Millennials are currently the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and will comprise more than 75% of the workforce by 2025. Not only that, Millennials now have the most spending power of any generation, which means that creating a work environment that they can thrive in matters more than ever.
As a Millennial who worked in corporate for several years before calling it quits, I’ve witnessed first-hand the many ways in which companies adhere to outdated norms, many of which are still tailored to older generations. This is particularly true when it comes to management.
Today’s workers don’t need some Big Brother figure hovering over us to tell us that budgets are cut, that we will be in big trouble if we don’t meet deadlines, and to “make do with less.” We need leaders who set us up for success, instill in us a sense of bigger purpose, and give us the confidence we need to persevere when the work gets challenging.
Corporate culture in the U.S. is changing in a big way, and companies who pay attention and adapt to these changes will be the ones attracting the most talented, passionate, and dedicated employees.
Millennials don’t want (nor will respond to) an archaic management system that dictates rules and constraints – this generation craves mentors that guide and inspire them. Management can help the rising Millennial workforce thrive by:
Creating a relationship of trust and understanding.
Management should empower and build the confidence of its employees. This means no guilt trips, blaming, or pressuring. Employees should feel free to approach their managers and speak openly with them without intimidation, while still respecting employer-employee boundaries.
We no longer live in a world where it’s possible to completely leave our work at home. People deal with personal issues all the time, and management should have some level of sensitivity towards that instead of pretending that the separation between life and work is an impenetrable brick wall. For example, context is important – perhaps someone isn’t performing because they had a recent family death, and that does not mean they’re incompetent.
Employees should feel that management won’t turn its back on them the second something goes wrong. When people feel understood and part of something bigger than themselves, they will go to greater lengths to excel in their work.
This mentorship dynamic builds way more trust and loyalty than a raise or bonus ever could, as it cultivates a mutual relationship instead of a transaction. Knowing that management has their back is priceless and will benefit both parties in the long run.
Letting people fail… and helping them get back up.
Ideally, mistakes in the workplace are avoided altogether as some can be very costly and put the company in jeopardy. If that is not the case, however, mistakes should be approached as opportunities for learning and improvement.
Mentors should teach employees to take responsibility for their actions, as well as accountability to fix what goes wrong. Most people won’t thrive with finger pointing, blaming, or winded lectures: we need to be made aware that we’ve made a mistake, given the confidence that we are capable of fixing it and receive the support to do so.
By guilting or threatening employees, there is a good chance that they will develop fear or apprehension towards the task they originally “failed” in, which only makes the situation worse and poorly sets them to deal with future mistakes. Mentors should push employees so they’re exiting their comfort zone (which means failure is a possibility), but at the same time guide and set them up for success. That way, when someone does inevitably make a mistake, he or she knows how to deal with it responsibly and confidently.
Giving space for growth.
People operate differently when it comes to getting into their zone of genius. Allow them to practice freedom and accountability when it comes to their working style: for example, why not allow an employee to work remotely, from a coffee shop, or in the nighttime if that is how they best excel in their tasks? Have a detailed discussion on what they personally need to thrive in the workplace, and as long as it does not interfere with the quality of the work, let them do it.
Management should not push employees to work a specific way, as that will stifle them and therefore affect their ability to perform. If an employee works best out of coffee shops and you make him or her feel guilty about leaving the office, the overall productivity of the team will suffer.
The gist of it is: allow people to be themselves and create the environment they need in order to thrive, and they most likely will. Coerce them to do things a certain way, and they’ll likely resent management and subconsciously (or consciously) sabotage the work.
When it comes to the Millennial workforce, focus on the results and not the method in which they are achieved. In the end, the companies who stay up-to-date with their workforce’s needs and desires will be those who make the most profit and have a societal impact.
Originally published on: Forbes