Millennials are shaking up some established work norms and leaders should be ready to change. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2016, Millennials (75.4 million) surpassed Baby Boomers (74.9 million) and Generation X (74.9 million) as the nation’s largest living generation.
Much is written about the Millennial population who will outnumber the Baby Boomer and Gen-X population in the workplace by 2018. There is not always complete agreement about this demographic’s discernable characteristics. It is important for leaders to distinguish between fact and fiction as they attempt to engage with Millennials and earn their commitment. The typical Millennial worldview was shaped by varying experiences from previous generations and are impacting organizational cultures and norms. Three generations with varying worldviews are working together in the same workplace, which is forcing the sensemaking process in unusual ways. Very simply, Millennials want and expect to contribute by having a voice and they want to know their voice has merit at work. Having a voice is one job satisfaction driver. Studies show that Job satisfaction and voluntary turnover are correlated. Millennials are unencumbered by the trappings of wealth that are associated more with previous generations, they don’t have to stay in an unsatisfying job to make a mortgage payment, as Millennials are outing off buying homes to avoid the huge debt of home ownership today.
According to a Millennial study conducted by Smith and Turner (2015), this demographic wants to work in a culture that encourages voice, work-life balance, and flexibility; develops leadership skills; offers mentoring support; and demonstrates core values aligned with their own. Organizations that can successfully shape and sustain a collaborative, developmental culture of voice will have the highest likelihood of retaining Millennials.
It’s hard to fake an interest in what others say. If you don’t believe your employees have anything significant to contribute, don’t try to fake it. On the other hand, if you believe you can learn from others, we recommend the following 5 practices leaders can demonstrate to show they are listening to and interested in hearing what their employees have to say.
Shape a Culture of Voice encouraging voice and interaction by:
- Building up ideas and never tear them down, even if they seem half-baked.
- Strengthening your tolerance for divergent thinking. Look for and encourage different viewpoints at every opportunity.
Minimize the silence phenomenon:
- Never putting down ideas or suggestions in public.
- Never ignoring an employee’s ideas or recommendations; they may not seem significant to you but they are most likely important to the employee.
- Pay close attention to even the slightest non-verbal language that sends the message, “That is ridiculous.”
Shaping Cultures of Voice is every manager’s daily work.