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You Should Learn What I Learned From 2 Millenials

by
Morgan Hoogvelt
Dec 20, 2012, 5:11 am ET

Millennials get a bad rap. We hear that millennials work with their iPods on, want flexible hours, won’t stay in a job long, and they get bored easy. Some of these assumptions are legitimate. But similar assumptions can be held true for any generation of worker.

Rather than fight, not understand, and not accept the behavior and way of the millennial, hiring managers should actively engage with this new generation and learn how to lead, manage, and motivate this new generation of workers.

When it was finally my turn to be put in the situation of hiring a millennial or two, I was a bit nervous, as I’d made all the above assumptions myself.

Thankfully, my first two millennial hires have worked out well. But to get these great hires, it took a keen eye and ear to locate these talented individuals. Let’s call them Kacey and Magi.

I’ll start with Kacey. I was first introduced to Kacey via a conversation in the hall that I witnessed. She had been in our building interviewing for a summer internship and had just completed all the rounds of interviews and was exiting the building. As I walked by, I overheard her thanking the interviewer for having her in. Then she posed a question to the interviewer that not only shocked me at the time, but that stuck with me: “What are the next steps for me in this process, and when can I expect to hear back from you?”

Magi proactively reached out to me via LinkedIn with a simple introductory message of “Hello, I would like to introduce myself as I am a new college grad and would like to network with you …”

Of course as a talent professional I made the introduction and was impressed with her from our first meeting. After meeting Magi and listening to her story and her career aspirations, I immediately made a recommendation for her to meet and interview for a couple of positions within our company. Ultimately and lucky for me, I was eventually able to hire her first for my team.

Kacey went on to become a full-time hire in my department where she accepted the position of Recruiting Assistant, a more administrative-based role. One week into her new role and due to demands on my department, I had her doing the work and activities of an experienced corporate recruiter and she performed and continues to perform at a very high level. Magi now functions in the capacity of a Recruiting Assistant title, but once again due to the demands of the business, performs the functions of several roles: recruiting assistant, administrative assistant, sourcer, legal assistant, and recruiter.

I have received numerous compliments on the both of them from experienced professionals in the building on their positive attitudes, personality, intelligence, dedication, and work ethic; moreover, they both have helped reshape the stereo type that is given to millenials. I know I have gotten lucky in hiring both of them. But there are things to look for when hiring millenials and keeping millenials engaged in their work. Doing such holds true for hiring professionals at all levels, not just in hiring millenials.

  • Interviewing skills — I listened to Kacey close her interview in the hall in front of a whole floor of people. While most interviewees fail to ask that question (What are the next steps for myself?) during a one-on-one interview, she asked it in front of no less than 50 people all listening in. Magi studied every piece of material I gave her on interviewing, followed up with questions and scenarios with me, and then executed with precision on all her interviews which resulted in her beating out numerous seasoned professionals during her individual interviews.
  • Attitude and Aptitude – both Kacey and Magi came from recognized collegiate programs and both demonstrated professionalism, the ability to network, proactiveness, and a willingness to work … what more can one ask for? Kacey demonstrated her desire to work hard when in her second day of her HR internship she was asked to help assist the SVP of HR with multiple high-level projects and activities. She never blinked an eye and jumped in head first to assist him. Very impressive. Magi demonstrated her ability to learn fast and execute working through the interview process with me. We strategized together, she did her research and homework, and then she executed at such as high level that managers who interviewed her would call me raving about how impressed they were with her.
  • Desire – probably the hardest thing to measure in all facets of life is desire. We can interview all we want, speak with references, etc., but until you see that person in action, it is extremely tough to measure desire. I accomplished the measurement of desire through Kacey’s internship and through working and guiding Magi on her interview process with the company. I was able to see them each in action and bear witness to how they worked and just how much they wanted to succeed. This was invaluable.

But now that I have them onboard, it is also my responsibility to get to know them and to understand them in order for me to lead and manage them. I know they have the qualities to be successful and I now know they have the personal desire to learn, work hard, and to be successful at work; so how do I keep them engaged? When leading and managing millenials:

  • Know your people – on Day 1, sit with them and re-interview them. What are their hobbies, interests, strengths, goals, and aspirations, and how would they like to be managed? Finding out what their interests and hobbies are could lead to value added skills in the workplace.
  • Give them interesting work – you may be surprised what these young folks can do and the ideas that they have. Use them. There’s no need to keep projects and work close to your vest and not share. Kacey and Magi have a high interest in social media, so I’ve given all social media projects and initiatives to them to own, manage, and lead.
  • Share in their success – work closely with your millenials and know their successes. Make sure you partake in their happiness, no matter how small or trivial you may think their win may be. Then, be sure to share their wins and successes with the department and/or with others in the group for recognition purposes.
  • Cut them some slack – no one I know likes to be micromanaged. With someone so new to the professional and corporate world, stay close to their work and activities but do so through coaching and teaching and not through micro management. I personally set expectations up front and then follow through with one on ones on a weekly basis and follow up on different projects and tasks accordingly. I also make sure to give them a sense of ownership and responsibility for the outcome of their individual work.
  • Be flexible – though there are regular working hours and deadlines to adhere to, through allowing flexible schedules and working hours that my millenials keep very motivated and still meet and exceed their deadlines. I keep in mind that they still like to travel to their college football games, participate in local interest groups, etc. Personally, I don’t clock-watch. I set the expectation and then expect results regardless of how/when the work gets done. I have received projects, work, and emails at all hours of the day and at all hours of the night. If it works, then go with it.
  • Reward them – be sure to reward them for their wins. By doing so you will enhance their enthusiasm and engagement in the job. The funny thing is that rewards can come in very small fashions such as a thank you or way-to-go note, time off, Friday early outs, a small gift card, etc. I try to give my millenials anything that I can get my hands on: concert tickets, tchotchkes, company merchandise, etc. because they love all those things and the smallest things will sometimes do the trick.

