Over the past few years, I have hired, trained, managed and, in some instances, terminated millennial employees. I have seen the spectrum from creative genius to entitled expectation, and as the future of the workplace is dependent upon finding a common ground with the generation that follows me, I ask for a candid chat.
Millennials, I want you to be wildly successful. I want you to exceed expectations and impress. However, as your employer, I need you to help me help you.
I am not here to browbeat you because of participation trophies or an inflated sense of self, nor am I here to echo the same criticism every generation has given the one that follows throughout history. That said, it is important to remember that the workplace is, first and foremost, a place to work. In order to make your mark in the professional world without creating ill-will in the process, I recommend three simple tips for getting ahead.
1. Find a way to attach yourself.
Gallup reported last year that millennials do not feel close ties to their jobs, with only 29 percent of millennial workers feeling engaged at work. This sense of detachment causes palpable frustration for both the millennial and the employer. With a feeling of commitment, the employer is more likely to invest scarce resources in a new employee. However, if they feel you have one foot out the door, an employer like me is likely to send you on your way.
Last fall, as I was having a first meeting with an employee who had predated me at the company and would be one of my reports, I asked her to list her daily and weekly tasks for me, and then to describe which tasks she should be focusing her time on and which should be offloaded to a peer. She came back wanting to offload 100 percent of her tasks to someone else, so she could “explore other roles in the company to find her calling.” I gently coached her that it was probably time to move on.
Find something that inspires you (even if the grunt work isn’t generally inspiring). Find something to commit to, and make your world revolve around that project, task or role. Succeed at that one thing first and then, with the newfound respect from your employer who has seen you dedicate yourself, your next request for responsibility will be that much more likely to be granted.
2. Invest your online social skills in a writing class.
Although millennials are generally hesitant or reluctant to embrace employers, their local communities or specific institutions, you are highly connected with the world around them. According to Gallup, 91 percent of millennials own a smartphone, and 71 percent say the internet is their main source for news and information. This hyper-connectedness has helped you gain a unique global perspective and has transformed the way you interact and work.
As connected as millennials are to the web, I find that this rarely translates to a social connection with the workplace. Email and writing skills have become alarmingly poor, and a professional respect for business communication has taken a backseat to the 140-character tweet. Social media may not hold you to basic standards of grammar and articulate writing, but your colleagues and business partners do.
In my first job out of college, my boss Steve Stevens strongly recommended that I take a business writing course, which is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. I find myself recommending the same strategy to each new employee I onboard. Take the time to read what you write, spend the time to edit your work, and ensure that anything you send on behalf of your company is something that you and your boss can be proud of. A few minutes of careful review can save significant embarrassment.
3) You will only receive respect and recognition if you earn it and offer it to others.
Millennials are pushing for change in the workplace and don’t accept “that’s the way it has always been done” as a viable answer. Typically, millennials demand that businesses approach them differently and adjust the customer experience to meet their needs.
They see work and life as closely intertwined and want to have a different relationship with their manager. They want their manager to care about them as an employee and a person. 62 percent of millennial employees who feel they can talk with their manager about non-work-related issues plan to be with their current organization one year from now.
Let me encourage you, millennials, to treat your boss as a person, and you will be treated as a person in return. In a recent employee interaction, an extremely new hire failed to call in for an introductory call, asking me to instead call his cell phone. When we finally did connect, I asked him to open a spreadsheet I prepared for him prior to our call to discuss upcoming tasks. He responded that he must have accidentally deleted my email, and asked me to send it to him again. This behavior persisted for weeks . . .
Respect and trust is earned. You only get as good as you give. If you find yourself frustrated with the lack of respect or authority you are receiving on the job, take a moment to appreciate your boss and coworkers. Write a note of gratitude. Invest yourself in your company in the same way you want the company to invest in you.
For our businesses to succeed, you must rise to positions of leadership and strength. You alone have the opportunity to build upon the world that was crafted by those who came before you. The above tips will have you in a decision-making role in no time.