Millennial is such a buzzword these days. For the generation born between, 1980-1995 it is difficult to escape the harsh criticisms doled out in the press and pop culture. Whether it be the ideals of a long-term, linear career, marriage and child-rearing, home-ownership or banking practices Millennials are making waves by refusing to accept the status quo.

Regardless if that is interpreted positively or negatively, one thing is clear: Millennials are demanding that we change the way we do business and the sheer size of their generation means that the market is listening.  As the largest generation in American history, expected to peak at 75 million, they’re already making multiple changes in the way we do business. Consider the following points:

  • The largest hotel chain doesn’t own any buildings. (Airbnb)
  • The largest cab companies don’t own any cars. (Uber/Lyft)
  • The largest retail company doesn’t own store space. (Amazon)

Millennials aren’t just changing the core business models of the retail, hospitality and transportation industries. They’re having a direct impact on employer practices across industries. With the current workforce crisis facing the I/DD field, attuning to Millennials as a key player in the game is crucial for a successful strategy.

Because of the meaningful and purposeful work of Direct Support Professionals and SSA’s, we should win at attracting and retaining Millennials, but the crisis shows that we’re not. Based on our experience and Millennial research, here are three suggestions for leaders to consider when Managing Millennials.         

1. Embrace Rather Than Isolate

You’re making an investment in your organization’s success when you chose to be curious rather than contentious. Regardless of the wide-spread complaints that seem to accompany supervising this generation, facts show that Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce. As a leader and the person who ultimately establishes and maintains the culture of your organization, there is a clear choice at hand. You can either choose to embrace this generation or you can jump on the band-wagon. Criticizing or ignoring this group will ultimately lead to isolation and Millennial churn.

Consider asking this group for their opinions on what would make their work environment more supportive. While some of it may be difficult to hear, try to remain open to the possibilities. By opening yourself up to the positive changes this generation could bring, you’re making an investment in your organization’s success.

2. Understand Key Motivations 

Many of the key frustrations listed about this generation are misunderstandings. Rather than blaming your co-worker, consider the experiences of the Millennial childhood. Millennials grew up in a time of extreme, publicized violence. The 24-hour news cycle emerged during their childhood and significantly impacted the parenting styles in which they were raised. Parents grew increasingly concerned as they witnessed news stories of childhood abductions, terrorist attacks, school shootings, church scandals and more.

The “come home at dark” childhood freedom was traded in for coordinated play dates, organized sports and parents who stormed the field when the referee made a bad call. By replacing free play and neighborhood roaming with coordinated activities, Millennials lost the opportunity to problem solve without supervision and learning to manage in the face of adversity. This experience translates to employees who look to their supervisors for help solving problems, not because they’re “lazy” or “entitled”, but because their developmental years were characterized by extreme oversight and parental management.

3. Adapt to Learning Styles

While we’re on the events of their childhood, let’s also examine the tools that were used by their teachers and college professors to convey expectations and evaluation. Millennials have come to expect that the first day of college courses includes a detailed review of the syllabus and course expectations. The syllabus is a comprehensive list of assignments, their due dates, and expectations for maximum point value. This is standard operating procedure across institutions and fields of study. From the first day of classes, students have an exhaustive list of the core expectations and what they’ll need to take to get full credit in the course.

Because the educational system serves as the vehicle that prepares students for the workforce, it is no surprise that Millennials would expect employers to establish clear expectations early on in their employment.  They also dislike being held accountable for something that wasn’t explicitly stated. This information provides employers with clues on ways to restructure the on-boarding and evaluation process in order to better support all generations.

Finally, as employers begin to tackle the question of how to attract, support and retain Millennial employees, it is important that employers remember that Millennials have a distrust for marketing and advertisement. They seldom rely on company information to make decisions and are more skeptical than trusting. Instead, they watch the actions of the company and often use websites like Glassdoor, Yelp or even Facebook to solicit information from customers and other employees. As a leader, when you begin addressing strategies to attract, retain and manage this generation, remember that they are watching your actions rather than trusting your words.