It’s been about two years since millennials surpassed gen Xers to become the largest share of the American workforce. As that gap continues to widen, C-suite executives should start thinking about how this shift might impact their business. Because believe it or not, the new kids won’t be so new in just a few years. Older millennials are moving into leadership positions, while fresh college graduates are chasing similar success.
From tightening promotion timelines to building a culture that prides being a part of something bigger than ourselves, I’ve managed to grow my startup, Gather, to more than 50 people strong in just three years. Pulling from a number of personal experiences (as a millennial myself), you can lean on these five tips to better manage and build out a stronger team of millennials.
1. Dish out professional development dollars.
When it comes to entry-level employees who might not have as much experience as others within your organization, professional development is crucial. Not only does it prepare your staff to take on bigger and better challenges, but it also keeps them engaged and active both in and outside of work.
You can drive home the importance of professional development by providing a reasonable annual stipend (we provide $1,500) to employees after they hit an anniversary, such as the six-month or one-year mark. Whether courses or conferences, the money will help your team accelerate their careers and take advantage of exciting opportunities for growth. And while this is an upfront expense, the experience and learning your team will bring back to your company are invaluable. You can also choose to host events that are specific to teams within the office — for instance, having different departments across your organization learn from each other by offering training sessions over lunch or monthly presentations.
No matter which strategy works best for your company, promoting professional development fosters a growth mindset among your workers — something that’s a core value at our office. Instilling the beliefs that learning is a lifelong process, feedback is always welcome, and that mistakes are opportunities for improvement ensures that your team will continue to strive for growth throughout their careers.
2. Diversify employee engagement.
There’s no denying workplace friendships make coming into the office every day that much easier. In fact, 46 percent of professionals say they’re happier when they have strong friendships with their co-workers, according to a survey from LinkedIn and Censuswide. And these work friendships are even more important among millennials. More than half of all 18- to 24-year-olds say workplace friendships make them feel happy and motivated.
By hosting engaging events (and I don’t just mean happy hours) you can facilitate strong relationships among your millennial workforce. But, do yourself a favor and get creative. We like to set up an annual, city-wide scavenger hunt to foster some healthy competition and get employees mingling cross-team. Or, you can throw a Silicon Valley viewing party (something we do) to bring everyone together around something you know they’ll relate to. Better yet, give your team a say in the types of activities you put on. The more invested employees are in a particular event, the more likely they’ll attend.
3. Compress promotion timelines.
Millennials aren’t too keen on waiting around for promotions. More than four out of five millennials expect a promotion or raise at least every other year. To help meet these demands, I’ve worked with my leadership team at Gather to create entry-level roles that feature more opportunity for promotion than your typical role.
This works well for entry-level sales or support positions. Where you might typically have a promotion timeline of a year to a year-and-a-half, these roles promote around the six- to nine-month mark. For big teams of entry-level positions, we use objective goals and milestone markers to promote at faster rates. That way employees are engaged year-round and know exactly what to aim for. Such measures also go a long way toward making employees feel like they’re valued.
Be careful, however, of asking for too much from new employees. Millennials — specifically new staff joining right out of college — often come in with high confidence and low competence. Instead, developing realistic goals from quarter to quarter will help you provide ample opportunity for advancement without overwhelming employees who still have plenty to learn.
4. Provide the opportunity to be part of something bigger.
It’s true, money matters, but money’s also not the only thing millennials are looking for in a job. For six in 10 millennials, a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. Give your employees a better idea of what your business is striving to accomplish by encouraging cross-team interaction. That way they can see all the great work that’s going on across the entire organization.
Organizational silos often leave new employees wondering what others in the office are working on and how their efforts fit within the grand scheme of things. Promote a culture of being a part of something bigger than yourself by promoting collaboration with others — and that means executive leadership too.
It’s also crucial to hire employees who are already committed to your company’s goals and mission. Doing so helps ensure your staff remains passionate about the work they’re doing, and who they’re doing it for, for the long-run.
5. Encourage Radical Candor.
Feedback in the workplace is often a touchy subject — but it doesn’t have to be. At Gather, we use a transparent approach known as Radical Candor to speed up the personal and professional development of our employees. Too many managers feel they have to choose between being a jerk or pretending that things are going smoothly, even when they’re not. By pushing managers to highlight accomplishments, as well as areas for improvement, Radical Candor helps foster an open and honest work environment that’s designed to both nurture and challenge employees.
Already the largest share of the American workforce, millennials are poised to play an increasingly prominent role in offices around the country. But, using these five tips, you can better position your business as a place millennials not only start, but grow their careers.