Business Columns & Blogs

Get the most from your millennials, the new workforce

By Kelsey Crow

Boise State University

You’ve probably interacted with a “Millennial” recently, as an employee or coworker, and you may have already jumped to opinions about the generation born in the later years of the 20th century. You might be thinking tech-savvy - or maybe lazy and entitled. To other generations, the Millennial mindset may seem to operate in the clouds, but we are actually much more nuanced. Yes, if you handle us the wrong way, we become frustrated and disillusioned - but handle us the right way and we’ll open doors you didn’t even know existed.

Our most obvious strength is being tech-savvy, a coveted skill for anybody who has felt technology conspiring against them. Our tech skills come from having TVs and computers in our homes as far back as we can remember and being tethered to cellphones starting in seventh grade. We have Facebook friends on multiple continents, tote our MacBook Airs everywhere, rely on iPhones for our everyday existence, and suffer from panic attacks when the Internet is unavailable.

All this is obvious, but the implications may not be. Growing up in a tech-saturated childhood expanded our expectations - and our perspectives - from local to national and then to international. We thrived on instant viral sensations and dreamed of making our own. We became disenchanted with older generations who spent hours on questions we could Google in five seconds. From infancy, we were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The more ambitious the answer, the more squeals of approval we got.

This was our world, and it made us believe we could be anything we wanted to be, anywhere we wanted to be it. “Yes!” you say. “Here lies the problem: unrealistic expectations and entitlement!”

But the fact is, we’re not being unrealistic. Education is more available to us than to any other generation, study abroad programs make it easy to gain international experience, and we constantly swim in a sea of adults who struggle with technology and take longer to find information than we do. We have extensive career resources on our campuses and on the Internet - and we choose careers we’re passionate about, enabling us to work incredibly hard (because it doesn’t feel like work) and to get fantastic results in the process.

Our sense of reality moves faster, we expect and tap more resources, and we seek fulfillment that carries us surprisingly far. Despite deep fears of failure and thick layers of entitlement, we are worth it.

So here’s how to handle us to get the most out of us.

Give us projects we believe in. We’ll roar through our workday and be mentally problem-solving long after we’ve left the office.

Don’t belittle our ambitions: We are already operating under our own heavy expectations, and you don’t want to disillusion us.

Let us do things our way. We’re likely to do it faster and more efficiently. That may come from 70 percent overinflated confidence, but self-fulfilling prophecies are real, trust me.

And last, mentor us; we blossom when someone cares about us and helps us realize our dreams.

We’re ready. Are you?

Kelsey Crow is an honors student, English major and research assistant at Boise State University. This column appears in the Feb. 19, 2014, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.