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3 Ways to Connect with Millennial Employees


Image: Viacheslav Iakobchuk -

For Baby Boomers who were lucky, we found careers we’ve enjoyed, developed them, and furthered our educations and skills to grow onward and upward. We didn’t really need to know that the work we were doing had a large impact on any single person or organization. Enter the Millennials.
If you have Millennials in your organization or are needing to hire Millennials, I highly recommend starting your journey by watching Simon Sinek discuss this generation on YouTube. A few years ago, I was struggling with a newly hired Millennial. She was bright, conscientious, motivated, and not expecting to be promoted to VP in her second month, despite recent Sitcom depictions of this mysterious bunch. But I couldn’t figure out what made her tick to ensure that she stayed with us. A colleague turned me onto Sinek, and within minutes of watching his video about Millennials, I understood this new hire, and now four years later, she is a telecommunications rock star.
My interpretation of Sinek’s message is that Millennials, who were basically born with smartphones in their hands, need to feel the impact of their work. They need to know for certain that what they are doing impacts someone, somewhere, for good. If you can’t draw that line for Millennials, they might work for a little while, but in the end, they won’t produce their best and won’t stay. Enter turnover costs.
In the growing complexity of the IT and telecommunications industry, the end customer keeps getting further away from us, and the line to that beneficiary of our services becomes more disjointed. How do we re-draw a straight line to those beneficiaries for our Millennial workers and answer their call for meaning? I will share with you how I’ve embraced that challenge and the energy that my Millennials bring to my firm in return.
1. Focus on Who Benefits
First, I focus on identifying the actual beneficiary of our services. I own a telecommunications consulting firm and have chosen to specialize in the senior housing industry. The people that contact us every day are the staff and managers of assisted living facilities and similar properties. The facility staff aren’t the ultimate beneficiaries; the facility residents are. The Grandma Sallys or Grandpa Joes are the beneficiaries. For the most part, the staff calls us because their office phones or IT peripherals need service, or they need to add devices or services. We aren’t talking to Sally or Joe, nor are we restoring or adding service directly for their use. We are restoring or adding service so that the staff can focus on serving Sally or Joe. So, I ask my staff to put a picture of their grandparents on their desks. When a particularly urgent situation arises, I remind them to pretend that this is their grandparents’ home. Direct, impact.
I think Millennials have this just right. If I’m working to restore an outage just because that’s my job, I may not say the same things to the carrier to get them to care enough to escalate, as I would if I knew that’s where my grandparents lived, or at least thought of it that way.
2. Reduce Their Stress Levels
Second, I find ways to relieve their stress. They are very stressed out. I think this condition may be because of the volume of information that they deal with on a day-to-day basis via multiple social networking platforms, video gaming, texting, etc. Life is a fire hose pointed right at them. To calm them, we’ve chosen to invest in a state-of-the-art office environment with cool colors, motorized standing desks, adjustable high-quality desk chairs, and curved cubicles that filter light but still offer some privacy.
We also feed them. In our eat-in kitchen, they have a large selection of healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack items. For them, it’s not just about the cost of meals; it’s the stress of having to remember to prepare and bring something and not be late to work. It’s also about not wanting to spend half their paychecks on having deliveries made and the carbon footprint of that one meal – yes, they think about that. I think Baby Boomers would even agree that it’s about not having to figure out what you want to eat for lunch! They walk into the kitchen, open the fridge or freezer, and grab something. Easy, stress-free.
3. Ask What's Fun
Third, I recognize Baby Boomers and Millennials have different ideas of what’s fun. Millennials typically don’t want you in the middle of their off-work time. For many years, I held a formal holiday party on a Saturday night and asked everyone to dress up and come out to dinner, mingle appropriately during the cocktail party, engage with others during the sit-down dinner, and not dash out saying that they don’t eat dessert. This year, I tried something new, a movie on Friday night. The team collectively decided on a movie, and we went to one of those premier theaters, where dinner is served as they watched. Of course, there was also movie theater popcorn and candy. The movie started at 5:30 pm, and they were all home by 8 pm, leaving the rest of the weekend to themselves. No spouses/significant others. No fancy dresses or suits. Fun.
What Millennials Give Back
Each week, I reflect on what we are doing for our young team, which is more than the impact, food, and fun. The result of all this cost, effort, and psychology is Millennials return the favor with incredible energy and vigor. They thirst for knowledge, make connections more quickly between relevant pieces of information, and adapt to systems, software, and processes without drama. Being nimble and adaptable is critical to our industry and to the new world we all live in. Millennials are poised, with the right support from their leaders (us), to take technology to the next level, bringing us along for the ride. Give Millennials a chance, and don’t forget to feed them!