Small Businesses: The Three Things You Need to Know About Millennials

They’re here! The millennials, that is. If you don’t have one working for you now, you probably will soon. That’s because millennials, also known as Generation Y, now comprise the largest share of the American workforce, according to the Pew Research Center, and by 2025, a full 75 percent of the U.S. workforce will be millennials.

These numbers present a huge opportunity for small business owners. Millennial employees as a group exhibit many traits that would be an asset to a small business – and in turn, millennials are attracted to many of the workplace elements small business can uniquely offer.

Over the years I have researched millennials extensively. And as a small business owner myself, with a millennial employee of my own, I have seen firsthand the benefits that small business owners can reap when working with this group.

This Friday, 12/4 at 12pm EST, I’ll be sharing tips for small business owners. Join the live webinar to find out what SMBs need to know about working with millennials. No need to pre-register — just join the conversation here.

Here are some truths I’ve found about today’s young professionals that should be useful to my fellow small business owners.

1. Millennials crave coaching.

Millennials have been given feedback on almost everything they’ve done since birth and, therefore, thrive on frequent communication and collaboration.

In a recent Microsoft survey of millennials, the vast majority – 65 percent – said they’d prefer to communicate face-to-face with their manager. That face-to-face preference applies to teamwork, too – 51 percent said they preferred in-person meetings for collaborating on projects with colleagues.

This desire for personal interaction is a major benefit that many small businesses can offer, given their more intimate environment. Millennials want to be guided, coached and trained, activities that small business owners are wise to emphasize. Even if you don’t have a large training budget or a formal mentoring process, simply invite a Millennial employee to sit and listen to you make sales calls or observe how you deliver a new client pitch.

2. Millennials expect customization.

An off-the-shelf teddy bear? Not for the Build-A-Bear generation, who delighted in choosing accessories and clothing to create a one-of-a-kind stuffed friend. This generation also didn’t settle for plain silver braces; nope, millennials chose the color of their orthodontic elastic bands – and changed them with each visit.

Today, millennials seek such customization in the workplace as well. In fact, 80 percent of respondents to Microsoft’s survey agreed they are in charge of creating their own career paths. That’s why small business can be a great fit for millennials, as you can be agile and adjust roles and responsibilities to suit each worker’s skills and interests.

The drive for customization also manifests itself in millennials’ desire to use their own tech devices at work – something 57 percent of survey respondents say is important to them. Given the relatively limited tech budgets of many small businesses, this can be a win-win opportunity: allowing millennials to feel they’re asserting their independence by bringing their own device and managing costs at the same time. (And lest you worry they might be cavalier with your private data, consider that 81 percent of respondents said they consider security when communicating and sharing sensitive information at work.)

3. Millennials yearn for work-life integration.

When small business owners hear “work-life integration,” they might assume that millennials expect flexibility or unlimited vacation schedules. While a flexible workplace is important – and a key way that small businesses can differentiate themselves from their corporate counterparts – this desire refers to much more than hours.

Rather, it speaks to millennials’ desire to bring their authentic selves to a workplace that reflects who they are. In the survey, 88 percent of respondents said they are drawn to a company with a strong mission and values system. That’s where small businesses can really shine, by focusing on their mission and how each of their employees can inject a greater meaning into their work.

As small businesses increasingly hire millennials, they are uniquely poised to grow their business by bringing this generation into their strategy. As entrepreneur Carey Smith has said, “My millennial employees are my greatest recruitment and retention tool.” Whether you have millennials on staff yet or not, members of this dynamic generation are likely all around you. So don’t just take my word for it; ask a Millennial in your life what he or she desires in an employer. You might find yourself some great insight — and perhaps even a new employee.

What challenges and opportunities have you seen with millennial employees in your small business? Please share in the comments!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, and the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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