:

I don’t look for paper-pushing jobs. I want to work in an organization where I can make a difference and have a stake in its direction. As Millennials, we grew up in a time where we were told that we can make a difference, so give us the chance to prove ourselves.”

“I truly value a company that allows me to grow as a professional. Give me the confidence and trust to make my own path. I had a previous employer that always had its thumb on me. It didn’t allow me to grow, learn, succeed, or even fail. This stifled my will to excel, and the workplace was no longer enjoyable.”

  • Teach process, workflow, and patience, knowing that Millennials are inherently good with technology. Focus on making employees well-rounded with experience and best practices in hand. Millennials’ natural technology depth will work to your advantage in finding next-level solutions.

What Millennials say:

I am working on a project that allows me to show off my knowledge about the customer experience, but it also helps others to learn, grow, and better themselves as professionals. This project also ties into the Millennial generation and how customer experiences have changed due to technology and generational differences. It’s an opportunity that not many companies would allow a new employee to take on.”

  • Have real discussions where you listen, acknowledge their expertise and training, and allow them to try things when it seems reasonable. Millennials seek feedback for their hard work. They’re also looking for a reward when it’s due. They are willing to put in extra work to get to that next level of acknowledgement, so give credit when credit is due for providing genuine value for the company.

What Millennials say:

“I enjoy working for a company that will try new things to help us work the most effectively. Employers need to be futuristic and understand that things change, so you have to change with the times to stay current.”

“I look for an environment where there is potential for me to grow my skills and responsibility while also earning rewards for the hard work I put in.”

  • Provide open communication and set them up for success. As a boss, state reasons why you feel the way you do or why you’ve come to a conclusion and teach about it as needed. If there are knowledge gaps where new employees are concerned, don’t leave them to fail. Give them the proper training and hands-on experience to help them grow.

What Millennials say:

“Time and financial investments were made to ensure that I had all of the right tools to become an expert in my field. It makes an employee feel valued when an employer takes a risk on you, trusting that you will be a future asset.”

Today’s young professionals may be younger than you are, but that doesn’t dull their potential value to a workplace. Use their inherent tech savvy and creative thinking to propel your company into the future while aligning the company’s goals with their professional goals. With this mind-set, your company will operate more effectively. 

Sheri Stoltenberg is founder and CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, a healthcare information technology (HIT) consulting firm. She has 35+ years of HIT professional experience and serves as an active member of the advisory board of the Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University. 


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