There’s a real temptation in most organizations to think you can get the most from the Millennial generation by simply throwing perks to their young employees. Adding a Foosball table, a little bit of flex-time or summer hours tend to be some of the default ways to make your Millennial employees happy. But it’s not really about making them happy, is it? Really the idea is that if they’re happier, they’ll work harder and be more productive.
Speaking as a Millennial, I’ll tell you this: we can FEEL when you are looking at us like we’re an ROI. We want to feel like we’re being seen as individuals. And it’s not just a Millennial thing, it’s a human thing. It’s a leadership skill to make sure that your people feel that they are uniquely contributing to your organization. Treating people like they’re more than just a number, an employee just passing through your company.
Professional development seminars have been a staple for companies looking to invest in their people. It’s a good trade: we pay for you to be a more skilled professional and you become more productive in your role. There are companies left and right investing in training their Millennial employees, but Millennials feel like you’re providing them with this training to merely be a better cog in the proverbial wheel. Now, they’ll take it. And then understandably, from the employer’s point of view, you’d think there’d be some sort of loyalty, since you’re spending thousands of dollars on training them. But therein lies the great divide.
There’s a girl I know, let’s call her Carla, who has an employer that’s figuring out the right approach. The owner of this medical practice, where she works as an indispensable office manager, has invested in a training for a handful of his leaders, which includes Carla. Now, there’s plenty to continue to learn about how to be better in the specifics of the medical world, especially when it comes to the recent, ever-changing nature of health care in this nation. Recent changes in billing alone sunk many a practice not equipped to navigate through the new minefield of detail. But the conference she’s being taken to is a goal setting retreat lead by the co-author of a best-selling personal development book… and it has nothing to do with medical administration whatsoever. It has to do with focus, goal-setting, eliminating distractions, and how to move your life forward. Something that Carla can take with her anywhere she goes for the rest of her life. And the owner knows that. So Carla feels a sense of buy-in, that he cares about her, and about the rest of the folks heading to this conference, as human beings worthy of investing in, not employees that can build his brand. And, of course, everything learned at this conference will certainly help his company grow. He’s got it.
Not only that, Carla was one foot out the door just a handful of weeks prior to attending the retreat. Working split shifts and navigating the difficult terrain of dealing with insurance companies all day had Carla ready to find a new beat. After the goal setting retreat, Carla came back with renewed vision for her personal life and a different perspective about what she had her hands on with her employment.
In my own personal experience, when I was a recruiter, my company sent some of the younger top producers to a great training on being a better recruiter. This two-day seminar cost thousands of dollars per person, and was actually quite good. We all continued to produce well, but of the 5 of us that went, 3 were gone within the next 6 months. And then I left by 9 months. Obviously, it wasn’t what they were hoping for, I’m sure. But we just felt like a number and left with a mentality of “We’ve produced enough money for this company. They got their money’s worth.” With Millennials, remember: if we’re just an employee to you, you’re just a job to us. And in reality, that’s pretty fair.
In one of my favorite leadership books, Legacy, the author James Kerr examines one of the most successful sports teams in history, and certainly the pinnacle of Rugby history: the New Zealand All Blacks. One of the biggest guiding and founding principles of the entire organization is “Better people make for better All Blacks.” They believe that if you give the players the skills, tools and character to thrive off the Rugby field, they’ll translate that to success ON the field as well. Has it worked? Since 2003, New Zealand has held the number one ranking longer than all other teams COMBINED. Now, they still p
ractice, you know, RUGBY. But, it’s easy to see how this ties into what I’m saying in the corporate world.
Bottom line? Start brainstorming on how to invest in your millennial employees as PEOPLE, not an ROI. Try handing out a copy of your favorite personal development book. Find ways to help them grow in areas beyond their professional skills for your company. Better young people make for better young employees. You’d be surprised what true buy-in from a Millennial actually looks like!