By: Daniel Newton, IQTP Senior Associate and Millennial Employee

Millennials suck! But, we’re awesome, too. As a member of the Millennial generation, and a full-time recruiter of mostly Millennials, I’m an expert on how to get the most out of us in the workplace. Once you know what makes us tick, you’ll find we’re just like any other generation before us: we have some bad eggs, yet we also have some gems who will change the world. The difference between the previous generations is the extremes. The good: they are more passionate and caring than their predecessors and will work twice as hard as anybody before them. The bad: they will be upfront with how entitled and lazy they are. We are statistically on par with every generation that came before us, so we are no better or worse; we’re just more honest about it.

With unemployment at near-record lows and Millennials making up the largest portion of today’s workforce, you’ll be hiring lots of Millennials to grow your company. I’ve taken the liberty to assist you with the ways you can manage us to optimize our labor and help make your company better than it was before we joined it.

1. MAKE US ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, NOT PERMISSION

According to educators, the largest difference in students over the last 30 years is that Millennials are more stressed and more afraid to make mistakes. We want to be told we did it right, not scolded for being different. During the early part of the 21st century, our education system moved to a culture of standardized testing and a “no child left behind” mentality. Because of this change, we were taught through school that obedience and meeting standards are better than being creative and following our interests. This shift resulted in a generation who is afraid to be different and make mistakes.

You may encounter the following scenario with the average Millennial. When a challenge arises, and the Millennial employee does not take initiative, you think, “Why wouldn’t they just handle this instead of standing around and waiting to be told what to do?” The answer? We have been programmed to not take initiative or “handle a situation.” We were taught that all we need to do is what is expected of us, and that’s what gets us our recognition and means a job well done. We need you, our employer, to break us of this mentality. The next time you have that Millennial employee who doesn’t take charge, encourage him or her to step up by saying, “I won’t be mad if you aim high and miss; I’ll be mad if you aim low and hit.”

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We are used to authority figures telling us what we need to do to be successful from their perspective. But, we actually want to break free, take charge, and make a difference; we just don’t always know how. By encouraging us through our mistakes and coaching us along the way, we will soar with the freedom you give us and relish the independence we desperately want but never really had. If we know we have your support, we will take control to fix and solve problems before they happen. We can change how you operate with our innovation and technical knowledge.  Once you’ve broken of us our instinct to duck initiative and instead given us the confidence to take charge, we will definitely pass it on to the more junior colleagues at the office. We look after each other very well; it’s one of our many strengths.

Millennial Employee Takeaway #1: School programmed us to be obedient, and we don’t know better. Let us have control to make mistakes, support us through this process, and help us feel empowered.

2. MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING

Millennials are loyal, and we value trust. If a company can prove itself to be loyal and trustworthy to its employees and customers, it will mean just as much as the amount of money in a paycheck.

The practice of overtime and the offer of more money to combat higher stress and longer hours at the office does not resonate with us. We want a balance, and we want to make a difference in society more than we desire slightly larger paychecks. We want to live before we settle down. We have decided that we don’t need to be married at 23 with a child on the way to be happy. We want those things, too, but we want to have some life experience first.

Consider other ways, besides a traditional salary/overtime structure, to create employee engagement: team cohesiveness, schedule flexibility, extracurriculars in the office, positive environments, the impact the company is making in the world, and the overall vibe and corporate culture of the office. Our generation doesn’t want to “show up and make a paycheck.” We want to enjoy what we do and who we work with. By focusing on these alternative forms of employee benefits and engagement alongside a monetary compensation platform, you will yield a much higher return from your Millennial workforce.

Millennial Employee Takeaway #2: We work to live, not live to work. Money isn’t our main motivation all the time. Focus on creating a culture with great work-life balance and our productivity will exceed all your expectations.

3. UNDER PROMISE AND OVERDELIVER

I mentioned above that we Millennials are loyal and value trust. That characteristic can be a double-edged sword for our employers. If we trust you to hold up your end of the bargain and you can’t deliver on time, we will remember.

If you think we can earn a promotion in 6 months with hard work, then tell us it may take 12 months. If you promise a promotion in 6 months, and it ultimately takes 12, we will become unhappy and feel misled. However, we won’t leave the job or be upset if it takes a longer time than we’d hoped to achieve a career goal as long as you’ve been open and honest with us. We won’t be disappointed if you tell us our next step is a distance away; we will work toward it. We will try our best to prove ourselves, and we will take consistent feedback to become a better employee.

As a full-time recruiter, I’ve seen many candidates who were promised the moon, and then when it came time to deliver on those promises, the ol’ “it’s not quite your time yet, but soon” routine came their way and my candidates were not happy. When employers oversell a Millennial employee, we feel our loyalty has been abused when the employer doesn’t fulfill the commitment. Even if you can’t give us that raise or promotion you said was in the future, be truthful with us about the situation and give us a new timeline. Keep us engaged and talk to us about next steps. We can handle a longer waiting period as long as we know we can achieve our goal in the end. If you try to motivate us with a promise you can’t fulfill in the original time frame, we will remember, and we will look for a new opportunity elsewhere. The under-delivery of promised promotions is the number one reason I see top talent leaving companies on a daily basis!

