Let’s be honest. Millennials get bad press. They are vilified by the media. Time Magazine called millennials “The Me Me Me Generation.” Millennials are supposedly the laziest, the most entitled, job hopping, disloyal, and narcissistic generation of all. Wow, who wants to be a millennial after hearing this? Surely, every generation has its blind spots, including millennials.
After writing Quarter-Life Calling: Pursuing Your God-given Purpose in Your Twenties (FaithWords, 2017), I had the opportunity to travel over four countries and 20 major cities speaking to thousands of millennials. I came to the conclusion that millennials are an enthusiastic, hardworking, purpose-driven group of innovative people.
Here’s the reality. By 2025, millennials will account for 75 percent of the global workforce. Millennials are going to make tectonic shifts in organizations over the next decade and most leaders aren't ready for the amount of change that's coming.
A major problem that costs organizations more than ever is the ability to attract, engage, retain millennials. But, according to Chasing Relevance, 30 percent of organizations lose 15 percent or more of their millennial workforce annually. More than 60 percent of millennials leave their employers within three years. It costs companies $15,000 to $25,000 to replace each millennial.
1. Start with Why
Millennials aren’t in the paycheck business; they are in the purpose business. Simon Sinek said, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
Use Sinek’s “The Golden Circle” to engage millennials. When most organizations or leaders communicate, they do so from the outside in perspective, from what to why. In other words, they go from the tangible to the intangible. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.
Your WHY is ultimately about your purpose. When you start with why, then millennials will not only rally behind your purpose, but also go above and beyond to give their 110 percent. Millennials will embrace your beliefs, not because they’re necessarily better, but because they represent values that are important to them. They make millennials feel like they belong and these organizations are the ones that create loyal fan bases, and brand ambassadors.
2. Learning and Growth
According to Gallup, among all generations in the workplace, millennials value opportunities to learn and grow as the most important factor when applying for a job. It’s noteworthy that millennials’ relatively greater emphasis on development may be, in part, related to their stage of life.
Dr. Chris Medenwald, in a 2015 Field Agent blog entitled “A New Take on New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Generational Differences,” said 94 percent of millennials reported making personal improvement commitments (compared with 84 percent of Boomers and 81 percent of Gen Xers). And millennials are willing to pay the price: While Boomers said they’d spend an average of $152 a month on self-improvement, millennials anticipated spending nearly twice that — though their average income is half as much.
An article by Phyllis Weiss Haserot on Forbes.com entitled “How Boomers Can Best Network With Millennials And Gen X'ers” suggests leaders can ask the following questions to connect with your millennial employee:
- How do you most like to spend your time?
- What is the most important lesson or insight you’ve gotten from your work?
- What do you wish you knew at the start of your career?
- How do you think work should be restructured to make it more productive and enjoyable?
- What do you see as your most valuable contributions?
Their responses will give you clues about what their real needs are and give you customizable ways in which you can foster learning and growth for your millennial employee.
3. Constant Feedback
Ken Blanchard once said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” If you have millennials working for you, don’t wait until the annual performance review to share all your praise and criticism. Instead, make a concerted effort to engage in meaningful and constructive conversations with your employees on a continuous basis.
One of the key motivations for constant feedback comes from the desire to learn and grow. Since millennials grew up with the Internet, which offers instant gratification and continuous feedback, they are looking for not simply looking for constant praise but ways to “keep score” on how they are doing in all aspects of their career. They don’t want surprises.
4. Understand Emerging Adulthood
If you really want to understand millennials, you need to understand a new life stage called emerging adulthood. Emerging adulthood was coined by developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett. Emerging adults are between 18-29. Many millennials (17-36 year-olds) are part of emerging adulthood.
So what’s makes emerging adults unique? Arnett describes five defining characteristics of emerging adulthood. A 2006 article by Christopher Munsey in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology entitled “Emerging Adults: The in-between age” said:
“As Arnett describes it, emerging adulthood can be defined as an:
- Age of identity exploration.Young people are deciding who they are and what they want out of work, school and love.
- Age of instability.The post-high school years are marked by repeated residence changes, as young people either go to college or live with friends or a romantic partner. For most, frequent moves end as families and careers are established in the 30s.
- Age of self-focus.Freed of the parent- and society-directed routine of school, young people try to decide what they want to do, where they want to go and who they want to be with – before those choices get limited by the constraints of marriage, children and a career.
- Age of feeling in between.Many emerging adults say they are taking responsibility for themselves, but still do not completely feel like an adult.
- Age of possibilities. Optimism reigns. Most emerging adults believe they have good chances of living "better than their parents did," and even if their parents divorced, they believe they'll find a lifelong soul mate.”
5. Reverse Mentoring
Engage in reverse mentoring where older workers are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, business, social media and current trends. If this seems like an outlandish idea to you, here are a few reasons why you should consider again.
Millennials are the most diverse generation and many of them are well-travelled, culturally pluralistic and knowledgeable about the world. Millennials might give you ideas of sustainability. From the environment to fair trade, millennials are very aware and sensitive to the consumerism’s effects on the world. Millennials can also ignite an entrepreneurial spirit within your company as they are well-versed in crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Now, on a practical level, here’s a seven step process that will help you set us a successful reverse mentoring program, from an article by Kevin Casey (theenterprisersproject.com) entitled “How to succeed with reverse mentoring: 7 steps.”
- Define the reverse mentoring program’s purpose
- Consider simply calling it a mentoring program
- Review your team’s skill sets & personality
- Run a kick-off mentorship workshop
- Create a framework for how the program will run
- Establish a culture conducive to meaningful mentoring
- Look outside of IT
6. Vocationally Disciple Millennials
Seventy percent of millennials say their career is central to their identity. In fact, more and more millennials are choosing a multi-career path. We live in a gig economy, free agent world of work. According to Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett of Clark University an average twenty-something will have seven different jobs just in their twenties.
Many millennials are craving for more direction and discipleship when it comes to theology of calling as it relates to work. Leaders can help connect the dots between Sunday worship and Monday work.
So practically, what does this look like for your organization? Here are two ideas:
- Identify Christian professionals who can commit to in-depth relationships (mentoring, but with a vocational focus), or even just provide exposure, or any other profession where a young person could spend a day with other Christians in different fields).
- Provide explicit training and resources for how to live out Christianity in the workplace—seminars, case studies, personal stories. Leaders can set the tone by helping them connect the dots between how their faith informs their work.
Paul Sohn is the founder of QARA where he guides emerging adults to discover their God-given calling. Paul is a best-selling author of Quarter-Life Calling: Pursuing Your God-Given Purpose in Your Twenties (FaithWords, 2017). Paul was named one of the Top 33 under 33 Christian Millennials to Follow by Christianity Today.