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State of HR: 3 Millennial Insights Every Manager Must Know

Via LinkedIn : I started doing HR consulting for management of Millennials in 2002, long before it became the hot topic it is today. In fact, we called them ‘Gen Y’ back then.

Here’s how I got into it:

A colleague was the head of recruiting for a Fortune 1000 company. They had instituted a big effort to attract, hire, and retain Millennial talent. They were able to do the first two, but were failing miserably at the third. They had 70% turnover of Millennials within the first year on the job. They started doing exit interviews. The number one reason Millennials said they were leaving the job was because it was the wrong industry for them. My colleague said to me, “We need your help figuring out how to hire the ones that should be in the industry.” I said to her,

No. You need to do a better job of helping the Millennials you hired understand the industry and survive their first year in the working world.”

I was able to read between the lines of the exit interview comments. Think about it: for most of them, it was their first job out of school. It was also the first industry they had been in. In less than a year, the experience had been so bad, they were willing to say an entire industry was a poor fit for them? That’s a problem – and that’s when I started teaching management teams Millennial speak.

Today, more than 50% of the workforce are Millennials. They will make up 75% of our workforce by 2030. What’s scarier is that a recent survey shows 50%+ of them are thinking about a new job within the first six months on a new job. The problem my colleague had all those years ago still exists.

The average age in my office is 25. I love working with Millennials (this video series with one of my Millennial employees will prove it to you). Once you know what they’re saying, you can tap into their motivation and connect with them on the level you need to improve your working relationships with them. Why is that important? When you bond with a Millennial, you can get the most out of them. They’re unbelievable workers when they trust you. You want them to be highly productive? Talk to them on their terms!

Insight #1: Millennials Don’t Like Letting You Down

Millennials have been striving for approval their entire lives. They love compliments and praise, not because they’re narcissists, but because they care deeply that you are pleased with them. When they first start to work for you, they need lots of validation to know they’re on track to making you happy. Once they feel clear and confident that they know what you need to feel satisfied with their work, they won’t need constant validation. You need to help them feel safe, by showing them how to avoid failure. Which leads to the next point…

Insight #2: Millennials Were Raised on Bribes

Millennials were incented their entire lives to be successful. They’ve been trained to follow the rules and guidelines in order to earn A’s, praise, trophies, and other bribes. Their extrinsic motivation is high (bribed to do work), while their intrinsic motivation (do it for the self-satisfaction only), is low. This will change over time as they become more attuned to what they want in their careers. But, in the beginning, they’ll default to looking to you to give them motivators. A huge motivator is responsibility. They like owning projects, but only if they know 100% they can be successful at it (refer back to the first insight above). Which means, if you give them a project to own, you better be ready to give them a lot of validation they are on track.

Insight #3: When Millennials Keep It Short, Something Is Up!

When Millennials keep their responses to a minimum, they’re trying to tell you something. They were raised by parents whose goal was to make them highly sensitive to the feelings of others. They don’t like conflict. Especially, at work! They’ll avoid confrontation and uncomfortable conversations at any cost. [With that in mind, check out this article on Inc Magazine that shows how these six short little comments by Millennials mean a lot more than you realize.]

J.T. O’Donnell is Founder & CEO of CareerHMO – a career improvement platform that uses smarter technology to help your employees get the professional development they need to succeed.

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