By: Jon Mertz
A generational responsibility is to open doors for the next. Millennials are streaming through our doors now, with one in three now in our workplaces and 28 percent in management positions. Some have spent too much time stereotyping this new generation rather than opening the doors for them.
Opening doors is not without its challenges, however. More than just giving Millennials an opportunity, older generations need to share experiences, cultivate future leaders with clear goals and expectations, and engage them with empathy. Each of these elements is our responsibility, and we need to accept them fully.
Millennials represent great promise in many areas, including effective problem solving and growing businesses in a purposeful, profitable way. The time is now for each generation to open the doors for the next and for leaders to engage between generations in the workplace.
3 Ways to Open the Doors and Engage the Spirit of Millennials
Effective change is mutual: two sides coming together and collaborating for a better way forward. Engaging Millennials is very similar. There is a spirit within the next generation we need to grab hold of, and there are many lessons to learn from older generations. We need to begin with this mindset.
Highlighted below are three ways to connect with Millennials.
1. Open Opportunities
In the Midwest, the prairies are wide open and vast, yet the work necessary gets done. No different for your business. There is work to be done, and there is work left undone, which is often the prairie of opportunity.
When I was a 20-something, opportunity is what I wanted. I did the necessary detailed work. However, there is always an area to innovate and take the lead. Millennials have a similar desire. A balance is necessary – outlining the essential work to run the business and providing the open field to create opportunity.
From a business perspective, this is an ideal way to engage team members. The daily work is done while some efforts are applied to plan ahead and grow the business in new ways. Leveraging Millennials in this manner will help your business expand, innovate and refresh daily functions, such as marketing, sales, services and other undefined areas. Millennials also will grow and be engaged more fully in your organization. A win-win.
2. Be Open and Clear
Within the Millennial generation, there is a greater desire for, and enforcement of, transparency in business and leadership. Transparency may be the outcome of social technologies. Through social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Trip Advisor, there are many avenues to highlight good services and products and also call out bad outcomes or untrustworthy actions.
A new trend is unfolding with startups, too. Open Startups highlights businesses that have adopted complete transparency in their operations. Some businesses are fully embracing the idea and reality of transparency.
Being open, honest and accountable with Millennials will produce greater engagement and loyalty. Transparency also enables the next generation to understand different aspects of your business and how everything fits together. A complete business picture is empowering for this generation. With better operational insights and realities, Millennials can make better decisions and understand the accountability of their actions.
No different for business leaders. Transparency is not one-sided. Leaders need to be held accountable and open with mistakes made and successes achieved. A culture of transparency is the new way to activate team members to perform at higher levels.
3. Open Purpose: Inside and Out
Being purpose-driven is often discussed, but frequently misunderstood within business. Each activity carries a higher purpose. One of the jobs of a business leader is to communicate how certain activities create a path forward to a bigger goal. When team members see the connectedness in their work, greater engagement happens through a greater sense of purpose.
Embracing and communicating purpose also prevents a self-centered corporate culture from developing. Purpose is all-encompassing if done right.
For Millennials, purpose is vital. A study by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council shows that 30 percent of Millennials say meaningful work is a top job factor. Within the business, Millennials want to know the “why” of what they are doing.
Complementing “inside” purpose is the role of volunteering. The Millennial Impact Report highlights that 77 percent of Millennials are more likely to volunteer if they can use specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause. Millennials volunteer at levels similar to older generations. A strong outside-the-business purpose exists.
Volunteering provides team members an opportunity to do good in the communities where they work. Embedded within this is applying and improving individual skills and expertise. Better skills and expertise can only benefit the business. So doing good in the community can translate to doing good for your business and it can better engage the next generation. Once again, a win-win.
The Next Generation: Open Doors and Windows of Opportunity
Too many articles are written trying to scare other generations into stereotyping Millennials. Most of the articles are not in context with the economic and technology changes that have happened. Millennials grew up in a different time, just as we did. However, there are certain values we share.
♦ We all value being given an open opportunity to show our worth and grow our talent.
♦ We all value trust. We want more openness and transparency about why certain decisions are made, as well as accountability when bad choices are made.
♦ We all want to leave a legacy by doing good work sooner rather than later. Purpose opens our hearts, minds and souls to what matters most in work and life.
We have a wonderful opportunity to support and challenge the next generation. Let’s open the doors for the next generation and challenge them to do the same as the generational shifts continue.
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as Vice President of Marketing at Corepoint Health. On Thin Difference, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Follow him on Twitter @ThinDifference or Facebook.com/ThinDifference.