By Robert Stitt
When you think about millennials in the business world, there are certain words that do not come to mind. Words like savvy, shrewd, diligent, and go-getter. Instead, millennials are often viewed as lazy, entitled, and soft. These are scary words when you consider a Pew Research survey just recently reported that millennial workers (those individuals born between 1980 and 2000) are now 53.5 million strong and outnumber any other generation in the U.S. workforce.
Basically, if you don’t already have a millennial for a boss, it’s only a matter of time.
If you are going to report to a person that the Internet now calls a “snake person” (thanks to an extension created by bored Web designer Eric Bailey, who just so happens to be a 33-year-old snake person), then you are going to have to learn how to talk to them and learn what makes them tick.
The first thing to know about millennials is that they do not like the one person-one job approach. Millennials value flexibility and the ability to learn and master new tasks. This means that if your boss asks you to do something outside of your job description, the wrong answer reminds him or her what you were hired to do. The right answer involves understanding that your job is to help the company conquer new challenges and tackle problems with innovative solutions. The world is changing fast, your boss needs employees who can change with it. One creative writer called millennials the “search engine generation”. This means that when you don’t know something, you look it up. Limitations on knowledge are okay. Remaining that way isn’t.
The second thing to know about millennials is that they are passionate. They may not be passionate about the same things you are, but that does not make them lazy. Millennials value the family-work balance, they value green living and eco-commerce, they value the company they work for, although this doesn’t mean they will work there for long. Gone are the days when a person would spend their life at one place but not put their soul into their work. Today, millennials expect you to put all you are into the company you are working for, but when it is time to go, go. Being passionate about work means taking on challenges, seeing how you can add value to the company, being creative with problem solving, etc.
Third, millennials value initiative. The whole top-down approach is very baby-boomer. Today, millennials do not expect you to wait for a board meeting to lead to a staff meeting which will end up with your boss giving you marching orders. While some of that still happens, millennials want you to take the initiative to make things happen instead of waiting for your boss to give you a new project. Come up with some great ideas and run them by your boss. When they run those ideas up the chain and the company improves, you will know that you have mastered the art of speaking to the snake people.