Are The Kids All Right?

A recent piece that ran in Inc. called “3 Reasons Millennials Are Getting Fired” has caused a bit of a stir in the human resources and professional development crowds that I work in – particularly among millennials themselves. I can’t say that I blame them, as this is the latest in a cottage industry of articles that trades in negative stereotypes about a significant portion of our workforce. These kinds of pieces are provocative, but whenever you run across one, instead of tut-tutting about the millennial generation, you should ask yourself how – as a leader, you can get the most out of your millennial workers?


Different Generations Require Different Leadership Styles

Every generation has similarities and differences, strengths, opportunities and stereotypes. Great leaders and great organizations look for ways to engage their talent – all of it. They know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to motivation and engagement.


For example, the piece in Inc. posits that employers are frustrated by employees only working the minimum hours required of them. What does that tell us about those young employees?


Either a) they don’t like their job (in which case you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands) or b) they value their free time. This presents an opportunity for savvy leaders to improve morale and create a better workforce. Benefits like flex-time, increased PTO and work-from-home days will likely appeal to millennials in a more concrete way than say, dental coverage.


Benefits that create more personal time don’t just make employees happy, they also improve loyalty!


(Also, the next time you find yourself frustrated by employees refusing to work more hours for the same pay, consider how you’d feel about paying more money for less work.)


Millennials Aren’t Going Anywhere – And You Don’t Want Them To

If you’re a Gen-Xer or a Boomer, you’re outnumbered. Millennials now make up the largest share of the American workforce. This means that every workplace is getting an infusion of young, bright talent that can bring new innovations to your company. Including and respecting millennials’ perspectives can bring rapid and welcome change to an organization. I’ve seen large, global organizations quickly implement entirely new ways of communicating at the suggestion of millennial team members.


Millennials also present opportunities for mentorship and education. You have the opportunity to mentor and advocate for talent that will one day be leading the very organizations that fuel our economy while we’re, hopefully, enjoying a beach in retirement. Millennials including and respecting perspectives from other generations can help fast track education and awareness that typically only years of experience would give them.


Every Generation is Valuable and Every Person is Unique

We need to understand who is in our talent pool, how they feel valued, what communication is needed and what ways to grow them. All of them – regardless of generation.


Most importantly, you should always see employees as individuals. Your job as a leader is to put each person in a position to succeed and to handle each situation in a way that produces the best possible outcome for all parties.

Let’s move on from the stereotypes and labels. Let’s accept that there are differences between all people and bring our energy to understanding and effectively working together.