Millennials Come to Your Business – What Should You Do?

By Kelley Small

Much has been written about the Millennial generation – born between 1982 and 2004 – in an effort to understand their professional style. They have a reputation of being laid back, entitled and glued to technology – but let’s take another look.

Do any of these names sound familiar: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jessica Alba (The Honest Company), Brian Chesky (Airbnb), John Zimmer (Lyft). The list is endless. Would you classify these entrepreneurs as lazy, or, glued to technology?

With the rise of technology, some Baby Boomers have been left in the dust. Some have not wholeheartedly embraced technological advances personally or within their companies. How does one keep up? For some business owners keeping current can become a real obstacle to progress. Maybe the answer is right in front of them? Perhaps it’s to be found within the Millennial generation itself? Maybe it’s within “those kids,” of whom some of us have been afraid and, about whom we have all been hearing so much?

As we look at companies in transition, we see a generation of leaders struggling with what’s next? The Baby Boomer generation was raised to work hard, reach their goals and retire into a community of their choice, where they can enjoy a life of leisure. The reality is that more and more business owners – some who are planning business or career exits, or others trying to devise strategies for what to do next.. Many Boomers know too little and are thus afraid of the newest generation that is coming behind them.

Millennials work differently.

“They just don’t work like we did,” said more than one owner of a family-owned business. Millennials have discovered a way to make their work their fun. Standish Executive Search was recently asked, “how could we entice Millennials to become interested in our company and what do we do with them once we have them?” Are they a generation to fear or embrace? Are we afraid that they may take our companies and make them faster, stronger, smarter, perhaps more efficient and more profitable? Are we afraid they will change the business into something that we no longer recognize? Might we be fearful because what we have built now needs to evolve and move into the next phase of growth and it feels foreign to us? Today’s owners and leaders may be forgetting that the generation preceding them also had concerns and weighty questions when they (Baby Boomers) were the new age group.

Fear is very real and perhaps understandable. Each generation brings their own sensibilities to the table. With them we can learn and grow if we will walk beside them. It is true that hiring a Millennial will most likely bring about a change in the culture of any company. They may not be “lifers” in the company (in fact their average tenure is 4.4 years) and they will be locked and loaded with their current culture and technology. You shouldn’t fear them. If you have built a significant business, this tech savvy, fun loving, hard-working generation has a great deal to learn from you. They would not apply, accept or spend their time in an enterprise unless it is something that will also be beneficial to them.

Take a chance, open your doors and your minds, and invite Millennials in.

Change can be a very good thing. Embrace Millennials. Impart your knowledge and wisdom, watch and listen, and just maybe, you will both learn a thing or two. You may become good colleagues if not even friends and together prepare your company for what’s next.

Kelley Small is principal at Standish Executive Search – a New England based firm that counsels and advises companies seeking accelerated growth, change or succession by identifying attracting and retaining the right leaders.