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4 hints to build a workplace for millennials

Foreword: I am no millennial but deeply care about bridging the generational gap and finding effective solutions to engage more with the younger generation at work.

By now, we have all read lots about Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) who will represent half of our workforce by 2020 (PWC) including that millennials have a low employee engagement (Gallup and private sources) and are really hard to attract and retain.

To try and resolve this, I spent a lot of time understanding what millennials really want so as to develop digital solutions and team leadership practices to help SMEs and water or energy utilities.

In the recent "Lead by Alignment" white paper, I summarised millennials’ needs from a number of sources as:

  • work that is personally fulfilling
  • making new friends
  • learning new skills
  • connecting to a larger purpose (TechCrunch)
  • mentoring and constant feedback (Harvard Business Review), and
  • a job meeting their haste for success ('Millennials at work, Reshaping the workplace' PwC).

This is why the new leadership approaches and digital technologies to test need to:

  1. Promote agile management: so much change happens within seconds on Snapchat or Whatsapp so why do you expect your new colleagues to wait for the annual performance review to see if they are doing well? Senior management and team leaders can use digital tools to help: easily cascade the strategic goals; monitor mobile teams work progress from the palm of their hand; share shorter term goals - with cycles inspired by agile management practices. Field workers can also share work progress or call for support, as and when needed. No need to wait for the annual review to be rewarded for one's efforts. Agile leadership also means you work more closely with your team on a daily basis and serious skidding is avoided.
  2. Use mobile solutions that are simple to adopt: 85% of Millennials are mobile (Nielsen) so you'll need to dust off SMART goal techniques and try SMARTAAC goals that work for mobile teams. Any team productivity tool has to be mobile-by-design as "technology allows employees to work remotely" (Palmer) and simple to adopt - meaning: with a 2-min user on-boarding requiring no training, neither for millennials nor for older generations.
  3. Promote collaborations: when playing games, you can call upon friends to resolve problems so there is no reason why millennials cannot call upon colleagues within or even outside your business for some help to deliver work! Surprising collaborative teams might form within your business - including older folks. Consider new ways of collaborating e.g. "crowdsourcing" work delivery from distributors, contractors, or anyone else. Open your mind to new approaches to problem solving and consider revising existing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with your legal teams to achieve your ends.
  4. Focus on results and team performance: 78% of millennials use technologies to be more effective at work (PWC) so bringing a productivity cloud solution or an app would be acceptable. Hint: track a goal with a wider purpose, as millennials are so keen on them. Then, it's hands off unless there is a call for help! In this way, even from the field, home or the closest internet cafe, everyone does what they do best and sees how it contributes to the bigger picture.

"Employees valued the manager that empowered employees to do what they do best and what they were passionate about"
Costello & Westover: Engaging millennials

Rather than teaching engineering graduates to use emails - real story! - I urge older and young generations to collaborate to shape the future of work, and test innovative digital technologies as well as management approaches.

Bruno Vinel
Co-founder, Agily3 Ltd

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Bruno Vinel