Crack The Millennial Code: How To Hire And Manage Millennials In The Workforce

They’ve been called lazy, narcissistic, coddled, entitled and even delusional.

They’re materialistic, addicted to technology and prone to job hopping if their unrealistic expectations are not met.

Who are these horrible people? Maybe you’ve already guessed, but we’re talking about Millennials. That new breed of digital native posting pics of their avocado toast while retweeting their latest social justice obsession and planning a trip to Costa Rica.

Sure, it’s easy to ridicule them as they feverishly hammer away at their iPhones. But before you get up off your rocking chair on the porch to yell “Get off my lawn you darn kids”, consider this: at 80 million, Millennials are quickly outnumbering Baby Boomers in population. They already spend $65 billion a year and are having an enormous influence on companies as they enter the workforce.

To help Crack The Millennial Code, Sherri Elliott-Yeary, CEO of Generational Guru, award-winning speaker, business consultant, and published author, shared her secrets of generational bridging at CityCentral’s most recent Speaker Series event.

Who Are The Millennials?

Demographically, Millennials include anyone born roughly between 1981 – 1996. They were the first generation to be digital natives, growing up with computers, the internet, and cellphones. Technology for them is an everyday habit.

They also experienced 9/11 and the War On Terror, the 2008 financial crisis turning their parent’s 401k into a 201k, big bank bailouts, layoffs, and the recession. Many left college with massive student loan debt.

So Millennials can be forgiven for having the perception that everything can be gone at any time. And it’s no wonder many focus on living a life of experiences, meaning and impact rather than climbing the corporate ladder.

But what about all of the startup companies founded by Millennials making billions and creating innovative new products and technologies? Facebook, anyone?

Rather than being lazy, narcissistic and over-confident, Millennials are simply adapting to a rapidly changing digital world in which they are well-suited to navigate with natural ease.

There are many contradictions when describing any generation, but here are a few defining traits of Millennials:

  • Want to make an impact or difference in the world.
  • Socially active – see their activism and support for causes such as climate change, social justice.
  • They are more accepting, tolerant and progressive.
  • Crave instant feedback and recognition.
  • Eager to learn.
  • Teamwork oriented.
  • Value experiences and travel over money.
  • Are able to connect with people via social media in ways that other generations can’t.
  • Prefer a life/work balance rather than a work/life balance.
  • Prefer authenticity over a sales pitch and have a finely-tuned BS detector.

Hiring Millennials

According to Pew Research, 35% of people in the workforce are Millennials and that number is only expected to grow. That’s 56 million people, well ahead of the 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Baby Boomers.

That means you will be working with Millennials. So forget the stereotype of the lazy, entitled job-hopper with their face perpetually stuck in a phone. New ways of working and communicating on the job are required to move into the future multi-generational workplace.

The business world is changing daily with the speed of an internet meme gone viral. And there is no one better to navigate this world than the Millennials.  

“Millennials’ brains are like popcorn makers. They’re always coming up with ideas.”

To attract Millennial job candidates:

Understand their WIIM (What’s In It For Me) statement 

  • Does the company have a culture or support causes I can back? 
  • Do I have a chance for growth and learning? 
  • Will I be able to have a suitable life/work balance? 
  • Will I be able to make an impact? 
  • Will I have meaningful experiences?

Elliott-Yeary gave an example of an intimidating National Guard recruiter handing out free coffee mugs wondering why he was having problems recruiting Millennials. She told him that he needed to focus more on what Millennials cared about. Her suggestions resulted in a more successful recruitment video focusing on the travel and life experiences the National Guard provided.

Questions to ask when hiring Millennials:

  1. How do you want to be communicated with?
  2. How do you want to be rewarded and recognized?
  3. How do you want to be trained?
  4. What attracted you to this position? 
  5. What do you want to learn here?
  6. What else about this organization interests you?

These questions will help you screen the proper Millennial candidate for your position.

Training Millennials

Elliott-Yeary said Baby Boomers need to share their experience with Millennials as they come into the workforce to meld the traditional business world with the digital. The best bridge between these two worlds are the Gen Xers since they grew up before and during the digital revolution.

But traditional training with classes and seminars doesn’t appeal to Millennials. They prefer to learn online at their own pace.

Training Tips

  • Offer online, interactive courses and training
  • Let them work at their own pace, often they will quickly complete it 
  • Allow them to be part of the training conversation
  • Avoid formal training environments
  • Try a training spending account – where they can use the money to take any training they meet the criteria for that interests them.

One area for improvement among many Millennials is social interaction skills. Often they communicate through the buffer of email, text, Snapchat, and Instagram. Face to face communication may be more challenging. That’s where the experience of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers can help with mentoring and teaching moments.

Managing Millennials

The average Millennial will change jobs four times in their first decade out of college. That means to retain talent, you must effectively manage the Millennials in your employ. So how to manage millennials in the workplace?

  • Make sure they have regular positive reinforcement and confirmation of their job performance.
  • Every 8 months they want to learn something new rather than doing the same thing year after year. Create opportunities to learn new skills. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, they create a “lattice framework” of experience.
  • A company can’t just provide a salary anymore but also has to deliver self-realization. Some companies offer classes in martial arts, painting, etc. or opportunities to volunteer in the community.
  • When there has been a failure or mistake, engage in a “coachable conversation” rather than criticizing them out for what they did wrong. Explain what was expected and offer alternate solutions.

Marketing To Millennials

Millennials are impervious to traditional marketing and advertising. If a traditional ad actually makes it past the ad blocker on their web browser, they are likely to ignore it. So how do you crack that demographic to get them to spend their collective $65 billion?

Millennials expect to be connected to a brand before they buy. 

Make Millennials Matter + What Matters To Millennials = Cracking The Code

21 Ways To Reach Millennials:

  1. Use data and analytics to find out what makes them tick
  2. Chatbots on your website
  3. Empower and inspire with purpose. Think bigger, change the world
  4. Use multiple media platforms – Social media, text, email, video, etc.
  5. Allow customer participation
  6. Build a solid online reputation
  7. Tap Millennial influencers
  8. Optimize your site for mobile experience
  9. Keep it brief – blog posts and videos have to be short and to the point
  10. Be the expert – provide expert advice and tips
  11. Embrace diversity
  12. Frugality – offer money saving opportunities
  13. Don’t go for the hard sell – Millennials will run from it 
  14. Inspire brand loyalty with the assistance of social media
  15. Make your brand fun, relatable and convenient
  16. Listen to them – selling is now a two-way conversation. Ask them what they think, want
  17. Embrace a cause
  18. Customer Service – respond quickly and seek their feedback and insights
  19. Don’t send out spam
  20. Cultivate exclusivity
  21. Keep an eye out for interesting stories, videos, and memes

“We’re working with each other,”  Elliott-Yeary said. “We’re volunteering and officing together. And so if we find a way to bridge the generational gap, it increases our ability to collaborate and communicate.”

The Millennials aren’t just a huge potential market. They are natural swimmers in the digital ocean. They are tech-savvy, confident multi-taskers and lightning-quick communicators. Pair that with the business experience and social skills of the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers and you have a recipe for success.

For more information check out Sherri Elliott-Yeary’s website: 

And her books: “Ties to Tattoos” and “Crack the Millennial Code”

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