This article was originally published on Forbes by Tony DiCostanzo
Author and launchbox founder Dan Negroni says millennials aren’t the problem; chances are, the trouble is with how you’re managing them.
By now you probably heard the rumor: The reason the workplace is in deep trouble is because of millennials—you know, those young folks that are frequently maligned as entitled, disloyal, lazy, disinterested, and who make terrible employees.
But is that really true? Are millennials a problem that need to be solved or an opportunity that should be embraced?
Leadership coach and author Dan Negroni suggests the latter. In his book, Chasing Relevance: Six Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace, Negroni argues that it’s high time we start valuing millennials for their fresh viewpoints and strengths, including intelligence, innovation, curiosity, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
This isn’t just a feel-good exercise. As the largest generation in our history, millennials make up 2.4 billion of the world population. They represent 40 percent of today’s workforce (and over 73% of BookPal’s employees), growing to 75 percent of the workforce in the next 10 years. They are the biggest and most powerful customer group today. They are our kids, our workers, and our future. So if you want your business to succeed, you need to figure out how to bridge the gap to attract, engage and retain the next generation of leaders.
The good news is that closing the generation gap will not only benefit your millennials, Negroni says, but it will help you, your business, and all of your employees thrive.
I had the opportunity to sit with Dan to discuss his top six strategies for getting started.
1. Stop whining and start caring
People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. So care! It is a basic human tenet. We need to focus less on complaining and ffinger-pointingand focus more on building relationships.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, conducted over the course of 75 years, concluded that if done right, relationships are essential to human happiness and “will positively affect your health, longevity and quality of a successful life, including your economic success.”
Millennials understand this, but they just haven’t been taught how to best develop these relationships, especially in the workplace. 60 percent consider themselves entrepreneurs, with 90 percent recognizing entrepreneurship as a culture in itself. Almost 67 percent of millennials want to own their own business someday. Yet the rest of us are saying, “I don’t get it. How can we all be the boss, and, if so, then who will do all the work?”
We have to remember that there is magic where youth and experience meet, and that magic has existed since the beginning of time. It doesn’t have to be a power struggle in which we expect millennials to conform to outdated modes of working. If we start busting myths about millennials and understand what they individually want, we can start building the solid relationships that lead to success.
2. Be authentic and stand for something unique
All great brands and companies stand for something distinctive. Millennials want to be a part of greatness. Employers like Nike, Google, and Uber get that. Millennials want to work for companies that reflect who they are. It’s no surprise that Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign widely resonates with millennials.
It’s imperative that we figure out how our business values match those of our millennials. We have to be authentic, because millennials are smart and they see right through the fluff. At BookPal, we established a Cause Committee, comprised of employees from all departments to clarify the company’s purpose. Clearly defining BookPal’s cause has united the staff in new ways and given them purpose beyond just selling books.
Millennials are deciding which businesses live or die: Consider Blockbuster versus Netflix, or the shopping mall versus Amazon, or hotels versus Airbnb.
Economists predict that 75 percent of the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next 10 years. It’s companies like Google, Starbucks, Nike, Apple, Disney, Levi’s, and other brands that tell and sell powerful stories that attract both customers and employees. These companies know who they are and how to communicate that to the world, thus sustaining and growing their business models.
3. Own your stuff
One of Dan’s favorite sayings is “What happens to you is because of you.” Real power comes from teaching an overindulged and “trophied” generation that they too should take responsibility for their actions. How? By example. To make your relationships with millennials stronger, you need to make yourself stronger first. Fulfill your duty to be the best manager possible and take accountability for yourself, your actions and your results.
4. Make them opt in
Today’s business climate is extraordinarily tough and competitive, requiring more creativity, innovation, and better leadership than ever before. Remember that millennials want to be their best. They want responsibility and to help in a purposeful and meaningful way. Hold millennials to their own standards. While setting clear expectations, remind them that they control the trajectory of their career. Allow them to test concepts and fail without judgment, giving constructive feedback along the way, but only if they want it. If your millennials are truly uninterested in doing the work, let them go. Encourage and demand the opt-in, all while demonstrating that the relationship is a two-way street.
5. Get on the same page
Define and align your purpose transparently and create individual, team, and company-wide goals. Communicate and regularly revisit these goals and why they exist. Millennials need to understand “the why” to be inspired. Yes, they like to celebrate successes like all of us, but also like all of us, they just want to know, as best as possible, what road they are on, where it’s going, and what is expected of them.
Involve your employees in ensuring that everyone in your organization is on the same page. Every time you want to open your mouth to tell them what to do, instead pivot, asking them what they would do. Collaborate. Understand that we learn more about relationships from asking questions than any other method. These same techniques are also required for good marriages and successful parenting. It’s no different in the workplace.
6. Mentor like a coach
Coaches learn early on that each individual is unique, and if they want to lead, bond, and win as a team, they must respect each individual’s differences. Whether it’s your salespeople, engineers, or accountants, all of whom have different purposes, they all share the same desire to be recognized for their individual strengths along with the strengths of the team.
How often do you even think about your team and how to get results from each individual on his or her terms? Chances are not enough. The more you work on leveraging the strengths of your individual team members, the better your employees will respond.
Launch Your Plan Now
Studies show that 30 percent of organizations lose 15 percent or more of their millennial workforce annually, and it can cost companies up to $25,000 to replace each millennial. And only 22.9 percent of organizations have a plan in place to engage millennials and future generations. It’s time to step up.
By creating genuine connections in your workplace, you’ll foster a collaborative environment that empowers your employees to be accountable, focus on results and deliver value.
We know our ability to attract, train, manage, and retain this next generation of leaders is critical to the future success of our businesses. Let’s create results by caring more—not being careless.
Interested in learning more about bridging the gap between millennials and managers? Here’s your chance! Grab your copy of Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage and Maximize Next Generation Leaders in the Workplace.