A lot of what I mentioned here is geared to the leadership and management of millenials, but these same principles can be used to lead and manage all employees. The truth about millenials is that they are hardworking, dedicated, want to succeed, and they just want what we all want: to be wanted, be comfortable, and to enjoy work and life.

Companies are consistently enhancing and evolving their products to meet shifting consumer tastes and demands. The workplace shouldn’t be any different.

photo from Kansas State University

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Lynda Fraser

    Bravo! Great article to read. I also think that millenials get a bad rap – unfounded more often than not. I think there is much we can learn from them; perhaps things we too once thought were important but forgot as we got caught up in ‘stuff’over time.

  2. Rick Gillis

    Morgan, I agree with Lynda. The ‘bad ones’ from any group are the ones who lead the news cycle. There are a lot of great, motivated young people looking to work their way up the corporate ladder or create their own ladder. Further agreeing with Lynda–I promote to mature job seekers that they give all due respect to any person younger than themselves they might interview with or work for. Someone believed in them enough to give them the responsibility.

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Morgan. I think we should stop trying to characterize a group whose membership isn’t clearly defined (who exactly are “Millennials” or “Gen Yers”?) and runs into the tens of millions by more than a few overall characteristics like: they are young, they are likely to have a lot of debt, and close to a majority of them aren’t working in FT jobs. Beyond that, I think you need to either take individuals as they are (some really good, some really bad, most in between), or do detailed psychographic datamining on tens of millions of Facebook and LI profiles….

    Happy Holidays,

    Keith

  4. Mel Kleiman Csp

    Read the article and take the word Millennial out of it and you have an even better article. Who would not want to hire a person no matter what the generation you showed the poise and proffesionalism that these two applicat.

    On a second note who does not want to be treat with respect and have challenges and being cut a little slack once and a while.

  5. Kent Stones

    I completely agree with Keith and Mel. This is a great article, but applies to anyone. While there are some generational differences by a matter of degree, I generally find that there are universal human truths about our careers and life outside of work. I admire a young person that has grace and poise, and asks thoughtful questions. I also admire a 52-year-old (like me) that does as well.

  6. Morgan Hoogvelt

    Thanks for the comments and feedback. If you read the article in full, I noted in there a couple times that the information I spelled out is relevant and applicable to anyone…

    - “Doing such holds true for hiring professionals at all levels, not just in hiring millenials.”

    - “but these same principles can be used to lead and manage all employees.”

    And moreover, you can’t take the word “millennial” out of this article because some of the practices I used are only relevant to new college grads like an internship.

    And Keith, I had the opportunity to sit once and hear the characteristics of each generation. Personally, I fall in the Generation X category and everything listed about that generation is right on with me. Perhaps it’s a coincidence and perhaps it is even unfair to generalize generations.

    My current role fits my mold to a T and everything that is “generalized” about Generation X – so there has to be some truth to the “generalizations” made.

    The generalizations (X,Y, Millenials) that are made are wide and pretty close to being relevant. Therefore, if we as leaders and managers can recognize that and manage and lead to it – we, you…can be be much more successful.

  7. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Morgan. “I had the opportunity to sit once and hear the characteristics of each generation.”
    1) You are one person- that’s a highly subjective result and a very small sample size.
    2) What were your prior expectations to speaking with these folks? Were you aware you had any prior expectations?
    3) What’s the difference between a “generalization” and a “stereotype”?
    4) Here are two “boomers”:
    a) 54 year-old liberal Jewish recruiter who lives in San Francisco, California and
    b) 63 year-old conservative Southern Baptist homemaker in Valdosta, Georgia.
    Aren’t our differences stronger than the fact that we were assigned to the same arbitrary generational cohort?

    Cheers,

    Keith “Not the Georgia Homemaker” Halperin

  8. Rajpreet Heir

    Glad you mention how Millennials want interesting work. We want to be challenged and like Magi and Kacey, we are willing to do this from day 1. Something else to take into account is that we Millennials are always looking for a job, even when we are in one. So unlike previous generations that stay in one job for years, Millennials will jump to a new job if won over.

  9. Morgan Hoogvelt

    @ Keith – no earthly clue what you are talking about.

    @Rajpreet – I have seen where managers/departments throw “busy” or crappy work to the newbies. I think for the case of the millenial, you are right – need to give interesting work to keep engagement and gather fresh ideas.

    Secondly, I agree with the mindset you have of always looking for a job and I agree with that mindset. Our corporate culture has shifted drastically from where our parents stayed with one company for years and then were rewarded in the end. You and I have nothing to look forward to for staying in one place forever, other than being criticized in the end for doing so.

    I would caution you however, when you make a move…make it a strategic career move. We all need to make moves that will increase our learning, responsibility and earnings. Don’t make a move out or boredum or just because. I see nothing wrong with changing jobs every 3-4 years to advance yourself.

    Good luck out there – Morgan

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