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How to Get Millennials Excited About Coming to Work

03/05/2013 05:26 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT
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The recent dust-up over working from home or working at work has brought a few issues to the forefront. Primarily, that dealing with a young, mobile and educated workforce is hard. When millennials work for you, life is going to be very different: they are not their father's workforce.

Think about the workforce today. We are no longer teams working toward a goal, but rather pods of people working in isolation to get through the day, be it at home or at work. It seems we are depressed workers who toil in isolation, or work with friends that are equally as miserable. This sad state of affairs is particularly true for millennials, and this is reducing their contentment factor and will lower your company's productivity. The contentment factor is a measurement that reviews trust, value and engagement in the workplace for millennials.

Recently, I had lunch with a talented millennial who worked for me a few years ago. Let's call him John. As soon as you met John, you knew he could write, speak, and think; key ingredients in my line of work. Shortly after I hired him, I made sure he had a raise in salary and increased responsibility, but, unfortunately, I became ill and had to leave the business to my partners. Others, of course, have seen John's promise and he has moved to a much larger global firm, he can now sell million-dollar clients, and is a respected blogger, and yet he is unhappy.

He has found his success has doomed him. His current boss needs his skills and is, therefore, not promoting him. Because of that, he will be leaving that firm soon, and it will cost the company about $140,000 to replace him.

After his experience with his boss, nothing will keep him at the firm. This is the crux of the situation: millennials don't judge a workplace on the value of the brand: they judge it on the boss of the time. This is what makes dealing with millennials so difficult, Gen X and Boomers judge their work on their ability to get a corner window or to reach partnership level, they know they will have bad bosses and they know it will be difficult.

Millennials have never been challenged. These are kids whose parents disagreed with competitive sports -- everyone wins, remember? Frankly, the workplace is no longer a training ground: it's a war zone. Think of the cartoon "Dilbert" everyone likes it so much because it reminds them of their workplace.

Gone is the middle manager who used to train new hires, teach them the culture and help them understand how to get promoted. In are emails from the CEO and Chief People Officer that dictate or strongly suggest how to behave. And then there are the hated forced corporate functions.

To increase the content factor for millennials, think like they do, in terms of family and friends.

  • Don't send your young team members to outside courses or degree programs; connect them with experts within the company. Build your culture. I grew up near Detroit and clearly remember hearing about the days of the car companies' training campus. These schools were legendary not only because they had the best training in town, but because the people who went to these training session became CEOs and CFOs that lasted more than two years: they cared about the company and its people, not just shareholder value.
  • The workplace is a surrogate family. We like to feel good at work; we like to be around people with a common goal. For the most part, we enjoy the rules that govern the workplace: these are what allow us to execute and achieve success, but when you change the rules, just as when you change the dynamics of a family, failure will follow.
  • Bonds that tie. When millennials work with people they care about and respect the full power of their brilliant minds will increase productivity in your workplace by 10 per cent. Millennials understand team dynamics and working within teams. When the workplace has a boss who is a dictator rather than a team player she will lose brilliant young people like John because she doesn't know how to play.

Whether your millennials work from home, in a store or at an office, we have found that following these rules decreases millennials' churn by 50 per cent. These rules may not cause your employees to yell "YAHOO" every time they have to come to the workplace, but they will create a more productive workforce.

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