Respect for Millennials

Our current generation of millennial professionals will make up the majority of the workplace in the next twenty years. Employers report millennials aren’t ready for work–that in management and leadership areas they only succeed because they are bright achievers. So far. We have the power to change that.

It’s not anyone’s fault–everything is happening so fast. But a solution is of national–if not world importance. This world will be their world so millennials look at it differently. They see business and politics interconnectedly on the world stage, and for the world’s benefit.

Giving millennials the right tools is a matter of national concern, at the least. Making them fit into the current organizational parameters seems impossible, but it’s not.

Millennials don’t fit in now, for the most part. And, they don’t feel like they do either. According to the Deloitte study released January 2014, more than 30 percent, feel unprepared. Those in the system are taking risks while trying to innovate in an environment that doesn’t think like them.

Two-thirds of the next generation to run our business, nonprofits our government believe “the outlook and attitudes of management are serious barriers to innovation, such as a reluctance to take risks; a reliance on existing products, services, and ways of doing business; and an unwillingness to collaborate with other businesses or universities,” reports the study.

“It’s clear that millennials want to innovate and businesses should be listening,” said Salzberg, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. He also says that traditional ways of training and developing employees doesn’t work anymore.

So, how do we as trainers, help millennials gain the critical skills they need as well as change employer support?”

Millennials think business and government should do more to help alleviate the wrongs of the world–that our way of doing business only makes matters worse. It is apparent that they feel strongly about collaboration and cooperation, not only with other businesses but government organizations.

Here’s what employers need to do:

  • Offer employees the means to feel connected to the whole.
  • Help them experience the entire organization by giving them work that is either linked to all areas in the organization or provide them an opportunity for multi-mentors.
  • Provide opportunities to take on entire projects with lots of networking and partnering and run with them.
  • Let them help or lead the company in making significant changes in the world, and in the worldview of the company by adapting its business practices or assist with branching out.
  • Let them lead community outreach areas.
  • Involve millennials in foreign offices or with government actions abroad.

This is by far not an all-inclusive list. Millennials connect to everyone, everywhere. It’s a very small world to them–as small as their devices.

In most offices, working overtime or late hours today is the norm–especially now the economy is not terrific. Since millennials are more connected than most of us; their priorities are different. They believe their personal lives are as important, if not more so, than work, but they aren’t lazy? Not at all. It seems they see the whole picture as an interlocking puzzle. That the answers are innovation derived from everywhere. Think “out the box?” These guys live “outside the box.”

So, how do we train them to be productive employees and eventual leaders in the world of work–participating in commercial, nonprofit or government organizations?

Millennials have admirable traits that we have to bring out in the workplace. Although inclusive, millennials are achievers; they goal–oriented, civic-minded, confident and hopeful. Oh, and connected.

That even goes for college students preparing for the world of work. We need to start here.

College student millennials have to be treated and taught as any other. In addition to training, I teach public speaking at a local university. My university classrooms are task- and product driven. Primarily, individual in nature, these tasks and products are the result of cooperation–and certaining bringing in outside sources as we would expect. There’s theory, too. The “why” of what we do or effect.

My millennial students are connected as well. While my world of communication is focused outward, while they focus communication inward. More and more students seem to be introverted and shy these days. It’s no wonder with all the devices, new technology and games. My own high school kids tell me, “It’s even cool to be a nerd.”

These shy millennials may not seem a perfect fit for the mainstream; they soon will be anyway. We have to do something now to make that transition easier. To do so, there are ways to draw them out, while deriving the advantages of their innovative nature.

Here are some techniques that will work for trainers as well to bring them out of the inner world of technology:

  • Learn their language–just as a missionary learns the language of the people he or she is trying to convert.
  • Let them know what’s important.
  • Model the behavior you want to see in them,
  • Always explain the why you are asking them to do something. They are curious–more than wanting to know what’s in it for them.
  • Always tell the truth. Millennials respect that–even if they don’t like it. They want to be clear.
  • Make the training or teaching session fun. Not like the ones we usually do with other trainees. Remember these folks are particularly adept at games–so nothing simple.
  • Look for opportunities to praise them in public, and give them the tools to do the job.

Although millennials are confident, it’s not expressed in public. They are confident of their abilities.

In my class, the first impromptu speeches my students give count very little, and in fact, students are usually given the maximum number of points no matter their performance. This helps the student’s confidence level in public; the students also know they won’t fail. My class is loose but controlled. Millennials like a measure of control. I tell them how I am grading their activities or speeches. Even if my grading seems subjective, as long as I tell them that may be the case, they accept my word and the grade graciously.

The same characteristics that are successful in the classroom apply readily in the workplace. I’m talking about preparing a millennial for that world of work and we have to be inside their heads.

Whether in school or work, they are the same. Doesn’t it make sense that teaching them should start early? I can only start with college, but I’m sure other innovative teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade in high school can figure it out.

Obviously my classroom isn’t typical. Students are speaking everyday as I told them they would at the beginning. I told them I might stop them and have them start over, but that did not mean the action would affect their grade. I set the tone for every lesson by telling them what I and they are going to be doing–and why. When they ask about future lessons, I am frank with them. I also tell them how they can fail, which can be by lack of participation, i.e., attendance, or by “texting” in their homework. There is no “just good enough;” there’s only the standards I set for them and they acknowledge them. Employers should say the same.


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Tracy L. McCabe

I think that the struggle against risk averse people and organizations is a long standing one – not just something experienced by millennials. I also think that people and organizations that are risk averse can be new or older or … well, very old. It has more to do with mindset than age. Having said that, I appreciate your suggestions on working successfully with millennials. Mutual respect between all generations makes a for a better work place – for those starting their careers and those winding things up.

Jack Shaw

I don’t think millennials are any more “risk averse” than any other group either. In a world of work made up of different types–baby-boomers, x and y generations, and finally millennials, my point is more how do we nurture them, and how should we view them.

Please don’t be offended. I am a wordy person.

As a baby-boomer, I am familiar with risk-taking; I didn’t want to take many when I was young, unemployed and had no money–seeing security as more important in my life at that time. I’m not crazy about the term “risk averse.” Most people are opposed to change–that being the buzzword of billions who cringe at the thought. A few of us welcome change though, as you may welcome risk. Maybe I’m saying the same thing… Of course, change is not the same thing, but it is more of a general issue for society. Some handle it better than others. The same for “risk.” It weighs heavier for some than others.

I see different kinds of risk-taking, some risks I’m willing to take and some I’m not–especially in certain situations like a workplace. Working with others competing for a manager’s attention? That’s not me. Throwing out ideas or taking risks with the status quo to people who are not receptive is not fun. Getting slapped down for questioning or crossing established boundaries is different from being rejected. It comes with a higher price.

When it comes to investing, I don’t want to invest or “risk” what I have little of without a support system. In fact, I think it’s smart. If the workplace (my boss) views risk as a plus, I’m on board all the way. I love being creative. In my last government job (the one I retired from), taking a risk was an anomaly. I suppose I went there. I retired to take risks. I am now an actor, a writer, a theatre director and critic. I wore all those job titles in my spare time while I was working. Everything I do is a risk. To me it was a “risk” to get involved with social media; at my age, that’s rarer than you think. Sorry for the second blog. I risk using my words a lot.

Jack Shaw

We all have our focus. Thanks for listening. : ) I admit I don’t know much about what exactly the professionals train in terms of risk aversity, but I’m with you, everyone is opposed to some type of risk–some take no risks, others take risks to become great leaders.