The Millennials Dilemma
You’re ambitious, hard-working, laser-focused, prepared to stay late, passionate about what you do, and ready to move up in the world.
So why do your peers and those younger than you, the ones you desperately try to manage well, appear to hold the opposite viewpoint?
- They’re afraid to take chances.
- They’re unable to communicate effectively with someone new.
- They’re lacking the diverse set of skills required to accomplish groundbreaking projects.
The answer is rather simple. They’re millennials.
Everyone is talking about them, but few can articulate how to help overcome their weaknesses.
Don’t get us wrong, millennials are crushing it in the empathy category, the technology category, and the working-with-a-purpose category. But there’s room for improvement.
Ruby on Rapids reached out to both local and national proponents of millennials with a goal of helping West Michigan millennials become, for the lack of a better phrase, all that they can be.
1. Let them fail … gracefully
Kristen Hadeed is quickly becoming a leading national expert on millennials – how they work and how to motivate them and why they act so weird and why they are so valuable. A millennial herself, Hadeed founded Student Maid, a Florida-based cleaning startup, and serves as CEO of MaidSuite, a software application designed to streamline scheduling in the cleaning industry.
Hadeed, who spoke in Holland last year, said she’s noticed one glaring weakness among her peers: recent graduates are lacking in confidence.
“Some people may not consider confidence to be a skill, but lacking confidence can be a huge detriment to job performance and overall success,” Hadeed told Ruby on Rapids.
“A lot of these students grew up receiving praise and accolades for everything they did–no matter how well–from their parents and teachers, and now that they have to compete in the job market, they are realizing that the skills they thought they had aren’t cutting it,” she said.
The fear of failure also keeps confidence low.
“Schools should inspire confidence in students by helping them understand what they are truly good at and reminding them that it’s OK to fail, ” Hadeed said. “Getting back up and trying again makes you a stronger candidate, not weaker.”
2. Teach them to communicate the old school way
Emily Davisson, also a millennial, is a state champion Forensics participant and coach in the metro Detroit area.
She’s a passionate advocate for Forensics, which is best understood as a student’s unique, individual interpretation of literature – a student researching, composing, editing, and performing their own original speech on a relevant topic.
Unfortunately, budget cuts at many high schools, colleges, and universities have reduced or eliminated Forensics programs. That leaves millennials, who already struggle to communicate face-to-face thanks to technology distractions, with even less opportunities to learn valuable speaking skills.
“The skills one learns in Forensics are the exact skills employers aspire their employees to possess,” Davisson said. “It is a proven fact that the number one skill any employer, regardless of the industry, desires is excellent communication skills. These skills are what forensicators thrive on.”
Hadeed’s experience from running Student Maid confirms Davisson’s point.
While some millennial employees prefer to just text instead of using phone calls or in-person communication, her company doesn’t tolerate it.
“We require face-to-face communication,” Hadeed said during her Everybody Matters Podcast interview published on Jan. 26, 2016.
Require in-person meetings for certain issues or projects. Approach your millennial employees and initiate a face-to-face conversation instead of firing off another e-mail. Challenge them to present at the next company training session.
Old school? Sure. Effective? You bet.
3. Provide them with interesting problems to solve
Brian Davis is an innovative superintendent (more than 2,100 Twitter followers) leading Holland Public Schools into the era of “21st Century Skills”. Think project teams, oral communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, not iPads or Chromebooks.
“Most people think the device is 21st Century,” Davis said. “It’s not.”
After consulting with various local employers, from small businesses to corporations, Davis and his district realized they needed to train students to solve interesting problems together. That means project-based learning, taking a real-world issue and empowering students to solve it.
“(Employers) want people who collaborate and work with other people well,” Davis said. “I think what we are trying to do with kids today is answer the ‘so what?'”
You can apply the same concept in your workplace.
Have a problem you don’t have time for? Assign a team of millennials to solve it and you’ll be amazed at the results.
Just ensure they understand the ‘so what?'” And give them enough tools to succeed. Oh, and make it interesting.
There you have it. A basic framework to help you lead the talented, yet challenging millennials that form the backbone of your technology firm.
Let them fail.
Teach them to communicate.
Give them a cool project.