If millennial employees aren’t yet leading your organization, they will be soon.  Most (59%) millennials surveyed already aspire to be business leaders in the next five years, according to The Hartford’s 2014 Millennial Leadership Survey.  The rise of the millennials presents challenges to employers.  In fact, most hiring managers (53%) today report difficulty finding and retaining millennial talent, according to a new study titled ” The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce.”  And yet a new survey  of more than a thousand chief financial officers shows that many corporations are making no effort to attract employees under 35.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this generation following my recent conversation with The Small Business Advocate radio program, and here are a few tips to help employers who want to make the most of millennial talent:

  • Get the culture right. Cultural fit has long been the top concern of talented senior-level candidates, and that especially holds true with the millennial generation.  Millennials care more than boomers about finding meaning in their work, so employers need to create and articulate a workplace culture that shows values beyond revenue and profits.  Any workplace culture starts with the CEO, so that person needs to prioritize building an environment that welcomes millennials.
  • Train, train, train. According to Deloitte principal Josh Bersin, only eight percent of companies recently surveyed have a robust leadership program for millennial leaders, yet more than 75 percent of all organizations will be run by millennials by 2025.  Training makes a huge difference for companies large and small.  At our firm, we bring in experts to help create high-performing teams, and we work aggressively to give young people the opportunity to advance if they do a great job.  Just keep the training appealing and tech-savvy.
  • Add flexibility.  PwC’s NextGen: A Global Generational Study found that millennials value work-life balance and recommends that employers adopt policies such as providing employees greater flexibility in their work location or schedule without having to execute a more formal flexible work arrangement.  And yet, overall, just 56 percent of full-time workers now report having flexible work, according to research from The White House.  That needs to change. 
  • Communicate!Simple steps like restructuring staff meetings or using instant messaging can help older managers make the most of their millennial talent.  But don’t shy away from face-to-face conversations: a study from Millennial Branding Randstad finds that both Gen Y and Gen Z prefer in-person communication with managers rather than emailing and instant messaging.  Communication also means active listening, and in our firm listening to millennial employees has helped us expand our social media platform, establish new uses for technology, launch philanthropic projects, and improve the office environment.

I don’t buy the negative stereotypes about this generation as ” workplace divas.” The Boston College Center for Work & Family has found that the millennial generation will tend to bring eight qualities to leadership: active attention, transparency, relevancy for others, relevancy for oneself, passion, accountable leadership, autonomy through flexibility, and self-care as a reflection of organizational health.  To me, millennials look like a generation that can help us all make the most of our strengths. 

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