Engaging Millennials in the Workforce

May 22, 2012

Photo by David Bohrer / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Small business owners face a frustrating generation gap when it comes to working with the Millennial generation--those born roughly during the 1980s. At America's Small Business Summit 2012, they learned that they need to embrace them and incorporate them into the cultures of their businesses for future success.

Jennifer Kushell, President of Young & Successful Media and founder of YSN.com, told attendees that the world is getting younger. The average age of the world population is 25, and one billion young people are entering the workforce worldwide.

These people going through their first ten years after graduating college, called "emerging adulthood" by Kushell, are the people employers now have to manage. Members of the audience told stories about bored young employees playing on Facebook and who needed to be handheld through simple tasks.

Kushell told the audience that that Millennials have "a lot of entitlement issues," and they have "a huge fear of failure." Their challenge is, "They know they have a lot of potential but they don't know what to do with it."

Yet they have strengths that small businesses can tap. They are adept at using new technology--see Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of Facebook. Millennials like to find creative solutions to problems, and being always connected makes them perfect for social network marketing.

Kushell offered a few tips for small businesses to better integrate Millennials into their business culture:

  • Coach and mentor them.
  • Don't micromanage them. Instead, give them the freedom and flexibility on a project.
  • Assign them projects that have an impact.
  • Give them clear paths to career success and opportunities for them to learn and grow.

This new generation of workers have a lot to offer, according to Kushell. They can make businesses more innovative when it comes to technology, marketing, communications, and business strategy. It may be frustrating transitioning them into the workplace, but they want to contribute and make a difference.

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