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LisBiz Strategies: Can you train millennials?

March 14/21, 2016; Volume 30, Number 19

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 10.10.35 AMThere is so much talk about millennials—or Generation Y—including their work habits and their ideas on life. How do large companies motivate this new generation to succeed in today’s work environment? According to Department of Labor statistics, there are 75 million millennials in the workplace. They come with self-confidence and a “can do” attitude. Yet they appear to have a need for constant validation.

With this large number of Gen Y-ers in the workplace, a business has no choice but to recruit and employ this group. I decided to reach out to Justin Woodruff, corporate sales trainer, HOM Furniture, Coon Rapids, Minn. Justin is a millennial.

One of the characteristics of this group, according to Justin, is the desire to make a difference in the world. “This group seems to be focused on finding a place in society,” he said. “They ask themselves questions such as, ‘Do I matter? Can I cause a change? Where do I fit?’ It’s more than how much can I earn; it’s about how I can live a life. Millennials want to be empowered and be part of something.”

Companies used to rely on hiring salespeople who were well versed in flooring. These days, companies are looking for employees who have skills that match the new consumers, which includes computer knowledge. The problem with hiring older employees is their lack of computer skills and understanding the attitudes of the younger generation. Millennials make up the first generation to have grown up with computers and have been doted on by their parents. It’s easy to understand that combining two groups that are so diametrically different poses another set of issues for an employer.

“Our younger employees have a different mindset,” Justin told me. “Millennials are balancing life commitments: family, volunteering, additional jobs, education, etc. Working full time is not an option for some. This can make training and store coverage a unique challenge. At the root of this mindset, I see a generation that is very socially aware and above all wants to cause a change.”

There are steps you can take to nurture and retain these new employees:

Provide educational opportunities as often as possible. Gen Y is well educated and believes in learning and achieving. Instead of having a boss, they are more likely to want to be part of the process and would appreciate having a coach to help them achieve.

Since they are team oriented, getting along with others is a priority. They want to collaborate and learn from others on their teams. They will work hard to make sure the team concept is efficient.

They don’t expect to stay with one job until retirement. This group is considered mobile and is willing to move to another job if possible. They aren’t as tied down as their predecessors.

Take advantage of their technological talent. Many companies are struggling with their social media presence. Since this is pretty much second nature to millennials, learn as much as you can from them and put the strategies to work.

Provide as much flexibility as possible. These employees are talented and capable of working alone. They are clear about their positions. They tend to be very home and family oriented.

Time marches on and the world changes. The success of your company will depend upon your ability to build and motivate your team to accomplish your business goals.