“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
Was that Henry Ford? Warren Buffett? Steve Jobs? No. Although it may not be verbatim what the old sage of Greece said, that quote is attributed to Socrates. Since he died in 399 BCE, we can see that contempt for younger generations predates much of Western civilization.
You’ve surely seen the articles that detail how managers and executives should treat Millennials. These pieces often discuss how the next generation of workers needs to be coddled and granted numerous concessions like telecommuting privileges or flexible working schedules. While these articles swear by such approaches, the startup world isn’t a one-size-fits-all environment. So, let’s focus on ways you can enable your young employees (even if you’re a young entrepreneur yourself!), rather than catering to their every wish. After all, you are their boss and they are taking your money.
Every generation is different, but equally capable. Instead of granting their every wish, treat Millennials like the adults that they are and help them become better employees, and perhaps better people.
Reject the Tech
Every article is going to tell you to embrace technology in order to connect with Millennials. Ignore this line of thinking. First and foremost, establish a policy regarding social media, email, chat, and portable device usage. If both parties are in the office, and within shouting distance, tell them to go and speak to the person instead of sending a digital comm. Why email when you can look into someone’s eyes and address them verbally? Sure, there are exceptions, but try to encourage this behavior.
Try to discourage use of personal devices while at the office. Sure, everyone needs to take important personal calls or texts from time to time, but gently dissuade your employees from doing this. It’s rude, counterproductive, and a bad habit that we’ve all picked up over the past couple of years. Also, going on Facebook or LinkedIn during lunch is fine, but try to push them to eat with you or other coworkers! The more social that your team is, the better they will work with each other.
Approach all of these situations with humor or a lighter tone. You don’t want to come across as the luddite of the office! Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips, so it’s important to push them away from their comfort zone without being too abrasive. That being said, they are adults, and you can treat them as such. People will act in accordance with how they are treated (this goes for all employees).
If you have an issue with their work ethic, performance, or adherence to guidelines or policies, be honest with them! Adults can take constructive criticism or stern warnings about office behavior. If you address the situation when it arises, you’ll avoid kicking the can down the road. They will appreciate this honesty, and you’ll likely see a positive reaction and an attitude adjustment. Sometimes, Millennials don’t realize that they are buried in their phones or check their personal email out of habit.
Discuss the Future
Instead of allowing futuristic technology to be the embodiment of the future within your office, engage your Millennial employees regarding their own personal futures. This isn’t the economy of yesteryear, when people worked for the same company for 40 years. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to attract some of the top Millennial talent and keep it for a couple of years. People aren’t starting families at a young age, and often those in their mid to late twenties and early thirties will move from city to city before settling down.
Therefore, don’t take it personally when people move on! In the era of LinkedIn and online job boards, people can apply for a job in just minutes. They may love working for you and simply want to change career paths! Don’t encourage them to leave, but ask your Millennial employees about their plans for their future every once in a while. Also, if you are honest, they may be honest with you. Appreciative employees may give you a heads up about leaving or even provide more than two weeks’ notice if you need more time to fill a job.
In the same vein, give them advice, even if they don’t seek it. Encourage your Millennial employees to do things that you missed out on doing when you had the chance! If you wanted to backpack around Europe, but were too consumed with work, tell them about how you regret this decision! Hell, even live vicariously through them in this regard: give them ideas for places to go on vacation! If you’re employees take a nice week-long vacation to Paris and Rome, they will come back refreshed and rejuvenated. However, if they spend their vacation days sitting around on their couch and watching Netflix, you won’t see the same level of excitement upon their return.
Impart some wisdom to your Millennial employees – even if you aren’t technically their senior in terms of age, your business experiences will likely have made you a man or woman of considerable sagacity. Your employees may not always heed your advice, but they will likely appreciate your interest in their lives.