A lot of small business owners are lamenting their experiences with hiring and working with millennials. Small business owners are struggling with how to bridge the generational gap and get through to this new generation of workers.
I hear a lot about how “they just don't get it” or how “they are entitled”.
Many articles have been written about what is wrong with this next generation of workers, but I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about what is good about them. I have had the pleasure of interviewing and hiring many millennials over the years. While this generation presents some challenges, they also present opportunities:
More than any other generation, they are looking for meaning in their work.
Many small business owners struggle with this one, thinking “you get a paycheck, that was meaning enough for me in my first job.” I have come to believe this is the best thing about this generation of workers.
As small business owners, we are being challenged to provide meaningful work and to explain the “why” behind what we do. This represents a tremendous opportunity. All work has meaning. Service to others is a deep and meaningful calling that enriches our lives. Any time we step outside of our own selfishness to provide service or value to others, we are becoming the best version of ourselves. Show them and explain to them how their work makes an impact. Challenge them to make that impact even greater by delivering excellence to their coworkers and your customers.
Millennials also expect flexibility in how and when they work.
This goes against the grain for many of us who have experienced the 9-5 expectations of the past. Again, I see this as a positive. Be flexible. Give them the opportunity to work in a way that creates a meaningful life.
As a small business owner, you want your staff to thrive. You want them to get married, have kids, volunteer, have meaningful hobbies. You want a well-rounded staff. It's good for business. I think that if you hire good people, you will be rewarded by being a part of the meaningful story of a life well lived.
Millennials are idealistic.
They bring the (maybe unrealistic) expectations of their upbringing and experiences into your business. Instead of constantly fighting to reset these expectations to your definition of “normal”, let them inspire you to better processes, customer experiences and better thinking. Be open to their new ideas. Let them help you think about how things might be better.
Harness the power of youthful idealism in your business. Instead of thinking how things have “always been done”, spend time thinking about “what might be” and then work to make it happen for your staff and your customers.
In my experience interviewing and hiring millennials, this generation has a lot to offer. But I think when we look only at what they have to offer our business we are missing out. Instead, if we look for what our business has to offer and work on that, we can create the kind of place we want our kids to work at.
I once heard the story of a CEO who attended a wedding. As the father of the bride gave his daughter away, the CEO realized that was what happened every time a new employee began working for him. Each time we add a new staff member, we are given the opportunity to love and care for that person the way we would want our son or daughter to be loved and cared for.
It's a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. One I am excited to take on. When I am able to take a step back and look at our business, that is what excites me most. The people. The impact we are making on the people who are entrusted to us for however long they work here.