Working with the millennial generation

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By LINDA NOWAK
Business Journal columnist

If you are reading a printed version of this article, chances are excellent that you are not a member of Generation Y, commonly called Echo Boomers or Millennials.

This generation, born between 1982 and 2004, has grown up with technology and is perceived as having smartphones as extensions to their arms, constantly checking texts from friends and family, and making their purchases online.

Marketers are responding to Millennials by developing interactive websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Quick Response (QR) codes — you know, those cute little black squares you scan with your smartphone to download information. For a business that is wooing the Millennials, the kiss of death is to have a website that is infrequently updated, slow, non-responsive to their inquiries, plays elevator music and does not show pictures of their generation.

By 2025, 75 percent of our workforce will be Millennials. They are a generation that may be difficult to understand from the perspective of a boss that may be two to three times their age.

Millennials have always had technology in their lives. They are used to the concept that work is not limited by strict hours and physical limits such as cubicles. A Millennial may be more productive working from home or the local coffee shop. The tendency is for a supervisor to negatively judge this different perspective on work, but it would serve them more effectively to take advantage of the norms that define this generation and leverage them to the organization’s benefit.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their book “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation,” describe this generation as confident, teamoriented, high achieving and conventional. Since Millennials have been exposed to social issues all their lives, they are more committed to diversity, the earth and the environment.

They are global in their thinking. They have a strong affinity for groups and belonging; but that “belonging” may be perceived as connecting to each other through Facebook or Twitter. Millennials are very adept at collaborative work, and they are comfortable working in teams. But for some Millennials, remote collaboration is preferred to faceto- face, because they are accustomed to using technology to stay in touch.

In the College of Business Administration at CSU Stanislaus, we strive to help our students understand that their clients and their bosses may need to see more of them — that at times, a face-toface meeting may be the best solution for clients or supervisors who require a more hands-on approach to the successful management of their accounts.

And we aim to prepare them for that more traditional approach to business. We provide our students with numerous opportunities, both in class and in student clubs, to develop their presentation skills, learn to make good eye contact, become good listeners and be responsive to a client’s requests.

Research has shown that Millennials work most effectively when they know exactly what is expected of them. They want to succeed. But they are very uncomfortable with non-specific expectations.

They want to know exactly what the criteria are for computing the quality of their performance. So an employer needs to set clear goals, create opportunities for collaboration and be flexible with a work style that does not require a cubicle for success.

Employers who understand this can create an environment in which Millennials can excel for their organization. And bosses, Millennials are very kind and patient with us about our oldfashioned ways, so do not hesitate to ask them for help when you need to download a new app for your smartphone.

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