Want to succeed in growing your small business? Then one skill you’d be wise to learn is how to manage and motivate millennials. After all, millennials—those born roughly between 1980-2000—are now America’s largest demographic group. While the average age of a small business owner is 50.3 years, many of your employees, not to mention customers, are 20-39 years old. Many small business owners have learned they have to manage differently to make the best use of the talents and energy of these younger workers.
“We have team members from four different generations working together (Gen Z, Millenials, Gen X and Baby Boomers),” said Megan Driscoll, CEO and founder, EvolveMKD, a Manhattan-based PR and digital communications agency. “Each generation has different priorities, goals, perspectives and even slightly different meanings for the same phrases (such as “business casual”).
That’s why Driscoll recently brought in Joy E. Taylor, Principal at the consulting firm Grant Thornton, based in Washington Crossing, PA, to conduct a cross-generational training program for her rapidly expanding business. Many of Driscoll’s hires were millennials, and she wanted to make certain that she created a management atmosphere in which they could thrive.
“The difference between generations wasn’t all that many years—maybe 6-10 years between top leadership and millennials,” explained Taylor. “But Megan wanted to make sure there was the best possible communication and understanding. That was critical for a fast growing company.”
As importantly, both Driscoll and Taylor knew that collaboration across generations would be a competitive edge. Driscoll wanted to make sure she maximized the opportunities for her younger staff and kept her company’s growth going.
“Having a multi-generational team gives you a competitive edge,” said Driscoll. “Our clients range in age, and having team members who can relate to those different perspectives is valuable…We’re recommending public relations and digital marketing plans, trying to reach consumers across generations, and having team members that intimately understand the channels that are really meaningful to those consumers makes our recommendations that much more impactful to our client’s businesses.”
“Companies of today must allow for (staff to have) earlier transitions of jobs than in the past, and it works in their favor,” said Taylor. “That’s because many women and men of today are more capable than we were 20 years ago. They’re more diverse, more technologically sound, more advanced in analytical and presentation skills. They’re far more comfortable being remote. They’re more entrepreneurial, and their value system is not just monetarily motivated.”
“Millennials want to move up and they want to learn,” said Taylor. “Because of their eagerness, they need to feel movement within an organization faster. They don’t want to be stuck in the same job, doing the same thing. While they may be a manager for three years, they don’t want to be doing the same thing. If you try to fight it, they’re going to leave, and you just create a pool of one- or two-year wonders. That’s expensive to hire and train.”
“One of the most important question millennials ask of any company’s management is: ‘Why don’t you give me more opportunities to present, to be in front of clients and colleagues?’ Typically, senior management feel that clients want and pay for their years of experience. But younger staff also feel that their own experiences should be valued, even if they did not have the longevity.”
“The advice we give organizations now is to recraft your hierarchy to have sublevels—manager 1, manager 2, manager 3. It’s still a three-year journey, but every year, there’s movement and a compensation structure to go along with it. This generation must feel overt progression in return for time served.”
Taylor advises managers to show respect to millennials for what they do know, such as their technological adeptness, and blend generational teams frequently. “Sprinkle young life into the life of your organization. Have them make presentations, lead groups. And don’t ever stop asking questions.”
“We have more in common, regardless of the generation we’re in,” said Taylor. “Everyone wants respect…every one of us wants to trust our leaders. Everyone wants to grow and are excited when they learn something new.”
Six Keys to Understanding Millennials in Your Small Business:
- They want to move up fast. Devise new levels and new rewards so millennials feel progress and have more opportunities sooner.
- They thrive on positive feedback. Be sure to take notice and acknowledge positive contributions.
- They want more than just money. Ensure your organization has positive social goals.
- They’re in debt. What you might consider a small expense can be a big amount to them. They appreciate free food, extra benefits, and, of course, more money.
- They expect up-to-date devices. And for you to be technologically open.
- They can be on their phones and still listening to you. It may be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2019
This article originally ran in USA Today on August 14, 2019