A Blog Series About Millennials - Part One

Ahhhhh, millennials. Clients ask about them; journalists write about them; marketers and businesspeople casually mention them like they’re the latest buzzword. They're the bane of your existence, or the potential saviors of us all.

It’s time to set the record straight—who are these elusive, mysterious “millennials” and why can’t we stop talking about them?

Since it seems everyone has a different opinion of what a millennial is, I suppose I should start with a working definition: A millennial is anyone born between 1977 and 1995.

While the years can seem arbitrary, the explanation Jason Dorsey—millennial expert, keynote speaker and CSO at the Center for Generational Kinetics— provides makes a world of sense. Sept. 11, 2001 was a generation-defining moment for millennials—most remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that day. A person born after 1995 would have been unable to process the significance of 9/11 as it happened. As the Center for Generational Kinetics writes, “If 9/11 has always been history, then you are not a millennial.”

Now that we have a definition, let’s quickly address a few common perceptions of Gen Y. There’s the usual, “Lazy, entitled, narcissistic, boomerang kids who end up on their parents’ couches with their heads in a bag of week-old Doritos watching Boy Meets World reruns while their diploma recognizing a bachelor’s degree in experimental theater hangs on the wall next to posters of their favorite ‘90s boy bands.”

While I’m sure this holds true for some (as it has in any other generation, sans Boy Meets World reruns I would think), the fact remains that while millennials are a very different group of people, our talents, skillsets and work mentality can be leveraged to produce viable results for your business.

I thought it would be interesting to crowd source some ideas from the Red Fan accounts team, which is composed of four millennials, on some best practices we’ve seen implemented here that could drive millennial employee engagement and retention at your business.

  1. Real-time feedback: Annual performance reviews are a great and necessary tool to benchmark progress, success and identify areas for improvement. But millennials crave real-time evaluation and feedback. Personally, it helps me gauge my performance on a week-to-week, even on a day-to-day basis.

  2. A highly collaborative culture: We at Red Fan love collaboration. We thrive off of exchanging information and exploring ideas that benefit our clients, and we’re usually smiling while we do it. Similarly, millennials were raised on digital media in a time of globalization and want that feeling of social connectedness in the workplace.

  3. A flexible schedule: More than any other generation, millennials value flexibility in how, when and where they work. Millennials—and anyone else for that matter—need to earn trust from their bosses and peers, but flexibility is one of the most important factors in millennial retention. According to the Washington Post, citing an Ernst & Young survey, “lack of flexibility was cited among the top reasons millennials quit jobs… And nearly 40 percent of young workers, male or female, in the United States are so unhappy with the lack of parental-leave policies that they say they would be willing to move to another country.”

  4. Results-based vs. process-based reporting structure: Millennials crave a flat leadership structure in which they are empowered to make decisions without undergoing a rigorous approval process that gradually makes its way upward through the chain of command until they can no longer see the final product of their work. Again, that trust must be earned, but it can lead to a team full of smart, capable employees with the ability to know when and how to make their own decisions, and when to escalate that power to supervisors.

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