There have been a lot of articles and opinions on our newest and highly influential employee group, the millennial. From constantly taking selfies to expecting immediate promotions, the discussion about millennials can run the gamut from the informative to the hysterical.One thing we do know is that this generation cannot be ignored. According to the Council of Economic Affairs (CEA), they are now the largest and most diverse population in the US.1 As they will soon hold the keys to the workforce, here are six tips to make sure they have the skills they need to be successful:
1. Don’t Believe the Hype
As millennials have matured – they’re entering their 30’s – we have found that much of the original hype has been overstated. “It turns out that the view of millennials as less loyal and more likely to job hop than previous generations may be grounded more in myth than reality,” says Genevieve Carlton of Caliper.2 In fact, they will invest in developing at their current company, if they can.
A recent survey of graduating millennials from Penn Foster showed that 71% of their graduates found improved job status for their current employers. Their goal wasn’t to job hop; it was to be successful in their current organization. Companies need to hire the younger team members with an open mind, knowing that not everyone is the same. As the CEA study states, “When it comes to work, millennials are mostly similar to previous generations: they want to be successful, and they want the type of prosperity that means that their children will be better off.”
2. Build Hands-On Skills that Prepare Millennials for the Workforce
Millennials are more likely to have invested in academic experience than they have in job experience. Unlike prior generations, according to the CEA, “Millennials are more likely to focus exclusively on studies instead of combining school and work.” This means they will need to build the operational skills that are best acquired through on-the-job activity in order to be fully rounded and successful.
Providing millennials with exposure to how things work in reality versus in theory will help connect concepts and accelerate impact. This can occur through a combination of on-the-job experience, as well as high-impact programs. The millennial survey from Penn Foster, for example, showed that 88% of graduating students felt more prepared for the workforce as a result of completing their degree programs. In addition, 76% were interested in courses that taught them practical advice on “life management” skills, like budgeting and time management, with an equal amount being interested in advice on “personal skills,” like decision-making and teamwork. Combining opportunities for millennials to learn critical job-ready skills can better prepare them for success in the long run.
3. Invest for Long-Term Return
One very common misconception is that millennials won’t stay with employers very long. This can make some organizations reticent to invest in their development (despite the huge pull they have for professional development). The CEA study proves that the opposite is true: millennials actually stay with their employers longer than their older predecessors. This means that the money and time spent on their development and growth will not only benefit the employee but the business at large.
Furthermore, investing in your employees actually increases their tenure and creates a virtuous cycle of growth. A 2016 Deloitte study shows that over 1 in 3 millennials pointed to leadership as a reason to leave their current employer in the future, while nearly 90% of the employees who stay do so because they get a variety of experiences, use their skills, and receive professional development.3
4. Educate on Technology to Solve Problems
That’s right: it turns out that just having a device in your hand all the time doesn’t actually make you better at using it! While it may be true that the digitally native millennials adopt technology quickly, the Change the Equation’s analysis of recent research shows that 58% of millennials have poor skills in using technology to solve problems, with 91% of those millennials surveyed believing that low computer skills hurt their chances at success.4 Many assume that using technology often means using it well; rather, we need to help educate millennials as much as we do other generations on how to leverage technology to be successful in finding employment, making decisions, analyzing issues, and making decisions, especially as data gets bigger and bigger.
5. Let them Lead
As with many prior generations, millennials like to be challenged and to feel they are growing. This might come across as looking for the next promotion, but you can help them leverage this drive by building leadership capability without necessarily getting a new role. Assigning them to lead project teams, for example, is a great way to help millennials build leadership capability on the job, engaging them to grow and learn while driving outcomes for the organization.
5. Provide Mentors
Mentorship is a proven method for driving success in your organization. Deloitte’s study shows that 61% of millennials currently benefit from having a mentor, with 94% of these saying their mentor provides good advice.3 With the concern about our impending “Silver Tsunami” of retirees leaving the workforce and taking knowledge and capability with them, assigning mentors to millennials is even more timely today.
It can be tempting to use a broad brush when looking at the millennial population, but I believe careful insight will show us that this talent brings a lot to the table: energy, enthusiasm, and an opportunity to challenge the status quo as well as our own misconceptions.
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