They are spoiled, uncooperative, impatient, lazy, and worse. These are just a few of the words used to describe some who have been deemed the “entitlement generation.” They are often called Millennials, or Gen Y, or even Generation C.
Sure, with stories like the 18-year old woman who is suing her parents for financial support flying around the web, is anyone really surprised?
Getting a Grip
I must admit, even as a latter Gen Y myself, this extreme entitlement mentality phenomenon somewhat shocks me. I would never come to conclude that I would sue my parents to support my “independent lifestyle.” Rather, I would hear my mother’s voice in my head saying what she used to say to me as a kid when I’d complain and moan:
“…Fine you want to leave… you’re so miserable… then just remember this – You leave this house the way you came into it – with nothing!”
Needless to say, I never left abruptly. And I certainly didn’t sue them for college tuition either!
But about the young woman suing her parents, I had a very different upbringing. And I cannot take her example and project that entitled behavior on an entire generation. My parents taught me to not pass judgment based on one person’s behavior and then generalize that aberration across the entire population.
In fact, the entitlement generation (let’s just call them Millennials) do have a lot to bring to the table.
They bring new ways of doing things. They bring vitality, innovation, and next-gen savvy. With a record 47% of the active adult working population being labeled as a Millennial this year, there may be a lot of work left to be done to integrate them into the business world.
But for your business to grow and succeed, you should be harnessing what they have to offer and not scoffing at them.
Getting to the Next Level
Some hot button issues my clients usually mention relate to work hours, social media, technology, and an overall general attitude and communication style.
Though I am not one to recommend catering to any one particular demographics’ demands without requesting something in return, this generation has the potential to bring a business to the next level.
So rather than dig your feet into the ground – why not alter how you do business a bit to make it work for everyone – a win/win?
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Coaching and Communication
Millennials are not afraid to speak up or call the boss by his first name. They believe that communication is imperative in all directions, up, down, and lateral. To engage this generation create an environment where they are encouraged and rewarded for speaking up about ideas and concerns, regardless of level in the organization.
Don’t view this as disrespect; harness this style of communication, which often leads to innovation. Millennials prefer coaches, not bosses.
- To engage Millennials, add a structured coaching or mentoring program to your organization – cross generational if possible. Build in frequent developmental check-ins and create a trusted relationship and space for discussion. Helping to guide open communication, career progression, and build trust leads to increased engagement, innovation, and high performance.
Millennials need to feel connected to the organization to stay engaged. They expect a seat at the table, want questions answered directly, often challenge the status quo, they have a need to understand the big picture – this doesn’t mean they expect to be CEO tomorrow. Don’t just give access and advice to your corporate strategy, mission, and vision to senior leaders.
Allow access to and input from your Millennial non-executive employees as well. They tend to feel more connected and engaged when they know their own values and beliefs and work align with those of the organization.
- To engage Millennials, provide the opportunity to give and receive feedback, not just regarding their own careers but on the overall direction and vision of the organization, this is important to Millennials and helps them feel heard, respected, connected, and stay engaged.
Tap Into Technology
Millennials are used to technology, some were even born with it at their fingertips. They aren’t scared of new technologies and adapt fast to new innovations. Many are creating their own (do you have an app for that?) Don’t shy away from new technologies that enable telecommuting or virtual work environments, that facilitate learning and training on the go, or that help contribute to work life balance.
Utilize video teleconferencing, Webinars, and test out whatever is new and innovative. Technology can be used to encourage group and project based work. Use technology – and social media – to build in collaboration, create informal team building exercises, and as a communication tool for positive public relations for your organization.
- To engage Millennials, use social media and new technology as a communication and feedback tool and for telecommuting and enhancing collaboration. Creating public forums for employees to pose insights, questions, and concerns, and for the organization to have a place to respond real time to address issues, and share information. This helps everyone feel heard and can increase engagement and productivity.
As you can see – there are things you can provide to harness Millennial innovation that doesn’t necessarily cost large sums of money nor do they alter your organization’s values and strategy.
This generation, when given the opportunity, provides businesses with ideas and innovations that will give you the edge when it comes to winning over customers.
(Just advise your General Counsel not to cancel the tuition reimbursement program!)
So how do you feel about the “entitlement generation?” Do you see these types of people in your organization? If so, how do you interact, deal with, and support their disposition? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders™
Scott Span, MSOD is President of Tolero Solutions OD & Change Management Firm
He helps clients be responsive, focused, and effective to facilitate sustainable growth
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