Making the Most with Millennials

The operational review had been scheduled for over two weeks, so where was the employee? Her day started at 7:30am, and several clients were already in line along with me awaiting her arrival. I glanced at my watch again; she was now over eight minutes late. I turned to one of her customers and asked, “Do you know if this happens often?” The young woman nodded her head, “Yes, sometimes she opens up late.”

In my mind, this was strike one—and two. Not only was this employee late for our appointment, but she was also making valuable clientele wait, too.

Suddenly a person bustled toward us. The employee had finally arrived. She spent another minute fumbling for keys, making a quick comment about bad traffic. No apology was offered to anyone present, just excuses. No welcome was given to the half-dozen customers. In fact, the employee rushed into the building without another word. In my mind, this was shrike three!

My immediate reaction to this Millennial’s morning mishap was to recommend termination. If this behavior was an indicator of her level of “professionalism”—especially on a day when she should have been expecting an evaluation—how could I reasonably recommend her retention?

That’s when I had to pause and consider the generational dilemma not only facing the company that had hired her but also countless organizations across the country. Sure, this employee could be fired, but her spot would no doubt be filled by yet another Millennial with many of the same generational characteristics. What are these?

*Self-Aware: Millennials (those born from 1981-2000) are the youngest members of our workforce. They’ve been pampered, praised, and all awarded prizes so that “everything was fair.” All the attention given to them has caused them to be very aware of, and much centered upon, their own personal wants and needs.

*Multitaskers: Millennials like to do many things at once; they also happen to be pretty good at doing so. In addition, they are extremely gifted with technology. Unfortunately, their propensity to text, email, listen to music, and talk on their cell phones all at once makes them a distracted generation.

*Relational: It’s no wonder social media has exploded with this generation. They aren’t motivated by money and traditional incentives like previous generations; instead they want to connect with people, including at work, and they want to feel part of a larger purpose for being employed.

As I reflected on these facts about Millennials, I refocused on the employee I’d been sent to evaluate. She whisked around the room, cheerfully interacting with each customer as she answered questions. In other words, her generational characteristics had unique benefits to the company and with the clientele: she made sure her time was shared fairly while she got many task accomplished and made positive connections with customers because of her interpersonal skill sets.

None of this excused her tardiness, but perhaps this was simply an area that needed an action plan. Her customer service skills also needed refining—for instance, when an employee opens up late, an apology must be offered to those waiting. Yet as I observed her fellow Millennial customers, they seemed to have forgiven this slight and positively interacted with her now.

The bottom line is that Millennials aren’t perfect, and most leaders today are experiencing the same frustrations with members of this talented, but flawed generation who often act more entitled than industrious. Intentional effort must be made to help them learn your company’s culture along with their roles and responsibilities—and this will require time and effort from you and your team members. Yet if you’re willing to invest in this generational group, you will soon discover the positive attributes of Millennials will be worth making the most of in the days ahead.