Is your business ready for the influx of “digital natives”? Maybe you’re already experiencing it.
I’m not talking about characters from a video game. “Digital natives” is another name for the newest generation in the workforce. Also called the Millennials, this generation was born between the early 1980s and 2000s (definitions differ). Essentially, they’re today’s young 20-somethings, and they grew up in a world where technology was a a part of their early childhood experiences.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Millennials lately as I’ve watched some of my 20-something former employees move on in their careers and my 22 year-old niece join the workforce. I’ve also been writing and talking to a lot of people about the challenges businesses face in keeping employees happy and productive.
Writing for Forbes.com, Andy McLoughlin offers some useful insights on how to keep Millennials in your workforce working in harmony with your workers from other generations. McLoughlin is focused on the IT angle and writing to larger businesses, but what he says made me think about how Millennials’ attitudes can help small businesses in particular.
Be flexible. Millennials are used to being “connected” 24/7 and don’t see demarcations between work and personal life the way older generations do. They’re not going to turn off their cell phones or sign off Facebook when they sit down at their desks, so don’t expect them to. The downside? You might see workers on Facebook and that might bother you. The upside? They may be connecting with clients or potential customers on Facebook and that might benefit you.
Be open-minded. One problem I’ve witnessed over the years whenever a new generation enters the workforce is that the older generation tends to resist the knowledge the younger folks bring. Senior employees feel that younger ones have to “earn their stripes.” And while this is partly true, today, more than at any other time, younger employees have a lot to offer your business. They may not be experienced in business, but they are experienced in technology—so if a Millennial employee suggests new ways of working, try listening.
Specifically, McLoughlin notes, Millennials are quite familiar with working “in the cloud”—a concept that’s still, well, cloudy to many older workers. Can your Millennial employees suggest new ways of using the cloud to benefit your business? Can they train older workers (or even you) on how to do it?