A New Approach To Millennials

There is a new approach to business that is beginning to take hold across the globe where the customer is as much a part of the organisation as the CEO or shareholders are.  In the past, while one could come up with a good idea, turn it into a product, and sell it by marketing the hell out of it, this strategy is quickly becoming outdated.  The new approach, lean and nimble, is all about listening carefully and responding to the voice, needs, and ideas of the consumer, and allowing them to directly influence your product, ultimately buying it by buying into it.  The impact of this approach in such a social connected world means that these old sales and marketing strategies are doomed to extinction along with their antiquated channels and platforms.

In the next five to ten years, the vast majority of the global labour force is going to consist of those born in the 80s, 90s, and the early 2000s.  In much the same way that business is evolving, those in our businesses are also changing in unique and often misunderstood ways.  As a result, if we hope to maintain or grow market share, whether as a business or in the political arena, we need to change the way we look at our employees and our approach towards them.

Jay Gilbert, VP of Strategy and Operations of OrthoEvidence Inc., in his article The Millennials: A new generation of employees, a new set of engagement policies, says it this way: “Creating engagement strategies is one of management’s big goals. But managers who have developed successful strategies for retaining boomers are going to have put those strategies in the corporate archives. Creating strategies to engage millennials requires a whole different approach – and strategy.”

Here’s the thing though:  If you want your younger employees to be happy, engaged, and productive, you don’t need to turn your company into a Google play-place.  Much has been said about Google and their ability to attract and retain top talent, but we must understand that they search out a very specific type of employee and they have a very specific type of culture these employees operate in.  What am I saying?  One size does not fit all, and the changes and culture you develop must be aligned to your operation’s needs.  How do you know what these needs are?  You simply need to ask.  Millennials are not freeloaders or looking to cruise the easy street, in fact this is far from the truth.  They want and invite challenges, with their “can-do” attitudes and self assuredness they are motivated by opportunities and with their natural inclination towards networking and working in teams, these are highly desirable employees.

Picture courtesy of MadeinAFreeWorld.com ( Deloitte Millennial Survey)
Picture courtesy of madeinafreeworld.com (Deloitte Millennial Survey)

So why are they misunderstood?  Why, in some circles, is there a negative stigma around Millennials?

Ray Williams, co-author of Ready, Aim, Influence, and author of The Leadership Edge, offers us one possible answer: “Millennials have a very different perspective and expectation of the role and behaviour of managers [and leaders], seeing them more in an encouraging, coaching, and peer capacity, something that is currently at odds with the current generation of Baby Boomer managers [and leaders] who see their role as one associated more with power and position.

If you haven’t taken the time to sit and understand them, of course you are going to have negative feelings towards Millennials.  The fact is if you haven’t taken the time to sit and understand them that tells me one heck of a lot about you as a leader and the trajectory your leadership career is following.

So here are three suggestions to consider as you look forward towards a Millennial infused workforce:

Recognize that they are adults

A recent national poll of 18-to-29-year-olds conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics in the US found that American President Barrack Obama has lost significant ground and favour in the eyes of this group: “How can President Barack Obama regain his rock-star status with the Millennial generation? That’s a question that weighs heavily on the White House after a poll released this month shows that Millennials are turning on Obama.

Here’s an idea that I bet isn’t getting much play in the West Wing: How about in 2014, the President start treating Millennials like adults instead of adult children? Even better, he could support policies that will enable more Millennials to lead adult lives by getting jobs and becoming financially independent.

Millennials are becoming a tougher sell for the President.

…the President’s team is putting on a full-court press to try to get young people to sign up for ObamaCare and doing it in a way that treats these young adults like simple-minded children.

Take the latest marketing move that’s making headlines: Pajama Boy.

The President’s Organizing for Action tweeted out a picture of a young man in a red and green checkered pajama onesie holding hot chocolate with the message, “Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance.”

This is how the Administration views young people — as perpetual children. To the Administration, young people are sitting around in onesie pajamas in their parents’ basement just waiting for their parents to explain to them how the world works. But sitting around in pajamas is not what young people want, which I suspect is why the President is losing the support of young people.” (Karin Agness, Treat Millennials as Adults in 2014, Huffington Post)

Are you treating your employees like they are “adult children”? Our advice:  Change now.


“Millennials are the most technologically connected generation in history, yet also the least trusting of generations” (www.pewresearch.org – Fact Tank: 6 New Findings About Millennials) “

“Only one of five (19%) Millennials say that “most people can be trusted.” The rest say that “you can’t be too careful in dealing with people.” says Dr Wayne Baker commenting on these findings.  He continues, “Trust and respect have to be earned, and the Millennials have sensitive antennae for inauthentic attempts to “appeal” to them, through, for example social media.

“In this new space of community,” writes communication consultant Martin Davis, “authenticity is everything. People can sniff out individuals and organizations that are using social media because they want to reach ‘the younger crowd” in the time it takes to hit re-tweet with a modified comment.” Davis notes that the new Pew Report sends mixed signals to institutions who want to engage Millennials, because the report says Millennials are detached from institutions like religion, but they can reach them via social media. Doing so, says Davis, is tricky and often smacks of a lack of authenticity.”

If you lose the trust of your millennial employee, it is only a matter of time before you lose him or her as well.


Set up your business in a manner that ensures a flat organisation where hierarchal structures are kept to a minimum and actively foster teamwork and transparency. Use cultural fit as the primary lens through which you view potential additions to your teams so that everyone is on the same page.  Select natural-born doers who bring their best self to any task, look out for colleagues, are excited to try new things and are eager to grow.

And then as your business grows, it’s important to ensure that the leadership remains connected to the teams and the work being produced.

[divider]Whether we like it or not, the world we now live in is fast becoming a world Millennials are much more comfortable engaging.  Very soon it seems, bosses and managers, leaders and icons will need Millennials much more than Millennials will need them.

This article appeared in the





Founder of Future CEOs™ and co-host of the Future CEOs™ show on CliffCentral.com, Gareth seeks to empower high potential young executives and ambitious entrepreneurs as they push for CEO status.

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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