Millenials: Shaking Up the Workplace

Articles
May 14, 2010

Millenials: Shaking Up the Workplace

Millenials, the next generation to enter the workforce, are bringing a new attitude to the business world and turning traditional management practices upside down. Finding the right approach to recruitment and mentoring this next generation will be critical in the years to come as the leading edge of this generation begins showing up for work.

Millenials, the next generation to enter the workforce, are bringing a new attitude to the business world and turning traditional management practices upside down. Finding the right approach to recruitment and mentoring this next generation will be critical in the years to come as the leading edge of this generation begins showing up for work.

The supermarket industry stands poised to benefit from this new generation of workers who are empowered by positions that tangibly affect the community at large and are eager to work in collaborative teams to affect change. Harnessing the energy of this generation with innovative employee programs such as mentoring, internal work/social networks for collaborative brainstorming, and projects that tap into their technological competencies will allow for a wealth of new innovation in supermarkets and CPG companies in the decade to come. 

Born between the early 1980s and 2000, Millenials were born into a world of technology and collaboration. They have been involved in the decision making process in their families since childhood. From determining what technology to purchase to helping devise family vacations, this generation is one that is grounded in collaborative efforts and focused on having their own voice.

Debra Fiterman, Millenial Associate at generational consulting firm BridgeWorks, says Millenials are bringing their idiosyncrasies and expectations to the workplace. These include demands for a good job in a stimulating environment. 

To the skeptic generations that precede them, this generation may appear to have a sense of entitlement. Fiterman explains this away pointing to the way Millenials were raised with parents who told them to find meaning in their work.

“They are very thirsty to have meaning in their careers,” Fiterman says.

The M-Factor,
 a new book by BridgeWorks’ founders, Lynne Lancaster and David Stillman, outlines the seven trends about how the Millennial generation is rocking the workplace. 

This 76-million-strong generation requires a new approach to both recruitment and management, and since it’s the fastest growing segment of workers today, it’s critical to hone your company’s hiring and training methodology.

Recruiting 101

The key to recruitment with this generation is to go where they are – online. This means not only having a Web presence for recruitment, but having a “cool, interactive” approach to online recruitment. For example, develop recruitment post that not only outline job responsibilities, but uses language that illustrates the role the employee will have in the company’s mission.

“They want to know something about the organization,” Fiterman explains. “So many job descriptions are just so ‘day-to-day’ descriptive. Connect the dots for Millenials and it will go a long way.”

Fiterman suggests utilizing existing Millenials in your operation to assist in drafting job descriptions.

“The older generations writing the ads are so cut and dry,” she says. “Millenials need to know how their role connects with the bigger picture.”

Entitlement Versus Empowerment
Older generations forced to tackle Millenials’ approach to the workplace may dismiss Bridgeworks’ research struggling to pinpoint the fulfilling mission of entry-level positions. Fiterman explains the approach to this is much simpler than it sounds. 

“A lot of companies or managers are saying, ‘I don't work for the United Way,’ when we show them the research,” she began. “They think they cannot appeal to Millenials. But it's amazing what we have found when we ask this group ‘how do you find meaning in your job?’”

Responses such as, “knowing that my job helps my team” or “knowing how my role in the company helps my customers” illustrate the point. The good news for the food industry is that the end-user – the consumer – is a clear beneficiary.

“In this industry Millenials might find meaning with statements such as, ‘I am glad that I am working for a company that is providing a healthy option for moms.’ Or it could be a convenience issue,” Fiterman explains. “The supermarket has an obvious connection. It's easy to see how you are helping people in their day to day lives. But again, it’s so obvious to people who have been there for a while they don't bother to explain it.”

Another key element to keeping this generation involved and inspired is having a collaborative approach to work. This is a team-working, collaborative generation. Millenials raised to be collaborators with their parents, teachers and peers are now looking for leaders willing to collaborate with them on creating meaning in what they do.

“Think about how they have been treated in their households as the experts and consultants. Think about technology purchases in their homes, Millenials have been key in these purchasing decisions. Now they get to the workplace and they are being told they cannot make decisions,” Fiterman explains. 

It’s important for managers to understand that while they want input, they also understand who makes the final decision. What this generation wants is to be asked and know that their opinion has been heard.

“One of the best ways to get them engaged is to make them the expert position or the go-to person on something. It can be a small project, but make them the leaders,” Fiterman says.

They are not a generation who adheres to the motto of “speak when spoken to” instead they demand feedback which can sometimes be translated as a weakness by generations unfamiliar with their approach. Fiterman stresses that asking these employees what they need to accomplish their goals will empower them to perform. They’ll also be on the ready to provide feedback to their managers as well, flying ideas up the ladder.

“It’s a generation that’s been coached and mentored since they were very young,” Fiterman concludes. “They have been taught the importance of a mentor. That’s great news for managers. Figure out a way to make the time to mentor this generation and you’ll have truly engaged employees.”