Speaking as someone who is both a millennial and an executive at a home healthcare company, I believe it’s important to share some thoughts about my generation. Because like it or not, the millennial generation is upending the modern workforce in ways that will change business forever. To be successful in the future, businesses will need to understand and embrace the millennial generation while rethinking their approach to recruitment, retention, and workforce productivity.
According to the Business Journal, only 29% of millennials report feeling engaged in their jobs. That doesn’t portend good news, especially when, in a few years, the majority of the workforce will be made up of those born after 1985. Employers need some perspective.
The following tips can help managers better understand how to work with millennials, how to keep them engaged, and most important, how to recognize the value we can add as employees.
Millennials think outside the box.
“Work smarter, not harder” is the millennial motto. Millennials don’t just dive into a job, we evaluate the smartest approach and then tackle it. Despite misconceptions, hard work isn’t something millennials shy away from. We work differently by thinking outside the box.
Sometimes higher-ups might find this exasperating. Take one of my earliest leadership positions, where I was charged with recruiting nurses and home health aides.
My idea was simple: Tailor the position to the person I was looking for, not the person I had available. I wanted to attract candidates who were flexible and dynamic and may not have been interested in working the typical 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekday shift. Initially, I encountered some resistance from management. They didn’t seem to understand why I would diverge from the normal shift schedule. “That’s not the way we do it,” I was told.
After some millennial-style arm-twisting, I convinced them to try it my way and our branch saved more than $50,000 per year, reduced turnover, and increased morale. By offering non-traditional work hours, I was able to fill positions by expanding the pool of applicants and retaining employees.
2. Millennials need a flexible work environment.
Flexibility is our first priority in the workplace. Take Zappos, for example. By understanding what their millennial employees wanted—non-traditional working hours, time off for social activities, and a stimulating workplace culture—the company was able to grow into an $840 million behemoth in just a few years.
More companies could benefit from this new way of looking at the workplace. Here at LHC Group, we recently ended the rigidity of a traditional shift in favor of a shift that allows home health employees to start work in the early afternoon and end in the evening. Weekend and night shifts were also added—and have become incredibly popular. Not only does this allow greater flexibility for employees, but our patients benefit too, as they are given a wider range of care options.
3. Millennials crave feedback.
Everyone needs feedback, especially millennials. But they aren’t getting it. Only 19% of millennials report receiving routine feedback at work, meaning most of us aren’t getting an accurate picture of our job performance. Of course, millennials’ also need to recognize the fact that feedback doesn’t come as instantly as a Snapchat message.
Giving feedback is more than just being critical. Employees—especially millennial employees—need to know when they’re meeting expectations so they feel empowered at work. Millennials also want to be able to see the difference they’re making in the organization, so they feel that what they’re doing has a higher purpose.
4. Millennials excel at teamwork.
Once upon a time, a top-down approach to managing employees may have been the right way to run a company. But those days may be coming to an end. According to a survey by CIRCLE resource center, when millennial participants were asked, “How much of a difference do you believe people working together as a group can make in solving problems?,” 92% agreed that teamwork will make at least some difference. By contrast, only 1% said that working as a team would have no impact at all. Millennials thrive with teamwork.
In one of my former positions, I witnessed first-hand what happens when you give your millennial employees a seat at the table. We were having some difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. Three of the junior managers—all of whom were of millennial age—had no trouble brainstorming, bouncing ideas off each other, and handing me a solution with no need for individual recognition. They found fulfillment in working collectively to solve the problem.
In conclusion, millennials are here to stay. We’re already transforming the workplace into a more flexible, more dynamic, and more engaging place to do business. It’s time for employers to either get on board or get left behind.
Brecken Anderson, RN, is an executive with LHC Group, a national provider of post-acute healthcare services, and author of "Mastering Millennials: A Quick Guide to Motivating and Molding the New Workforce." As a regional vice president for LHC Group, she is responsible for operations and staffing throughout the state of Mississippi, an area that includes 36 branches with more than 1,000 employees serving more than 5,400 patients.