By Wiss Associate
This year, the 34-and-under generation will surpass baby boomers as the largest slice of the U.S. population — and they are a steadily growing segment of the business startup class. As their influence expands in entrepreneurial America, it becomes important to understand how they differ from the boomers and Generation X workers who preceded them.
Studies have shown that millennials want to think of their work lives as furthering a purpose, not just bringing home a paycheck. They’re looking for fulfillment, and they don’t have any qualms about going elsewhere when they feel they’re not getting it.
Millennial startup workplaces might look a little different to traditional employers, but if you can make your workplace inviting, the culture more accommodating and the work challenging, it can help you attract and engage your youngest employees — and keep them on your payroll longer. Here’s how.
- Encourage their contribution. Millennials want to make an impact. They don’t plan to take home a gold watch after 40 years with one company, but they want to be an integral part of your organization while they’re there. Give them your honest feedback and a chance to carve out a set of responsibilities that are meaningful to all parties. And yes, they can act a little entitled at times, so pick your battles.
- Be team-oriented. Millennials generally like to work in cooperative groups. While your older workers might prefer a more competitive environment and promotions based on individual merit, younger workers tend to prefer achievement through collaboration. So try to let them define their own roles within a larger group, based on their talents and motivation, and find fulfillment in teamwork.
- Offer a flexible and invigorating culture. Stay as flexible as possible in scheduling and job descriptions. Open spaces with plenty of windows, natural lighting and informal work areas are hallmarks of startup culture — and strongly preferred over stodgy offices, cubicles or other forms of architectural confinement. This generation grew up with the work portability inherent in laptop computers and smartphones. They don’t need landlines, file cabinets or even desks that hamper their mobility. They can work from anywhere, so a couch in your lobby or an easy chair at Starbucks does the job as well as a desk and office. This informality and shared working spaces may not go over as well with your older workers, but can you create a space that includes private work areas as well as an open floor plan?
Workplaces with multiple generations on the payroll might best be served by compromises in culture and a little design and structural creativity. You might have to rethink what you consider the standards of business and put up with a little quirkiness, but it can be worth it to harness the energy and fresh ideas of this group of workers.
Libby Pecheur is a marketing specialist at Wiss. And yes, she’s a millennial. Pecheur can be reached at (973) 994-9400.