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Tips for Working with Millennials
To older, more experienced workers, the new generation of employees known as Millennials, or Generation Y, might seem as though they came from a different planet. Savvy with technology, impatient for progress and seeking reward beyond a paycheck, they're often shaking up traditional ways of doing business.
It's up to company leadership to figure out how to accommodate their strengths while maintaining harmony in a diverse workforce.
"I see a marked difference in Gen Y," says Steve McCollum, a baby boomer and CEO of Cast Management Consultants in Los Angeles. "We're just wired differently. Things that I take as a given, they don't."
His parents, who influenced him, were young adults during the Depression and had a more subservient attitude, he says, working hard, saving as much as they could and happy to have any type of work. "Generation Y is much more about getting the kind of work experience they want, and they won't stay with a company if they don't get it."
McCollum made changes in his own firm, which employs people in their 20s through 60s, that have proven to be effective. For example, his employees travel often, and instead of requiring them to be in the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, which meant they had to take overnight flights, he allows them to fly home on a Thursday morning and take that afternoon to get settled before returning to the office.
Another change is a more relaxed attitude toward working weekends. Typically, the entire staff, including Generation Y, does come in, he says, but only if they know they have a defined purpose. "They're not going to sit around warming a chair if they're not productive," he says.
Richard Westphal, North America talent strategist at Accenture, says he found that the work flexibility that is so crucial to Millennials has crossed over to all generations. "Despite differences in age, we've found more similarities than differences in what people want in the workplace and in their careers, one of the most popular being flexibility - the ability to work when and where they need," he says.
Flexible working arrangements aside, Generation Y brings a unique set of skills to the workplace, chief among them an ease with technology that older workers often don't have. Westphal says that when a company understands how to use technology, "it helps us not only attract Gen Y recruits who matured in a world of changing technologies, but also allows us to serve all generations."
McCollum sees another valuable asset in Millennials. "They've had a lot more varied experience by the time they come to a company than I did," he notes. "They've had internships around the world and a lot more life experiences early in their careers, so they bring a different sort of focus that adds to the solution."