You Should Learn What I Learned From 2 Millenials

Dec 20, 2012

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