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What leaders can do to embrace younger generations

Young employees are an opportunity, not a problem.

5 min read


Young people

Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Over the past several years, I’ve talked with plenty of leaders who accuse the new workforce of being unprepared, overly sensitive, lazy and narcissistic. That’s a shame; these are common stereotypes that aren’t always founded in reality.

However, these leaders can change their minds — for the better. How? By embracing younger generations and taking the following six steps.

Help them grow

This is difficult for leaders to wrap their heads around, but younger generations don’t see themselves working for you. They’re working for themselves, whether they’re contracted or full-time employees.

They realize they aren’t going to stay with the same organization their entire career. In fact, a 2018 study revealed that almost half of millennials expect to leave their job within the next two years. Thanks to the gig economy, they can hop from job to job.

Second, we live in an era where it’s easier than ever to start your own business, launching with nothing more than an idea and a computer. While this doesn’t mean younger generations are actually starting more businesses, most millennials have considered it. Gen Z is poised to become the most entrepreneurial generation ever.

Third, they’re all about personal branding. Building relationships by authentically expressing themselves through their creativity or lifestyle comes naturally.

What does this mean for leaders? Rather than view younger generations as subordinates to do your bidding, help them achieve their goals and objectives. Research from software company Bridge shows they’ll be loyal if you help them grow professionally and personally.

“Millennial employees are looking for something different in their jobs, beyond good compensation,” said Emily Foote, a vice president at Bridge. “They aren’t satisfied with routine promotions or pay bumps; they want opportunities to learn, develop new skill sets, and grow into leaders. Organizations that create learning environments are rewarded with employee engagement and loyalty.”

Embrace diversity

While this group of talent was born within a specific time period, its members don’t share the same characteristics and personalities. They’ve had different educational and career experiences. Each has her own expectations, priorities and goals.

Take the time to listen to each person individually. This will help you not only break down those stereotypes, but also give you the opportunity to get to know them. As a result, you can work with them to achieve their specific goals and objectives.

Work toward a greater purpose

The younger workforce wants to work toward something greater than your bottom line. Studies have shown that millennials, for example, cite corporate social values as the most important factor when choosing an employer.

This is more than philanthropy and charitable giving. It’s having a social purpose that aligns with their values while fostering a corporate culture where day-to-day decisions support social and environmental ideals.

Prepare them for Industry 4.0

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 found young workers don’t feel ready for Industry 4.0 — the name given to the Fourth Industrial Revolution consisting of smart and autonomous systems run by data machine learning.

It’s not their technical skills they’re concerned about. Young workers are more focused on developing soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, confidence and ethical behavior.

Give them freedom, flexibility and more responsibility

There’s a misconception that younger generations are lazy and entitled. They want to work and be challenged.

The catch? They want to do meaningful work with a sense of purpose.

What’s more, they don’t want to be micromanaged. They prefer a flexible schedule that allows them to achieve work-life balance, and they’re willing to accept new responsibilities. 

Do certain jobs and situations require them to be present at specific times? Absolutely. But be open to letting them occasionally work remotely and set their own hours. And, as long as you’re comfortable, don’t be afraid to hand off new responsibilities to them.

Provide them with mentoring and coaching opportunities

When I was younger, the last thing I wanted was advice from others. Younger generations, believe it or not, want coaching and mentoring opportunities.

Nonprofit Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship cites mentorship as a key ingredient for the high school students who participate in the institute’s CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program. Students and local business mentors are matched after short conversations, similar to speed dating. “We encourage our students to initiate the Mentor-Student relationship and use them as a starting point for their business network,” said CEO mentor Christene Murphy.

Listen to your younger employees: You’d be surprised at how naturally mentoring and coaching comes to those with experience. If you feel you’re not the right person for the job, refer them to someone who can take them under their wing.

Don’t let stereotypes prevent you from engaging and embracing younger generations. You may discover that this group could bring fresh ideas and needed perspectives to your organization.


Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, entrepreneur and a writer for various business publications.

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