Learning New Tricks: Five Productive Practices Millennials Instinctively Grasp

Millennials don’t just want to read the news anymore. They want to know what they can do about it. – Ian Somerhalder, American actor and entrepreneur.

In recent years, I’ve heard managers gripe that Millennials are lazy, needy, entitled narcissists, non-team players with no sense of loyalty. From what I’ve observed in my client organizations, in my personal interactions, and with my own three Millennial children, none of these labels are true.

Millennials do indeed have a sense of loyalty—to the causes and the people they care about. Businesses look out for themselves first—why shouldn’t people? More people should have this outlook! You can’t expect loyalty when you offer none.

The truth in some of the other claims lies in practices Millennials instinctively grasp because of their personal experiences, as well as the environment they matured in, not just as people but also as professionals.

Let’s consider a few productive practices that come naturally to Millennials.

1. Technology = freedom. You no longer have to stay in the office to be productive, just because you keep your machines and files there. Think about it: the smartphone in your hand has far more processing power than most desktops did until the 2000s. Plus, there are so many productivity apps, back-up services, and online document sharing programs available, you can basically take everything with you. If you carry a laptop and tablet to boot, you need only a Wi-Fi connection to do your work. You can work at home, in the doctor’s office, in the line at the DMV, wherever you can connect… and that’s almost everywhere nowadays. So what if you’re not sitting in the office from 9 to 5, unless the job requires it (like a manufacturing line)? Only Cro-Magnon bosses insist on that. And another thing: if a Millennial automates a repetitive task because she doesn’t want to do the same thing over and over again, that doesn’t make her lazy; it makes her smart (← click to tweet). Now she can spend her time on more important things.

2. Work/life balance matters. When it’s time to work, Millennials work hard. But they also want to have a social and personal life apart from work, so I suspect far fewer of them work 60 hours a week like their predecessors. They’ve also learned how breaks—coffee, lunch, weekends, vacations—are all-important for recharging their creative productivity. So far, the economy hasn’t fallen apart.

3. Regular feedback is important. Millennials want to know how they’re doing more often than once or twice a year. This has given them a reputation for being needy, but really, they just want to know they’re on the right track and not wasting their time. This seems wiser than working away at something they don’t understand and will have to redo. They would rather “make waves” than sit there like a mushroom in the office.

4. What you do every day should matter. Does anyone actually read the report you prepare every week? Are you creating value? Would you do your job better with specialized training? Are you helping to achieve the goals of the team and the company? Let Millennials find the answers to these questions, because it might just increase their productivity. Everyone, not just millennials, needs to know these things; but they seem to be the main ones asking about them. They want to know that what they do matters to them, and how what they’re doing matters to the organization. Remember: the better engaged the employee, the more productive they tend to be.

5. Experimentation is a good thing. It may sound silly to you, but in a way, Millennials have trained since childhood to solve problems and take initiative. If nothing else, playing puzzling video games has drilled into them the fact that sometimes, you have to try something unusual or unexpected to get what you want. Can you blame them for generalizing this to the real world? The thing is, it works. Sometimes it’s obvious to them that a new way of doing things will save money and time. Sometimes, they see a solution older colleagues don’t, because they’re more familiar with bleeding-edge technology. Change for change’s sake is a timewaster, but a willingness to try a new process or use a new vendor can open doors for your team.

Give It a Rest

If you’re cynical about the attitude and abilities of Millennials in the marketplace, you may want to reframe your staunch position. Yes, some may be annoying and cocky, but who isn’t? They also have some good ideas about doing things that come naturally to them but that you may not have thought of. And get used to them: they’re poised to become the largest segment of the working public, and their go-getters are already founding fantastic start-ups and scrambling up the corporate ladder. Millennials are here to stay and succeed!

© 2017 Laura Stack.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Christine@TheProductivityPro.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

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—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland