When is the most important time in life, the past, the present or the future? The past is our history, the future is our destiny, and the present is a gift from G-d.
Yes, it is important to learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes. It is also important to look to the future to create a path toward our destiny. But to be fully alive and engaged in life is to be present in every moment of today.
What does this have to do with business?
If a business, company or organization is viewed as a living entity, it also has a past, present and future. Likewise, a business must learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the present.
Unfortunately, many organizations are struggling with the most prevalent employees of today. If businesses are to continue to grow, they must understand the demographic shift in today’s workforce and make changes accordingly.
This demographic shift came as no surprise to anyone. Millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials, defined as those who were ages 18 to 34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million baby boomers. And the gap will only grow.
If the baby boomers are looked at as our past, we must learn from them. And if Gen2020 (the current generation) is our future, we must teach it the proper path. That leaves the millennials as today’s most common employees.
We must focus our attention on this generation. We need to engage millennials at work to grow successful organizations. But how do you do that?
First, let’s dispel several myths about millennials. Here are a few:
- Millennials want to change jobs frequently.
- Money doesn’t matter to millennials.
- Every millennial wants to be an entrepreneur.
- Millennials are lazy.
Here are the facts behind those myths:
- A study by the Pew Research Center shows that millennials value job security more highly than boomers do. However, they won’t stay at a job they don’t like.
- The Pew study also found that millennials put “a high-paying job” near the bottom of their list of work priorities — but so do other generations, in roughly equal proportions.
- A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data shows that the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has hit a 24-year low of 3.6 percent, down from 10.6 percent in 1989.
- They want to get tasks done in the most efficient, least time-consuming way possible and squeeze out the max results. They use technology to accomplish everything quicker.
So what can be done to engage this all-important generation at work?
I will highlight the ones I consider key:
- Communicate often. The way millennials communicate — texting, tweeting, Snapchat, etc. — is real time and continual. Millennials are accustomed to constant communication and feedback, and their expectation of more of the same dramatically affects the workplace.
So not only is responding to email correspondence within 24 hours a must, but so is scheduling a weekly managerial check-in with each employee.
- Build a strengths-based culture. Organizations that invest in strengths-based development achieve as much as a 29 percent increase in profit and a 15 percent improvement in employee engagement. As such, organizations should transition to strengths-based cultures to attract and keep the best employees.
- Be a coach, not a boss. Millennials want to be valued by their supervisors as people and employees and want to work withtheir managers vs. having to work for them. They care about having managers who can coach them and help them understand and build their strengths.
- Help them grow. Millennials want to experience as much training as possible. Start by building and measuring the effectiveness of mentoring programs alongside other learning and education. Then provide them with leadership training to show them a path to the future.
- Create a corporate social responsibility initiative. This is the key. Millennials want their job to be their way to make a positive contribution to the world. For Millennials, a job is no longer just a job; it’s life as well. They will work harder, smarter and be more engaged when they can connect to causes greater than themselves.
You may think this is pandering to millennials and has the employer-employee relationship turned upside down. You might be correct. However, just as we eliminated sweatshops and tyrannical bosses in the mid-to-late 20th century, so today’s workplace is evolving to meet the needs of a new generation.
If you want your present to be a gift from G-d, it’s time to move your employment strategy into the 21st century.