by Mike Byam, managing partner at Terryberry
We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself time and time again in our work with employee recognition for businesses large and small – the college kids of today become the business leaders of tomorrow. With “Millennials” – taking by storm the digital world of texting, iPads, laptops, e-commuting, YouTube, Wii (I do love Just Dance!), etc. – the heart and mind still works the same. They’re just a LOT savvier when it comes to technology and micro-communications.
So how do today’s business leaders and HR professionals handle Millennials and their particular needs, including the desire for one-on-one time with learned professionals, when on the surface these kids seem to have a deeper understanding of the Internet world, PCs and hand-held technologies than anyone in the office over thirty years of age? These tips below might be just what you’re looking for:
1. Implement a social recognition network.
With free website services such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and their tremendous popularity and ubiquitous usage by Millennials, using these social media tools to celebrate the accomplishments of your Millennial workers is a no-brainer (in addition to more traditional corporate recognition awards). Plus, you can bet your iPhone 4S that your millennials will share their accomplishments via social media with their friends and even their family members – making your company and leadership style shine brightly on the Internet.
2. Pair young workers with a seasoned mentor.
Despite their tremendous technological know-how at an early age, millennials may feel unsure of themselves in the actual, physical workplace. By pairing them with an older worker, they get a “go to” source for their questions and concerns, as well as a confidential co-worker they can trust and confide in. Such nurturance tends to pay off well for these young employees, who benefit from the wisdom and perspective of older workers. Plus, the mentors get a great sense of value at being entrusted with the training and support of a young employee.
3. Training and career development opportunities.
Simply setting into motion a series of seminars, conferences, webinars and classes that young Millennials can look forward to upon reaching certain milestones with your company gives these young men and women a sense of progress and value within your establishment. They can look forward to learning new skills and abilities and they can see that their employer is investing in their ongoing development. That’s a great feeling in any generation.
4. Lunch with the boss.
It might not seem like much to a seasoned veteran who has lunched and dined his or her way up the corporate ladder, but to these highly individualistic young people, the opportunity to spend actual time with the boss can be a thrill. Not only do they get a free lunch – and WHO doesn’t like that? – but they get to understand the company from the viewpoint of the Big Cheese him- or herself, and maybe even gain some valuable insights into how to do better for themselves as well as make the company more successful as well. From the boss’ point of view, you get to spend a small amount of meaningful time with each new worker – giving you an understanding of their personality and a chance to get a perspective from the frontlines on your company’s operations – items that may prove important down the road in terms of team cohesion and new project development.
5. Text recognition.
Like it or not, in today’s day and age, texting is as simple and expected as a handshake or thank you card, and Millennials are adept at this micro-communication medium. When one of your Millennial workers does something above and beyond the call of duty (and no, I’m not talking about the video game), or something that simply impresses you in terms of their character or initiative, send them an encouraging, thankful or praising text message. They’ll be surprised and delighted, and have one more reason to respect you in the workplace – your tech know-how skills in the digital age. Just make sure you have access to their cell number in their personnel file, and make sure to identify yourself in the text so they know it’s their boss sending the message.
Like every generation before them, millennials have unique, distinguishing characteristics and abilities that should be appreciated and developed. Like all generations, Millennials want to feel valued in the workplace and feel like they are contributing to the big picture and the bottom line. A wise employer or manager will do her or his best to usher these new workers into the life of their company.
Mike Byam is the author of “The WOW! Workplace” and Managing Partner of Terryberry, an international firm that specializes in implementing and managing employee recognition programs. Mike is a frequent speaker on the topic of employee recognition to HR professionals and business groups around North America. He has also consulted with hundreds of organizations – from family businesses to Fortune 500 companies – to develop recognition strategies for employee retention and performance improvement.