Envision yourself in the shoes of the Millennial employee

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way – the sky is blue and Millennials are addicted to technology. Next…

Sometimes, one of the best ways to understand other people and other generations is to place yourself in their shoes. So, stick with me on this – if you were a hard-working, intelligent, well-educated Millennial with bragging rights to noteworthy accomplishments and achievements, you would have many reasons and every right to be frustrated.

The Millennial generation has been, and continues to be relentlessly researched, talked about, and grouped into stereotypes that are mostly negative, often times over-exaggerated and perpetuated through online and offline conversations. Because of this, some employers have been soured to the thought of hiring Millennials before even meeting them. And, may I say that they do so at their own peril.

There is a substantial amount of empirical research and data that prove the attitudes of many Millennials are not much different than the attitudes held by other generations as they entered the workforce. It’s important to keep in mind that every generation is a product of their environment and upbringing, and employers must first need to understand why Millennials think and act the way they do before judging them.

During their most impressionable years, Millennials witnessed terrorist attacks (9/11) and school shootings, felt the effects of financial turmoil in the markets through their parents, and were very aware of corporate deception and a double-standard justice system. Add to this the poor examples set by once revered celebrity and political figures who were later caught lying, cheating and living unethical lives. It’s no wonder Millennials are skeptics of people, corporations and government, desire transparency, and want to play an active role in making the world a much better place.

If you are from the Gen-X or Baby Boomer generation, you, just like Millennials, probably thought you knew more than you actually did. You probably wish that you had a mentor, or a coach to help you succeed in your job. You probably appreciated getting feedback on your performance more than once each year during your review. If you had an autocratic boss or micro-manager breathing down your back, you probably hated it, and copped an attitude when you were told that you “didn’t know anything yet” while performing rote, brainless tasks for longer than you thought fair.  And, you also appreciated it if and when you were given opportunities to spend more time with your family and pursue your personal interests.

Today, we are much more knowledgeable about the significance of E.Q. (Emotional Intelligence/Empathy Quotient) leadership and understand what it takes to inspire employees to give us their best every single day. Twenty years ago and beyond, many CEOs and other leaders weren’t nearly as cognizant of how much employees wanted and desperately needed to know that they were doing meaningful work while making a positive difference in the lives of the company’s customers. Many CEOs and leaders failed to consider that there was much more to employee motivation than competitive salaries and benefits. They didn’t realize that productivity, innovation, morale, efficiencies, effort, engagement, passion and a desire to hit corporate objectives was one-hundred percent directly connected to the quality of their leaders. It’s E.Q., not I.Q. Culture trumps strategy. We know this now, or at least most of us do.

We are experiencing an evolution – not a revolution – and on this continuum, we must learn and adapt to knowledge we acquire. Millennials are smart. Some even brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that more than 25% of millionaires are Millennials. They are globally connected, they are “on” to any company or individual that tries to deceive, and thanks to the Internet, they can acquire instant knowledge on just about anything they can shake their iPhones at.

By the year 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce and will have billions in purchasing power. As an employer, you can join in with many others and gripe about this generation – or you can study them, start to understand them, learn why they think and act the way they do, and how to tap into the value they could bring to your company. Many have, and are much better off because of it.

What generation doesn’t have a fair amount of lazy, unmotivated workers who feel as if they are entitled to much more than they are worth? What generation doesn’t have its share of undesirables who have a hard time making it into work on time and watches the last five ticks of the second hand to strike 5 p.m. so they can bolt out the door? What generation doesn’t desire to have a life outside of work? None of them. The fact is, given the right environment, Millennials will bust their tails. You just need to find them.

Think about this: Despite all the complaints Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers have about Millennials, it is the very generation that those same Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers raised. Isn’t it ironic?