What You Can Do for a Millennial
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the term “Millennial” during any given day, I’d be writing this article from my yacht docked off Positano! Millennials, those born roughly after 1980 and before 2000, dominate today’s workforce and will continue to for the foreseeable future. “Those crazy kids” are an interesting breed - and a great one! - shaping the world around them and the consumer technology industry especially.
Luckily, I’m not too far outside of their age bracket to really get them, truly appreciate their value and fully recognize the impact they can have on a small tech accessory brand. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Who Millennials Are
First and foremost, it’s important to understand who Millennials are, and what makes them so special. Generally speaking, they’re children of Baby Boomers who grew up with doting parents who praised them at every turn. They’ve experienced a wide array of activities and opportunities during their formative years, and had access to the Internet and smartphones for as long as most can remember. The benefit of this upbringing is that they tend to be incredibly comfortable in their skin, embracing a solid sense of self-worth, and they have courage beyond their years and an innate relationship with technology. This high level of confidence sometimes seems unnatural, but I’ve found it to be an incredibly good thing, because Millennials are not afraid of failure - rather, their fear lies in personal complacency and potentially not leaving their mark on the world.
Millennials See Things Differently
The value this generation’s attitude brings to our businesses cannot be measured. Their contributions force us to think outside the box of traditional business, especially when it comes to branding and connecting with our consumers. Plus, they’re masters of multitasking. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s The Millennial Generation Research Review is among the studies that indicate this generation may even be rewiring their brains through extensive multitasking, such as texting while Snapchatting while posting social updates while listening to music and also performing their work duties. I have seen this in action and, yes, it can be done.
How to Manage Millennials
Millennials don’t respond well in a traditional “I direct, you do” structure. They thrive under leadership, cultivation and empowerment. They expect respect, from a supervisor’s communication style to direct actions. And despite a lack of work or real-life experiences, mutual respect of each other’s insights fares best. You’ll even find they have knowledge and skills that other generations can learn from.
Breaking the rules to allow for maximum flexibility gets the most out of a Millennial workforce. Flexibility can mean anything from working from home to doing away with the traditional vacation and personal time to incentivized compensation. Encourage a work/life balance that’s centered on a healthy lifestyle. That may mean bachelorette or bachelor party planning happens during work hours, but policing Millennials’ time will ultimately hurt your entire team. This isn’t a parent/child relationship, since bosses can be friends, too. There’s equal opportunity gain, so don’t balk at blurring the lines between personal and professional.
It’s most important to find the balance between managing collaboratively and granting autonomy. At AfterShokz, we’ve abandoned the “figure it out and come back with a final product” approach, in exchange for additional brainstorming and feedback sessions. Err on the side of trusting their intuition on the best route to get the job done, even if it’s not the path you might have taken.
We All Benefit
Our Millennial staff encourages the use of technology in the office, and that shift has allowed our team to work together more efficiently. We use video services for nearly every conversation to bridge the gaps across multiple offices and while traveling. We also rely on cloud-based services and online project management tools to collaborate and share information efficiently. We’ve found that bringing middle management (in our case, Millennials) into big-picture discussions helps them better understand the company, while also allowing their fresh perspective to shape the end game. Personally, I’ve found myself thinking through everything we do more thoroughly up front, in anticipation of answering their impending “Why?” And it’s their “Why?” that has positively evolved our strategies and has allowed me to learn something new every day.
In general, Millennials really do want to accomplish great things and contribute to the organizations they work for. The flexibility to do so on their terms will yield the best results.
So, bring ’em on!