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Corporate America Needs to Understand These 4 Keys to Working With Millennials

We’ve all heard about (and many of us have had) negative experiences when trying relate with the millennial generation. There is much talk about how scary it’s going to be working with these millennials. Many worry what will happen to our economy and corporate culture.

Millennials have a bad reputation as entitled, lazy, self-obsessed, fame-obsessed whiners who are allergic to hard work but expect to be disproportionately rewarded for very little effort. A 2013 article by Joel Stein in Time magazine gave us these statistics:

  • The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
  • Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40 percent believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.
  • They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a senator, according to a 2007 survey. Four times as many would pick the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation.
  • They’re so convinced of their own greatness that the National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60 percent of millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right.
  • Their development is stunted: more people ages 18 to 29 live with their parents than with a spouse, according to the 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults.
  • And they are lazy. In 1992, the nonprofit Families and Work Institute reported that 80% of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; 10 years later, only 60% did.

Chris Tuff, a current researcher who wrote an enlightening new book called The Millennial Whisperer, claims the ideas we hold of our millennials is all wrong. He brings a fresh new perspective teaches us that corporate America simply needs to understand what motivates our millennials and how to utilize these motivations to inspire this generation to perform. Tuff offers us the following key points to help leaders to understand and work with millennials.

1. Create an environment of rewards.

Rewards are important to millennials. For example, when Domo began recruiting sales people into their warehouse offices in San Francisco, they had people write down their favorite song. At the first of every month over the loudspeakers the song of the salesperson of the month would blast through the speakers as blue sirens sounded throughout the office. They would then drag a 10-foot-tall blue rooster to the desk of the lucky salesperson with the highest number.

Everyone yearned to get that rooster. Rewards don’t always have to be monetary. A more simple tactic that Tuff has been practicing with his team is starting every team stats meeting with “snaps.” Snaps are where you recognize other people on the team for a job well done and then everyone snaps away. This small reward creates an environment of optimism, recognition and props while also covering key events on each account.

2. Find a yin-to-your-yang with builders and operational leaders being paired together.

Organizations, especially startups, put a ton of pressure on leaders to be all things to all people. No single person can be all things to all people. In reality leaders either excel in bringing order to their team or they thrive in chaos.

According to the 2018 Deliotte millennial survey, millennials prefer inspirational leaders over most other leadership traits. Yet, when we select leaders, we expect them to bring both operational excellence as well as the charisma and inspiration required to lead this next generation. Instead, we must look at pairing leaders up with other leaders to round one another out. This way we provide our millennials with the structure they need in a working environment that also inpsires them.


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