Expert Series Millennials

5 Things We Learned About Millennial Employees

Written by Grovo

This Wednesday, dozens of New York L&D professionals began their workdays by attending Grovo’s learning symposium, “A New Workforce: A Breakfast Panel on Developing Millennial Talent.” The morning featured networking, some excellent quiche-based breakfast, and a discussion that aimed to demystify the scourge new generation of employees taking over the workplace.

Grovo’s VP of People Joris Luijke moderated the main event: a conversation with L&D leaders Calvin Ng of Pernod Ricard, Rachel Nathanson of MSLGROUP, and millennial expert Dan Schawbel. The panelists’ diverse backgrounds contributed to an energetic and informative discussion on millennials—what makes them tick, what they’re thinking, and who in the world they are texting all the time. Here’s a bit of what we learned.

Millennial experts: Luijke, Schawbel, Nathanson, Ng

Millennials probably hate your in-person training. But they don’t have to.

Millennials don’t mind in-person training, according to Calvin Ng. It just has to speak to them directly. “A lot of people think millennials just want training on technology. That’s not necessarily true. The problem with instructor-led training is that a lot of people do a horrible job at it. You just put 100 slides together—you did nothing!” Instead, Ng recommended making a more personalized experience the default format of training, and spicing up in-person sessions with engaging and valuable exercises.

Entrepreneurship is sexy.

It’s no accident that many of the millennials you see on TV are hoodie-wearing tech CEOs. The entrepreneurial model appeals to millennials not only as young go-getters, but also as citizens of today’s economy. “The number one challenge for millennials is, how do I stay flexible in a changing world?” said Nathanson. Small, fast-moving companies like startups fare well in an environment that demands agility. Plus, entrepreneurship fits millennials’ penchant for job-hopping and quick career changes.

Being on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re not working.

Hard working: Grovo Client Success’s Philip Mabry, Ralph Wunderl, Allie Riley-Murphy, and MSLGROUP’s Rachel Nathanson.

According to most older generations, the image of a “hard worker” is likely to be someone at a desk, with their head down, slaving over a private labor. According to Schawbel, that sounds like “Alcatraz” to millennials. “Everyone wants interpersonal communication. People want to be around other folks, especially young people. You see millennials on a date in a restaurant: everybody’s on their phones.” This constant communication carries over to the workplace, too. A millennial focused on work might still poke at their phone or take quick breaks on social media, but that doesn’t mean they’re slacking off. Bosses need to acknowledge collaboration and socializing as a constant thing.

Get rid of your annual reviews.

Millennials live in an ecosystem of constant social feedback: their statuses get Likes on Facebook, they see who viewed their Stories on Snapchat, they know who looked at their profile on LinkedIn. Too often, though, the workplace is a feedback void. “Companies insist on having annual performance reviews,” Schawbel said. But millennials—and actually most other employees too—want at least quarterly reviews and regular feedback.”

Over 90% of millennials want to be leaders—but not at your company.

Meg Corbet speaks with attendee Tony Aguilar of Goodwill

Millennial leaders are naturally collaborative. Whereas older generations (and especially Boomers) are more autocratic, millennials seek to build consensus, share information, and align people under one vision. Better yet, not only are millennials naturally effective leaders, but most want to eventually be leaders. Just, not where they currently work. “Companies are desperate to find people with leadership skills, but millennials feel they’re not getting the necessary leadership and development training they need,” said Schawbel. Leadership development is critical to keeping millennials not only engaged, but to stick around at all.