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The Baby Boomer generation pursued pension plans, corner offices and a linear career path. In return, many Boomers committed the duration of their careers to their organization.

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As they settled into those corner offices and put their feet up on their desks, their world turned upside down as the Millennial generation entered the workforce.

Millennials are the largest generation to date, and they will soon dominate corporate culture. Businesses are making major changes in response to the next generation workforce’s overwhelming presence and influence. Pension plans, corner offices and linear career paths have given way to performance-based pay, open workspaces and zigzagging career journeys.

For organizations still asking how to increase the productivity of a Millennial workforce, I offer eight tactics implemented in my own organization that have proven successful:

1) Make your office looks more like the Apple Store than a cube farm. That means open spaces, plenty of caffeine and cool technology. Millennials’ top spending priority is Web-enabled devices. Workplaces that provide such devices to employees — and have convenient charging stations — will be most attractive to those in the job market.

2) Meet them on their (virtual) turf. Two-thirds of Millennials judge their employers by their technological knowledge, according to a May 2013 SHRM online survey. “You have to adopt the tech tools [Millennials] are currently using,” said Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. “You need to understand instant messaging, Skype, Google Hangouts and social networks if you want to hire and manage this important demographic.”

3) CC Mom and Dad. Parents of Millennials tend to employ helicopter-style parenting strategies, which seem to extend to their children’s careers. Some firms have begun embracing parental involvement and using it to attract and retain talent, as well as boost employee morale. Northwestern Mutual does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses, according to Michael Van Grinsven, field-growth and development director at the Milwaukee-based financial firm. Some managers notify parents when interns achieve their sales goals, and let parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers.

4) Embrace their desire to explore different roles every few years. Millennial workers only stay in one job for an average of two years, so make the most of it. Larger organizations will have the advantage in retaining these employees long-term with programs to encourage and support frequent lateral transfers, job rotations and cross-functional training opportunities.

5) Build Communities and encourage friendships. Millennials have a great enthusiasm for life and a different approach to work-life balance. They don’t want to work as many hours as previous generations, but they blur the lines between work and personal lives. They thrive on community building in online collaboration tools, such as Facebook and Jam, as well as off-line via sports leagues and social outings with colleagues — who are also their core circle of friends. Employees who have someone they consider a personal friend at work are more likely to stay with that organization.

6) Influence the influencers. Millennials highly value opportunities to connect with thought leaders and influencers — the natural leaders in their groups. They respect the opinions of influencers in their group. If I want to ensure great results, I’ll connect with influencers in the Millennial generation to help with design and implementation, so when it rolls out through Instagram and Twitter, it has their stamp of approval.

7) Teach them interpersonal skills. Because their lives are so device-driven, they really need to practice interpersonal skills. “I have a million virtual conversations every day,” a 20-year-old intern in my office told me, “but I often find it’s exhausting having to talk to people face-to-face, to make eye contact and speak in complete sentences.” As Millennials start to become managers and leaders, there are more expectations that they will interact with each other face-to-face — and they will look to their employers for guidance and learning opportunities in this area.

8) Invest in them. “I’ll contribute as much to my [job] as my employer is investing in me,” a Millennial colleague at SuccessFactors said. The relationship between a Millennial and their employer is a reciprocal contract that needs to be continuously renewed on both sides.

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3 Comments

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  1. Maarten Vries

    Interesting blogpost, especially “cc mom and dad”, which i hadn’t heard before and, frankly, strikes me as quite bizarre.

    However, there is so much generalisation about Millenials that I wonder if they are really that homogenous, and I question some of the things people say about them. For example:

    * Is it really the Millenials who want performance-based pay, as suggested above?

    * Is it really true that “they don’t want to work as many hours as previous generations”?

    * Do they really have less interpersonal skills than previous generations?

    Even if these things are true (which they may well be, I don’t know), they may change over time. In a way, I hope they are not as predictable as we think ;o)

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    1. Marissa Wheaton

      I agree with your points, Martin. As I am also roped in with Millennials… I don’t think some of these tactics appeal to me, or solely to Millennials. They seem to be widely generalized towards a stereotypical view of this age group. In contrast, I think Millennials seeking employment in companies, such as SAP, have qualities and desires similar to the generations of people before them (in addition to innovative and fresh ideas) and are different from Millennials that fit these tactics (addicted to tech, too lazy to talk to someone in person).

      I find open working spaces distracting, I have been quite independent from my parents for years now, and I like to think I have effective communication skills off and online, which is likely one of my main talking points when interviewing for jobs. I would imagine people any age would appreciate communities and friendships at work, as well as exploring new roles yet maintain a stable position, and their company “investing” in them.

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