The following article originally appeared in EO’s award-winning Octane magazine. For more insightful articles from entrepreneurs, visit Octane magazine online.
By Susan Michel, founder and CEO of Glen Eagle and an EO New Jersey member
The influx of millennials into the workplace is providing today’s entrepreneur with a number of new challenges and opportunities. As you add more and more millennials to your team, you should be prepared to answer the question: Are you ready for a more participatory workforce with strong needs to both grow and contribute? If you answered “Yes,” then you understand how influential millennials can be in creating a more competitive and inquisitive workplace.
As a group, millennials—75 million of them in the U.S. alone, ages 19-35—are digital natives who yearn to learn and grow on the job. What’s more, they have their fingers on the pulse of the consumer marketplace, with US$1 trillion in buying power. Millennials are a talent pool with a lot to offer, and it is up to us as business leaders to successfully recruit, engage and retain them. This will mean shedding a hierarchical mindset that many of us use, and instead conveying a vision that welcomes a diversity of ideas and the opportunity to be part of a team.
According to Gallup, millennials look closely at what a prospective job will offer in terms of professional growth, learning and advancement—more than any other generation. They also scrutinize us, their prospective employers, to ensure they will have a quality manager and management team. As entrepreneurs, we must embrace this dynamic and design a workplace that accommodates their hunger for learning and sharing.
Here are two lessons we learned in our ongoing development of a creative multigenerational workplace:
LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO BUILD CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS
A strong relationship with clients is critical for any relationship-based business. And technology is the key to freeing our employees to deliver the intelligence, research and revenue-generating ideas that provide value to clients and customers. It almost goes without saying that millennials are especially skilled at technology. We have made it a point to have millennial employees on each of our teams to review any new technology we’re considering. The cross-learning in both directions—older employee to younger, and vice versa—has paid large dividends while substantially enhancing our technological capabilities.
CREATE AN EXPERIENCE, NOT JUST A JOB
It’s crucial to provide a robust, meaningful experience in the workplace. In particular, younger people want to enjoy their work and feel fulfilled doing it. A recent study by Deloitte showed that 44% of all millennials would be willing to leave their current employer due to a perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked, compounded by larger issues around work-life balance, the desire for flexibility and a conflict of values.
With this in mind, give employees the opportunity at staff meetings and during one-on-one conversations to make proposals. At Glen Eagle, if an employee proposes an idea or concept that has promise, we encourage them to create a pilot. The opportunity to present and test their ideas is a positive learning experience in itself. We have found that even when the pilot does not show enough promise to become a permanent implementation, the learning and knowledge gained contributes in a very positive manner to company morale and culture.
In conclusion, entrepreneurs and millennials share a passion for learning and growth. Let’s seize this opportunity to channel that passion into growth for each of our companies.