Millennials – Are They Really That Bad?

Millennials Are Great Have you ever had those moments when you thought that you may be in the Twilight Zone, but no one else seemed to notice? That was me, sitting in the back of the room at a conference session last week, looking around, prepared to pack up my bag and leave.

But I didn’t.

And here’s why – that would have been exactly what most of the people in that room would expect of a millennial.

Millennials: this younger workforce generation (also known as Generation Y and born mostly between the late 1970s and early 2000s) that is so hard to understand, and one that is full of people only in it for themselves.

As I sat in a room with a few hundred other people in the human resources profession, I thought to myself – if this is what is being said about all of the people in my generation, this has got to be a joke.

Let me debunk the theory that millennials are not fit for the current workforce. They are. In fact, many of us have great qualities that transfer nicely to the workforce.

Here at The Motley Fool, about 25% of our employees are millennials.

So you want to know how to recruit and retain this new scary generation? Allow me to take a few of the thoughts in the presentation I attended and talk you through them:

1)      Millennials are goal-oriented.  Why wouldn’t we be? Since the time we were in the womb, we had to prepare for college and/or the job market. We couldn’t wait until senior year to really take a look at our past academic experiences and figure out what was missing. We had to prepare from middle school on, if not before, and our goal was to get into college or to find a good job. And we all know what type of economy we were experiencing when this happened. Finding a job when most of us exited high school or college was about as hard as finding a needle in a haystack, and for those of us who found jobs we actually liked – well, we hit the lottery.

Possible Solution – Set expectations for millennial employees, and give them feedback often. We may be the generation that needs praise – trust us, we’ve heard that one a time or two – but what employee doesn’t like to be recognized for good work? Here at The Fool, we check in with our new employees at the 30, 60, and 90 day marks, and we have 360 feedback (meaning that anyone in the company can comment on how you are performing at your job) starting at 6 months. Even with this, managers are encouraged to meet with their employees on a routine basis to make sure expectations are set.

2)      Millennials expect more.  Again, why wouldn’t we? Our parents told us from a young age that we could do anything that we put our minds to. But is ambition bad? Within reason, no; name me a company that wants someone to just sit and do the minimum amount of work required, and I will name two that want more out of their employees.

Possible Solution – Ask millennial employees what they expect to get out of their jobs this year. While you may not be able to get them everything they want, you will know where their minds are. Many millennials have skill sets that employers won’t even know about until they ask the employee, and many of us are able to roll with the punches far easier because of our skill set. At The Fool, we take a look at our high performers and ask them what projects they’d like to work on, and whom they’d like to work with. We try to match up our employees’ strengths and passions to their jobs and the projects they work on.

3)      Millennials march to the beat of a different drum. This one surprised me the most at the conference; when the presenter asked the crowd who really wanted their employees to “march to the beat of a different drummer,” I was the ONLY person to raise my hand. Yes, the only. So does that mean that everyone else in the room wanted their employees to be the exact same and to essentially be robotic? Doubtful, but what made them NOT raise their hands?

Possible Solution – Encourage managers to hear out their employees. Even if his or her idea doesn’t fit well into the business or doesn’t add value, explain to the employee why it doesn’t. Millennials crave knowledge. The Fool loves and wants to hear ideas for our business from within. We hold brainstorms all the time, and our executive team holds a meeting every week where they hear new ideas and help to develop the ones that make the most sense to the business.

4)      Millennials want to make a difference. Our ambition, endless questions, goals, and overall out-of-the-box existence shape us into a generation that wants to do something that matters. If your company has a goal and a mission that employees believe in, it is likely that productivity is higher there than at companies whose employees don’t believe in or really care about what the company actually does. Take for example another keynote speaker at this conference – Blake Mycoskie. He founded TOMS Shoes about 6 years ago with a goal in mind: to help give children shoes so that they could go to school and earn an education. And here’s another element to that – he hired people from successful, big-name companies because of his mission. Here at The Fool , we help people invest better, and educate, amuse, and enrich along the way. Helping people to financial freedom is inspiring.

Possible Solution – Show your millennials how their jobs help the company as a whole. Let them know where they fit in. Sometimes millennials get knocked for not enjoying menial work – and here’s why – menial means that what we are doing doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Here, Fools know where they fit in with our company roadmap, and how success at their jobs transfers to a more successful business.

We realize we do things a bit differently at The Motley Fool, and we also realize that we love the fact that our employees think outside the box. Our culture is about entrepreneurship, trying stuff, and yes, in some cases, making mistakes. But if you don’t try, how do you ever know if an idea will succeed or fail?

Millennials may just be those employees that will help push a new idea into implementation because that’s what we have been used to in our lives – we don’t do the things that previous generations always did before us.

In fact, that’s why most employers don’t understand us, and in turn, aren’t able to concentrate and utilize our skill sets.

Here’s my ending thought for you: give millennials a chance. We have here at The Fool, and we will continue to do so.

What millennials bring to the table may just surprise you.

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