I stepped into the bright, airy office, thoughtfully decorated with modern furniture and colorful artwork, and I thought, “this is a space I want to work in.”
The color of the office communicated values of culture and creativity. The open space implied collaboration. These visual cues felt purposeful during my first interview at my current employer.
My interest in the beautiful and purposeful – even from an office – might reveal that I’m motivated by color and interior design. Or that the atmosphere of an office impacts my productivity at work.
But my perspective also reveals my values as a Millennial.
Millennials are pegged as image-focused and easily entertained, as you might argue I was as I stepped into that artsy office.
And there are plenty of other stereotypes out there. Millennials are branded as sensitive, adventure-hungry digital natives with short attention spans. Some even blanket our generation as lazy and narcissistic.
While stereotypes may stem from real situations, I want to take steps in changing the millennial lexicon.
We have energy, perspective and purpose-fueled passion that employers would be wise to harness, champion and learn from. Plus, we represent one third of America’s workforce. So we’re here to stay.
In order to build a new narrative for how our bosses and employers of other generations can engage with us, I’d like to suggest some simple bridges that can be built.
Here are some practices I’d recommend for employers and coworkers engaging Millennials at work.
According to the Deloitee 2016 Millennial Survey, the average Millennial’s highest priorities in evaluating a company are (1) providing a good income to employees, (2) being the best possible place to work, (3) improving the skills of the workforce and (4) providing services/goods that make a positive difference in people’s lives.
The values of a company are important to us, so communicate yours early and often. Share the company vision in an interview, and talk about how you live out your priorities. In the middle of a challenging project, remind your younger staffers of the big picture to motivate and inspire.
You’ll receive their best work as a result. If we catch on that you’re committed to people and the common good both inside and outside your walls, we’re more likely to jump on board with enthusiasm.
And if you don’t have clear values, engage the Millennials in your office to help build them. Get a group in a room to brainstorm, dream, and pen a mission statement.
What is most personal is actually most universal.
We all – no matter our generational differences or other unique traits – have more commonalities than we often allow, and Millennials are known collaborators and finders of common ground.
As The Economist puts it, Millennials “want roughly the same things regardless of when they were born: to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard and get ahead.”
Employers and coworkers of millennials can use this desire to their advantage. Make time and budget for brainstorming sessions where everyone has a chance to contribute ideas and feel like their voice is heard. Create team outings or meetings where diverse team members have the chance to listen to one another’s ideas and receive constructive feedback.
Sometimes, we Millennials do our best creative thinking out of the office and in our downtime. We value workplaces that offer flexible schedules and space to create, ideate and play. According to the same Deloitte Millennial Survey in 2017, young people working in flexible organizations tend to be more loyal.
And like I mentioned earlier, aesthetics matter. Are there ways to infuse practices like graphic modeling into your team processes to welcome creativity from team members? Can you invite a design-minded team member to rearrange or update the conference rooms to evoke inspiration during meetings?
Although sometimes pegged as overly sensitive to criticism, we Millennials do value professional development — sometimes even more than a paycheck. We want to be seen as valuable more than useful, and part of feeling valuable is knowing that we’re sharpening our skills.
I have the most respect for managers who demanded excellence from me, and also show me how I can improve in the immediate future.
Create opportunities for the Millennials on your staff to try new things and trust them to follow through, even if it’s an imperfect process. In order for us to gain experience, we need the opportunity to start a campaign, give a presentation, make a timeline or lead a new project. And then don’t shy away from giving honest and constructive feedback.
We millennials are inspired by clarity of vision. We’re quick and enthusiastic to jump on board when a project or organization has clear goals.
According to Deloitte, most Millennials are not willing to stay with a company if its purpose and priorities don’t align with their own, nor are they likely to stay motivated and engaged in work if goals and values aren’t clear. In some cases, this contributes to Millennials jumping from company to company every couple of years in search of something meaningful to contribute to.
Although some see this as flaky, I’d argue that this pattern stems from a desire to contribute to the greater good. Any employer would be lucky to have someone with that perspective on their team.
And in fact, Millennials actually stay with their employers longer than Generation X workers did at the same ages, according to The White House 15 Economic Facts About Millennials.
A note to my fellow Millennials:
Don’t squash your enthusiasm, energy or creativity. Instead, look for ways to bring all three to your workplace. What feedback have you received from a manager that was motivating or helpful? What areas of growth has your job revealed that are worth leaning in to?
As you unpack these questions, also look for others who are as enthusiastic as you are about contributing to culture and creativity at work. Whether in your office, in the community, or through a faith-based cohort, having a support group of like-minded peers will help motivate and encourage you in day-to-day work.
What are some attributes of the Millennial generation that you have seen in your workplace? How would you encourage Millennials to contribute positively to their workplaces?
Laura Bernero is our blog curator, overseeing both internal content and contributions from our amazing network of writers. She loves all things creative communications, acting on the belief that we all resonate with great narrative and connect to one another through story. In addition to her role at DIFW, she manages media storytelling campaigns at SE2, a Denver-based communications agency. She was 5280 Fellow in the inaugural 2016-17 class and can’t wait to see the program continue to empower leaders throughout Denver in their unique gifts and callings.