Your Newest Workforce

PrintOften, when I am talking with members, I hear a common complaint. It goes something like this, “These kids today. I don’t ever remember it being so difficult. They don’t seem to know what behavior is appropriate in the workplace. And they want their hands held on everything.” It reminds me of an article I was reading recently. The author was chastising youth for feeling entitled, always needing to be entertained, and not understanding the value of a strong work ethic. Can you relate? Careful. The article was written in 1959 and the author was talking about the youth of that period – today’s Baby Boomers.

Today’s newest workforce, The Millennials (born 1980 – 2000) are about 80 million strong. The majority of them have entered the workforce in some capacity whether it is after-school jobs, post-college, or those early 30-somethings launching their professional careers. Many of them, through the encouragement of their parents and teachers, entered the workforce late (“Don’t get a job while you are in school. You have plenty of time to work after you graduate.”). As a result, a few of those first-job lessons we all learn (e.g., show up to work on time, don’t horse around, don’t call the boss “dude,” etc.) have been delayed. And some employers find they are the ones teaching these lessons to their newest employees.

But think about what we are not having to teach them: collaboration skills, creativity, and innovating through technology; skills many of us are still working on developing. Every generation has something they need to learn from the generations that come before and every generation has something to teach. As you work on introducing these newest employees to the workplace, consider these ideas:

  • Assign a Mentor – Millennials have been raised on coaches and learning through success. This personal guidance will send a message of importance to your new employees and is a great way to help pass along the knowledge of your more senior staff.
  • Forget Common Sense – There is no such thing. What is common sense to you is new information for someone else. Think about the norms that you take for granted in your organization and be sure to communicate those expectations.
  • Give Them a Voice and Listen in Return – in less than ten years, Millennials will be the dominant demographic of the workplace. Giving them a voice now and learning how to engage in constructive dialogue will put you miles ahead of the competition and increase your curb appeal to this important demographic.

And if that weren’t enough, are you planning to be in the workforce two to four years from now? If so, get ready for the next generation! Who are they? It’s too early to tell. But, odds are, the Millennials will have something to say about them.