5 Ways to Inspire Millennials at Work

 

Business leaders, entrepreneurs and other professionals often bemoan the apparent lack of commitment, loyalty and ambition present in Generation Y employees. Those 80s and 90s babies buck workplace convention. They talk back. They want to dress differently, are bored easily and come across as wanting life handed to them on a platter. Why is it that Millennials seem to want to frustrate us by constantly asking ‘Why?’

Isn’t this much the same way each new generation has been perceived by the one before it? How many lectures did you hear during childhood about how much ‘easier’ things are now? Didn’t your grandparents go on similar rants with your parents? Could it be that Millennials are unwittingly challenging us to raise our standards?

The truth is that each generation gets progressively smarter, stronger, more creative. “More entitled, too!”, you might add. Perhaps. Technology is advancing at a mind-numbing rate. We’re all for advancement, but what really bothers the old-fogies is that many of the old rules don’t apply. We find it incongruously unfair that flip-flop clad software geeks who skateboard to work are changing the world daily.

How can we bridge the generational chasm? How can we positively influence the young adults who don’t happen to be Silicon Valley billionaires, but turn up somewhat disheveled and slightly late to work each day? How do we engage the Snapchat generation? More importantly, how do we start inspiring Gen Ys to start focusing their energies on developing the skills necessary to make them tomorrow’s capable leaders?

I read an excellent article by Graham Winfrey titled ‘Are Millenials Giving Up on Working?‘. The article’s accompanying infographic by training firm Virtuali highlights the following disturbing statistics:

  • 66% of millennials are disengaged at work
  • 91% of millennials plan on leaving their job within 3 years

Below, I have adapted the infographic’s five points to consider for increasing engagement and inspiring leadership in Millennials:

1. To inspire leadership, be a leader

The Millennial understanding of leadership is not one that springs forth from rank or title. Gen Ys will not bestow loyalty and obedience solely on the basis of tenure or seniority. “They have no respect!”, you may say, but young people believe that respect should be earned, and that leadership is lived out in our actions every day. To be a leader in the eyes of the younger generation, demonstrate that you are worth following.

2. To inspire leadership, consistently provide development opportunities

Young people do not view training programs as perks for good performance or a rewards for good behavior. As a consequence of growing up in the information age, Millennials believe that leadership development should be a universal benefit provided by employers. Adopt this attitude and watch your younger charges begin to bloom.

3. To inspire leadership, more show; less tell 

At its most effective, learning for Millennials should be personal, relevant and enjoyed. As leaders, we should seek to provide learning opportunities every time we interact with those under our direction. Provide clear proof to those you lead that you are personally invested in their growth and development, and their engagement will begin to skyrocket.

4. To inspire leadership, perfect your communication skills

No matter how much experience you have or how many accolades decorate your office walls, it is your behavior that will cement your value and reputation in the hearts and minds of younger employees. Above technical know-how, Millennials value your ability communicate clearly, how well you listen, your receptiveness to new ideas, and how effectively you show you care. Work on honing these skills every day.

5. To inspire leadership, provide diverse work opportunities

Gen Ys crave novelty and variety, and will not be willing to give their all at workplaces that do not offer new and interesting opportunities. To young people, loyalty is a two-way street. Here’s where some creativity is required. Shake things up sometimes. Make it part of your people strategy to provide new knowledge to your people on an ongoing basis through cross-training, departmental rotations and intra-office secondments.

Please share your own experiences and ideas for inspiring and engaging younger people in the workplace. Do you find it challenging to inspire them to give of their best? In what ways are you actively creating robust succession paths for leadership?

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