August 3, 2016, by David McCauley – For veterans-turned-business owners and managers, millennials represent the up-and-coming workforce. Millennials are the largest living generation. They’re a controversial group and everyone seems to have wildly different opinions about them. It’s not uncommon to see articles declaring with gusto that the millennial generation is comprised of slackers who want everything for free. Such talk is insulting and counterproductive to your ultimate goal of engaging millennial employees, managers, and teams. There are two main concepts that will help you understand their mindset and goals. Each can help you can get through to millennials and engage them within your brands and companies.
Recognize and respect their values
“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell
It’s the same struggle that has persisted since the dawn of mankind. Each generation has a tendency to overrate themselves at the expense of others. Perhaps the truth is simply that different generations value different things. Likewise, each generation has their own strengths and weaknesses. Make recognizing those values a priority instead of taking negative commentary at face value.
Money is important to millennials, but it isn’t the most important thing. They value work-life balance and the opportunity to live meaningfully. Being overworked and underappreciated is not the recipe for a balanced and happy life. Family life, freedom of expression, and autonomy are all highly valued by millennials.
There is a distinct generational difference in the way millennials connect and consume across media – marketing to millennials reflects that. Millennials embrace social media and correspondingly tend to value word-of-mouth and authentic brand communication. In comparison, baby boomers tend to respect and value brands with a history of success. These represent only a few generational differences, yet ignoring any aspect is asking for disaster. If you want to engage millennials in your company, involve them in a movement. Nearly all of us are looking for meaning in our lives – provide an outlet for growth and self-discovery.
Provide an experience and journey
Eventbrite’s nationwide study conducted by Harris determined that, “…this generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them: from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, to cultural experiences and events of all kinds.”
The study notes that, “For this group, happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or career status. Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.”
Millennials value creativity and autonomy, and don’t want to miss out on experiences in life. More than this, millennials want their career and worldview to align. They seek purpose and want to know where they’re going next and why. If your organization doesn’t offer any greater significance than collecting a paycheck, they will probably find somewhere else to work. Millennials don’t want to be chained to a desk and aren’t afraid to change jobs. Perhaps most surprisingly, millennials are willing to leave traditionally ‘good jobs’ for a ‘lesser’ position that resonates with their values and goals.
Perhaps that means they are more idealistic, but that hardly makes them foolish. To millennials, it’s what they learn and what they experience that matters most. Proper work-life balance gives workers the opportunity to pursue their interests and spend more time with loved ones. The values that your company demonstrates need to align with that if you want to make the most of this business relationship. Employees are the first and arguably most important asset a business will ever have. Respect must be given and returned. It’s a careful balance in a relationship that goes both ways. Empower millennials and we will empower you.
Take the time to get to know your millennial employees. Learn to understand and appreciate their beliefs and goals. Taking the time to come together and connect can bring valuable insights to your company. Providing outlets for self-discovery can grow your company culture. Cultivate the strengths of your employees by understanding them. Engage millennials by providing them with purpose, expression, and self-discovery – all things you learned to value in the service.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.