How to Lose a Millennial in 10 Days / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Millennials have taken over in droves. Here are 3 common mistakes leaders make with millennials that may lead to increased turnover.

Have you taken a look at your co-workers lately? You may notice that the workforce is drastically changing and your corporate comrades are getting younger by the day.

Familiar faces you have known for years may have recently retired to be replaced by younger counterparts. We have entered an age of the workplace where 22-35 year olds, also known as Millennials, are entering the workforce in droves and quickly assuming leadership positions.

According to a study conducted by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the YEC, Millennials will make up to 46 percent of the workforce by 2020. This influx of attention-hungry, iPhone wielding, social media savvy young professionals has caused an increased HR focus on understanding how to attract, develop and retain Millennials.

If you are a member of Gen X, or even a Baby Boomer, this may seem like a daunting task. Here are 3 common mistakes that seasoned leaders make are making with millennials that can lead to increased turnover.

Related Article: Millennials In the Workplace: How Will They Affect Hiring?

Mistake #1: Valuing Results Over Relationship

Have you ever worked under a manager who tends to only discuss business objectives and performance updates with you? Trying to connect with Millennials through business parlance might leave you appearing old school and out of touch. Discussing business with your team is important but young leaders want to know that you care equally about both their personhood as well as their performance.

Try carving a little time out of each day to connect with your younger team members. Ask them questions about what they do outside of work. Show an interest in understanding what makes them tick. Millennials are notoriously described as a generation that values life outside of work more than work itself. To a millennial, work is just a means to an end of living a balanced life. Let your conversations reflect your awareness of their values.

Put it in action: Be intentional. Block out 5 minutes of “what’s up” minutes each day to check in on your Millennials. 

Mistake #2: Only Leading from the Balcony

In Leadership on the Line, authors Heifetz and Linsky popularized the concept of ‘Balcony vs. Dance Floor Leadership.’ In this concept, executives view the company from a high balcony vantage point while those further down in the organization are closer to the dance floor - where the action happens.

As a result of the balcony perspective, executives tend to be further relationally disconnected from their frontline Millennials. Thus, their decision-making may reflect an absence of dance floor understanding. Modern organizations need leaders who are experts at moving from the balcony to the dance floor and back again. These leaders understand the valuable data the dance floor offers. 

For example, in CBS’s Undercover Boss, a senior executive leaves the boardroom balcony to work undercover on the dance floor to better understand how to improve the company and connect with the frontline. This show has set a new leadership standard for senior executives to engage with all levels of their organizational chart. Undercover Boss offers a unique model for upper management to incorporate a cross-pollination brainstorm session with their frontline workers to discuss organizational innovation strategies. 

By exposing young “dance floor” Millennials to “balcony” discussion topics, senior executives can gather fresh ideas from a new generation. As a result, Millennials will feel more connected to the organization and engaged with the company’s mission. Upper management will also be able to gather a quick pulse-check on the organization at all levels.

Put it in action: Pitch the idea and begin planning quarterly or semi-annual dance floor sessions for your fellow boardroom balcony team members!

Related Article: What Preschoolers Can Teach Us About Company Culture

Mistake #3: Forgetting the Power of Meaning Making and Purpose at Work

Millennials are a generation intrinsically motivated by meaning, purpose and making a difference in the world. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Millennials also are highly motivated when they can brag to their friends how their company makes a difference in the community. 

As a manager, it is crucial to engage and energize your Millennials by shedding light on how the company makes a difference. A leader who is able to connect their Millennials with service opportunities in the company will see an engagement return on investment. 

Put it in action: Set up a one-on-one meeting with each of your younger staff members to help them get connected with difference making opportunities your company has to offer.

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