Millennials (or anyone under the age of 35) have often been portrayed as narcissistic, irresponsible and rebellious by the media. But is this really true, or are they simply misunderstood?
As pioneers of a digital age, Generation Y grew up in a vastly different political, economical and social climate from the older generation. From a young age, they were raised by their baby boomer parents to speak up and speak out, and told that they can achieve anything if they put their heart to it.
This go-getting characteristic, however, may be mistaken for self-entitlement, or even disrespect for authority—which can create friction with their superiors if there is a lack of understanding.
With young professionals making up to 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, they are an important asset to any company, and have the ability to drive change worldwide if guided in the right direction.
We speak to five leaders and entrepreneurs (who may be millennials themselves), on the best ways to encourage, nurture and eventually harness the power of the younger generation.
Be a leader and mentor
Many young professionals are just beginning to enter the workforce, so make sure to invest time in leading and coaching them. Bjorn Low, co-founder of Edible Garden City, uses his favourite quote: “the ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings” to guide him when working with millennials.
Give constant and constructive feedback
Millennials find meaning in their work, and they need to know if they are doing it well. Giving constant feedback, whether it is good or bad, makes them feel valued and motivates them to improve. “Millennials have a big heart to take negative feedback, as long as they feel that they are learning,” advises Pocket Sun, founder and partner of SoGal Ventures. “If you use them well, they can be the superheroes of your organisation.”
Look past stereotypes and engage them on a deeper level
Contrary to the caricature of a selfie-taking, job-hopping millennial, this rising generation is ready to give back to the world, as executive director of YTL Singapore, Ruth Yeoh observes. “Caring for the environment is more instinctive to them now compared to previous generations… We don't need to remind them that the world needs saving as they are already doing it and innovating for solutions to solve the climate crisis.” Find out what they care about and consider giving them a platform to achieve it.
Communicate your job expectations
Millennials are creatives as much as they are opportunists, and they see ideas and alternative solutions everywhere. While this is a valuable asset, it can be easy for them to lose sight of their goals and tasks when inspiration hits. Charlotte Chen, fashion influencer and partner of XGD Media, believes in keeping things professional and asserting a level of discipline. Define and communicate the expectations of the job, assessment of progress, and deadlines to keep your employee grounded.
Inject fun into the workplace
It’s not just about monetary incentives with our youths—work is a huge part of their life, and they are looking for fun and exciting environments as much as collaborative experiences. “We adopted an open office environment to facilitate collaboration between teams and also have spacious pantry for breakout sessions,” Marcus Tan (pictured right), co-founder and president of Carousell Singapore shares. “We also encourage our team to explore their interests. For instance, one engineer is passionate about making coffee and on occasion runs her own cafe in the office!”
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