By many accounts, companies have a hard time understanding millennials. I have colleagues who call them entitled, unmotivated, and difficult to manage.
That is sheer nonsense.
The newest generation of professionals is the first to grow up entirely in the digital age, and thus their expectations are a bit different.
Example: I’ve spent much of the past fifteen years trying to convince executives that the Web – or pervasive 24/7 access to digital information – would force changes in their company’s business model; most executives drag their feet in making such changes. But millennials see this as old news; they have the opposite problem, which is they are slow to recognize just how slow and outdated many corporate systems still are.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential that your business attract, hire and engage millennials: if you can keep them happy, you can keep your customers happy. Millennials need the same type of flexibility that customers need. Millennials need the digital tools that customers need. Millennials grew up in the digital age, and customers want your business to act as though it is a leader in the digital age.
So when I hear executives complain about millennials, I think: this company is probably operating with a business model – and internal systems – that are one to two decades out of date.
A couple of years ago, Michael Hinshaw and I wrote a book called Smart Customers, Stupid Companies, in which we argued that digital services were making customers smarter than the companies that wished to serve them. Being dumber than your customers is not a good survival strategy, we said, and suggested that companies needed to dramatically increase their flexibility.
This lesson also applies to recruiting, managing, and motivating millennials: you need to be flexible, and your company needs to act smart. This means it has to be able to treat different employees differently. Why? Because different humans have different needs. We are leaving single product assembly lines behind, and we also need to leave the underlying one-size-fits-all mindset behind. To manage and motivate millennials, you have to treat them with significant flexibility.One of my favorite books is Mindset by Carol Dwyer, in which she makes the case that people with growth mindsets are much more successful than those with fixed mindsets. The former think that if they exert effort, they can acquire new skills. The latter think their skills and abilities are fixed.
I’d like to suggest that the same logic applies to companies; those who aggressively adopt a growth mindset will flourish. I don’t just mean they seek to grow revenues; I mean they seek to grow new skills and new levels of flexibility.
So far as I can see, the millennial mindset is pretty down-to-earth and logical: they don’t want to be stuck working for an inflexible company or an inflexible manager.
This is not entitled thinking. This is brilliant thinking.
The odds are pretty strong that millennials are pushing your company in the right direction. Stop treating them as difficult-to-manage youths, and start learning from them. The more you empower millennials, the better your firm will be at adapting to the demands of the marketplace.
Originally posted on: forbes.com by: Bruce Kasanoff
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