“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” — Dorothy, “The Wizard of Oz”
Judy Garland’s line from “The Wizard Oz” could appropriately capture the feeling of many leaders when it comes to managing millennials in the workplace-it’s a whole new world!
Millennials, or Generation Y (those born between 1982 and 1995), are rapidly becoming a greater share of the workforce. Some studies estimate that by 2025 they will comprise 75 percent of the working population.
Like each generation before them, they bring a unique blend of attitudes, traits and characteristics that define how they “show up” at work. Building trust with this generation and taking advantage of their strengths in the workplace is a pressing priority for today’s leaders.
Last week I participated in a panel discussion on trust in millennial leaders on the Trust Across America radio show. My friend Jon Mertz, a leadership writer and marketing executive, hosts the show. Jon assembled representatives from Generation Y who are in the early stages of their careers, along with a couple of “old guys” (me included) further along in their careers.
The insightful discussion produced a number of valuable learning moments, four of which stood out to me as particularly important for leaders to build trust with millennials.
1. Millennials are trusting and optimistic.
Whenever you speak about generational demographics, there is the danger of over-generalizing and stereotyping. That said, by and large the millennial generation has a high propensity to trust others, and they value authentic relationships.
A study by Deloitte showed that 87 percent of millennials surveyed reported they “completely,” “mostly” or “moderately” trust their boss, with nearly one in three falling in the “completely” category. This opens the door for leaders to extend trust to the millennials on their teams with the expectation they will reciprocate the trust.
Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, and it’s the starting point for leaders interested in maximizing the talents of the younger generation.
2. Millennials’ tech savvy opens new doors.
Generation Y is the first workforce generation to grow up completely in the world of modern computers, and it fundamentally drives the way they approach work.
Millennials take to technology like fish take to water, and their use of technology is forcing organizations to reevaluate their business practices. Millennials’ ubiquitous use of social media is one prominent example. For many younger workers, there is a blending of work and community interaction through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Today’s leaders need to consider ways to build trust with millennials through technology rather than viewing these new methods with fear or suspicion.
3. Millennials are quick learners.
Largely due to their upbringing in the computer age, millennials are conditioned to consume, absorb and apply large amounts of information. (Do you not have experience creating a business plan? Google it and nearly 3 million options will meet your need!)
Because of their fast-paced nature to learn on the fly, many in this generation have gotten the bad rap of not wanting to pay their dues, or feeling entitled to quick promotions and pay raises. Leaders interested in building trust would be wise to avoid labeling millennials with these stereotypes and treat them on an individual basis. As Jon Mertz pointed out, many millennials understand that growth in organizations today is more horizontal than vertical.
4. Millennials know the power of community.
A common trait of this generation is their focus on social causes, and the strength that comes from like-minded individuals banding together to achieve a common goal. Whether it’s assisting in disaster relief, combating slave trafficking, or providing clean water to villagers in Africa, millennials have emerged as leaders in addressing social issues.
What does that mean for organizational leaders? Millennials are naturals at teamwork! Who wouldn’t want that skill in a company?
Millennials are eager, ready to accept new responsibilities, and have a natural inclination to partner with others to achieve ambitious goals. Rather than force millennials to wait their turn, leaders can build trust by looking for appropriate projects and growth opportunities where millennials can showcase their talents.
I encourage you to listen to the recording of the radio show. You’ll come away from the discussion with a greater appreciation for the skills and talents millennials bring to the workforce, and a greater hope for a bright future with this new generation of leaders.
Randy Conley is the trust practice leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog, or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley. A version of this article originally appeared on LeaderChat.org.