Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
October 4, 2018  |  ByJia Wang, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

Did you know Millennials are the largest population in the U.S. labor market today? By 2025, Millennials will account for 75% of the U.S. workforce, and they are increasingly foreign-born with their first language being other than English. What does this reality tell us?

Three messages:

  • Working with Millennial employees is a new norm.
  • Understanding Millennials on a deep level is essential.
  • Building cultural knowledge will soon be a required competency.

Despite these daunting facts about Millennials, most distributors do not know enough about them and continue to carry preconceived attitudes about this group. For example,

  • Millennials are the “trophy generation” (that is, growing up receiving participation trophies just for showing up).
  • Millennials are all about “me.”
  • Millennials have an entitlement mentality.
  • Millennials demand fast-tracked careers.
  • Millennials need instant gratification.

These perceptions paint a one-sided picture of a group of self-centered, impatient and demanding narcissists; it’s no wonder distributors feel frustrated when talking about them. However, does this group have a bright side? Yes, they do, and here are a few:

  • Millennials have high energy and fresh perspectives.
  • Millennials are poised to be lifelong learners.
  • Millennials are fueled by their facility with technology.
  • Millennials are socially conscious.
  • Millennials are constantly looking for ways to improve how things are done.

Yes, Millennials have high expectations of organizations; but on the other hand, they also desire to make a meaningful impact. So, what can you do to leverage their strengths and create win-win outcomes for both organizations and millennial employees? Here are a few strategies for your consideration:

  • Get to know Millennials. Invest your time in learning about their individual capabilities, career goals and aspirations. Show them you genuinely care about their success in your company.
  • Establish coaching relationships. Instead of telling them what to do, be their source of learning, tools and support. For example, explain to them your company’s unwritten rules and why things are done a certain way. Educate them about with whom they need to speak to get things done.
  • Have an open-door policy. This will allow Millennial employees to ask questions and obtain guidance when needed. Meanwhile, seek their input and take their ideas seriously.
  • Provide real-time feedback. Millennials grew up with instant messaging and do not subscribe to the “no news is good news” mentality. So let Millennials know what they are doing well and how they can improve today.
  • Forge collaborative relationships. Involve Millennials in decision-making and problem-solving. They love the apprenticeship approach and the opportunity to make a contribution. Give them opportunities to work with you side by side.
  • Inspire instead of manage. With their high energy and fresh perspective, Millennials will challenge the way “things have always been done here.” So embrace an open mindset and modify your management style to keep the Millennials’ level of enthusiasm high; don’t let your old-fashioned ways quash their open-minded, innovative nature.
  • Provide meaningful work. Millennials desire to make an impact so entrust them with tasks of importance that will bring them a strong sense of happiness and fulfillment.
  • Allow work flexibility. Unlike the previous generations, Millennials value work–life balance and do not consider normal work hours as the only time to get work done. They expect to be able to leave the office in case of an emergency or a family obligation with an understanding that they will have to complete all tasks that accumulate during their absence. So trust them with flexible work schedules.

Working with Millennials doesn’t have to be a painful experience if you are willing to open your mind and heart to learn about this group of employees. Like any other generation in the workplace, Millennials have their unique needs and wants, aspirations and strengths. Therefore, instead of focusing on how Millennials are different from employees of other generations, focus on what they can bring or add to your company. Remember: this is a generation who will take less pay for inspiring vision and values. So make an emotional investment in them, and the return is likely to be a happy surprise! Learn more by reading NAW’s research study, Optimizing Human Capital Development: A Distributor’s Guide to Building Sustainable Competitive Advantage Through Talent Strategy.

You may also want to read Are You Ready for the Millennial Invasion? Here Is One Distributor’s Approach

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Jia Wang, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

Jia Wang, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

Jia Wang is Professor of Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University. As a scholar, she has been actively promoting individual and organizational development through culture-sensitive and evidence-based research. Her research work has been disseminated through a wide range of academic journals and international conferences. Jia currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Human Resource Development Review. With 25 years of accumulated experiences in multi-cultural contexts, she has developed and conducted numerous educational workshops to diverse groups in both the corporate and university settings.

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