Millennial Employee Takeaway #3: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. We are patient, but we don’t like being misled.

4. MOVE US AROUND AND LET US LEARN

We grew up with the internet. Where older generations had to work hard to learn a few skills through hands-on experience and trial-and-error, we seek out Google and YouTube to learn anything we want! We’ve even taught our parents how to do this, and now they’re on a tear with DIY projects they learned in a quick search online. It’s a beautiful circle of life.

Unfortunately, this on-demand learning has ruined our attention span. But it’s not because we can’t focus, it’s because there is so much to learn, and we love that! We want to become proficient in something, but instead of doing that one thing for many years, we want to learn a new skill that makes us more well-rounded and a better value to the company. While we typically don’t want to be just a “master of the craft,” we also don’t want to be a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” either. Instead, we like combining mastered skills from multiple crafts to make us more efficient and to find outside-the-box solutions.

As our employer, consider finding ways to give us new challenges and new opportunities to learn. We won’t always ask for these new responsibilities, as sometimes we don’t know the path to get there, but it’s what we want and need to stay engaged and excited about our work.

Through my experience as a recruiter, I’ve had innumerable candidates tell me, “I like my job; it’s a nice place to work, but I’m getting bored, and I don’t know what else to do here.” Likewise, I’ve lost many good candidates after we made them an offer because once they let their current employer know that they’ve pursued other opportunities because they felt stagnant, their employer said “pick a project and you can work on it,” in addition to offering a small raise or other perks such as a flexible work schedule (remember, not always about the money with us).

By continuously challenging the #Millennial employees with new projects, new problems, and new areas to grow, you can avoid a lot of wandering eyes looking for a new challenge outside your company. Get more tips here: Click To Tweet

By continuously challenging the Millennial employee with new projects, new problems, and new areas to grow, you can avoid a lot of wandering eyes looking for a new challenge outside your company. You may think we are happy because we are good at our job, everything is running smoothly, and we aren’t mentioning our desire for something new. But you’d be surprised by how many of us are ready, willing, and truly desire to tackle the next big responsibility.

Millennial Employee Takeaway #4: We get bored. Challenge us. We want to grow.

5. FUEL OUR FIRE IN PRIVATE, NOT PUBLIC

One criticism we often hear about the Millennial generation is that we were raised in the era of participation trophies, making us soft. The attitude of “you do your best to win” was replaced with “it’s all about having fun and being a part of the team.” The fact is, we aren’t as motivated to go out and beat everyone else as older generations were conditioned to do. We are more interested in enjoying ourselves and just doing the best that we can. Truthfully, social media is where we compete to make ourselves look better than everyone else, not in the work environment.

The old tactics of singling out top performers and praising one individual’s success to the group really doesn’t inspire us. We aren’t inspired to work hard and surpass that one person. We really don’t need to be “the best.” Instead, we prefer to be a part of a group and add to great work culture. We will support our colleagues when they need help, instead of forcing them to figure it out alone as a tactic for self-promotion.

If you want to get us fired up and motivated, do it in a personal and private conversation with us. Telling the whole company how awesome Bill is at a company meeting or bragging about Kim in an email won’t make us work harder to be like them. Rather, sit down with us one on one. Tell us about the potential you see in us and what you think we can achieve.  Remind us that it’s not about keeping up with everybody else, but finding the contributions we can offer if we really set our mind to it and put in the hard work.

For Millennials, the coach (employer) who tells the team to “suck it up,” to keep going when tired, and that the “other team will crush you if you don’t work harder,” doesn’t resonate with us. In our generation, we work harder for a coach (employer) who tells the team “Don’t stop; I know you can get there,” or “This is making you better every second you fight through this pain!” We respond when the coach (employer) congratulates us as we’ve shown improvement at different stages of preparation and execution, not just when we’ve won. Often, Millennials will quit on the coach (employer) with the first coaching style and find an alternate team (job).

Millennial Takeaway #5: Motivate us individually; we aren’t motivated by others’ success in comparison to our own. Social media has caused us to be very self-conscious, and we need regular positive reinforcement.

I understand we Millennial employees can be challenging. The days of employees joining a company and staying there until they retire are over, and this revolving door of talent can be very difficult to manage.

But as millennials, we are more passionate, tech-savvy, and well-rounded than our parents. They aren’t bad and we’re not better; we’re just different and have different options and opportunities. We have some downside, but we also have a lot more upside than older generations due to the number of opportunities and technological advantages given to us.

You built this world for us, so who better to navigate it and conquer it than us? If you try implementing some of these methods for managing Millennials, you might find our output is more than you thought possible. Keep an open and transparent dialogue with us throughout the process; we love communicating and even more, we love talking about ourselves! Together, we can create a work environment where the company succeeds and the employees thrive.