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Dissecting the Millennial dictionary

Posted: 22 July 2015

First off, let's get something straight - Millennials are not an alien race of workers. Yes, they think and approach projects differently but we're talking more about cultural differences than mere generational gaps. For a long while, the stereotype of Millennials plagued offices and pigeon-holed these eager beavers as something traditional managers and workforces should fear. We're all a bit more savvy now and the true nature of this 'Millennial' force have been put into a more grounded context.

That said, there is a series of differences that make this powerhouse of employees quite special and managers/employers need to respond to that fact. Essentially Millennials have taught us how to listen better and really question the Why behind everything. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Whether you’ve just welcomed a younger generation into your workforce or are fluent in all things Millennial, it can be super valuable to have a pretty good grasp of the signature attitudes, speak and such. Generally speaking, the approach of Millennials is multi-layered and riddled with shades of logic and drilling questions. This rundown dictionary is an overview of some thinkings and phrases that might ping around any Millennial-friendly office, and gives you a small peek into what they could really mean.

  • “Why do I need to do this?”

Why indeed. This obsession with purpose is what defines Millennials. It’s not a sign of disobedience or disrespect, it’s more about saving everyone the time and energy. The manager that grows and learns from their Millennial workforce is the one that will thrive in the future. Why should be the key thing that underpins every task, every value, pretty much everything that a company does. Before you get your back up, take a second to consider the answer. The big Why can be the catalyst to change everything from productivity to work hours. If you’re narrow minded, you’re sure to lose your younger employees.

Another key part in this question is the ‘I’. Many Millennials know their worth and strengths and aren’t interested in ‘grunt work”. Instead, they’d much rather see a task being passed onto the right person, not just a person. This determined workforce want their individual career to matter to their employers, they want them to understand who they are and what they can do.

  • “I want some feedback”.

And we don’t mean feedback in the traditional sense. Millennials love/need proper insight into their performance. If you have compliments to deliver don’t go for cliched options, tell them exactly what they did right and how it helped the outcome. Same goes with criticism, how can they do better. Millennials rate their career above all else so try and tie your general feedback in with their personal aims. If you can be a valuable, honest source of guidance then you’ll be an extra reason for them to stay where they are for longer.

  • “That could work”.

As much as they may be stereotyped as aggressive or a little arrogant, Millennials are also collaborators. They understand that teamwork and a pulling of skills is key to success so they respect ideas in a unique way. When taking tasks or approaches it’s not uncommon to hear a very respectful “That could work but what about this”. Here is your opportunity to read between the lines and open up the floor to workshopping.

Millennials love alternative options and exploring new ways of thinking. Don’t be steadfast in how you work , instead listen to your employee’s requests to provide something different.

  • “Why should we care?”

It’s about purpose not paycheck with Millennials. Again, this isn’t a mark of disrespect it’s more of a big picture thought process that’s connected to Why and worth. Incentives don’t work so well on Millennials, they crave a real, career-affirming reason to invest in something. Give them it. With each unique task or duty make sure you give them an opportunity to put their own mark on it. Not everything can be an innovative excuse to show off your talents but there’s always room to make something more personalised. Align as much as you can with culture and unique career goals.

  • “I don’t care about life/work balance”.

You need to have a pretty big thinking cap to hand when it comes to your younger workforce. Extra holiday days and flexible hours will go down generally well with all your employees but you need to raise the bar a little more with Millennials. They don’t see so much of a divide between work and life, the two are inseparable so you need to find fresh ways to give them a chance to find a personal balance for themselves.

Whether you offer training retreats (a mix of learning and relaxing) or give them the chance to be mentored or indeed be a mentor, you need to show your employees that you understand and can accommodate their lifestyle.

Remember Millennials are not rogue revolutionaries here to disrupt the status quo. They may need a slightly tailored approach but ultimately all you need to do it listen. Nine times out of ten they will tell you exactly what they think or need, it’s your responsibility to see the merit and shake things up. As a workforce, Millennials want transparency, honesty and a chance to make their mark, give them these and you’re in very good stead indeed.

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