Millennials are our greatest challenge. But they are also our greatest opportunity.
That was the message driven home at the Entrata Summit 2016 session Millennials: Our Customers, Our Employees, & Our Greatest Challenge. Dennis Smillie, president of Multifamily Solutions Inc., referenced John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961, in which he noted that the torch has been passed to a new generation.
“I would say the torch has passed again,” Smillie said. “Millennials are now the largest labor force in the United States. Not only has this generation arrived, but they are also embedded and integral to what happens for the next 40 to 50 years.”
A perusal of the median ages at several technology companies reveals that millennials are already firmly entrenched. The median age at Facebook, for instance, is 28. It’s 31 at Amazon and 33 at Microsoft. In April, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S.
“Millennials represent opportunity if we can leverage their unique skills,” Smillie said, noting their ability to work in groups and devise forward-thinking solutions.
In the multifamily and technology sectors, millennials are integral for a variety of reasons. From a customer standpoint, millennials are renting apartments at a fervent pace. The generation represents the lowest percentage of homebuyers in 80 years, and that trend is projected to continue.
From an employment standpoint, millennials represent the future and a large portion of the present. But hiring millennials, the first generation to grow up exclusively in the digital age, requires a keen understanding of their characteristics, according to Chad Perry, vice president of sales for Motivosity.
“I think millennials get a bad rap,” Perry said. “Millennials are actually trying to make a difference in the world. Because they grew up in the information age and they have access to so much, they understand there is more than one way. They like variety.”
To millennials, authenticity and relevancy matter. And feedback is critical, although it needs to be direct and timely.
“They’re not looking for criticism, but they like coaching,” Perry said. “To engage a millennial consistently, you have to give that constant feedback. You should embrace this. Let millennials try. The thing I like about millennials is nobody told them that they couldn’t, and I think that’s awesome.”
Millennials want to lead and develop outside-the-box solutions, challenging existing ideas. This sometimes rubs executives the wrong way, who sometimes tell millennials that they weren’t hired to come up with alternative solutions. That’s a mistake, Perry said, as millennials want to believe their jobs are about more than just a paycheck.
While millennials have a desire for friendships and relationships and enjoy collaboration, they also enjoy their independence. Many have an appetite to work from home, which is challenging the traditional management approach, according to Julien Boubel, sales and engagement manager for LinkedIn.
Granted, millennials are not a homogenous generation, as several subsets exist within. But a commonality is that they don’t let a lack of experience hold them back.
“If you hire them, what is your promise to them?” Boubel said. “It’s that you won’t shut them down. It’s that you’re going to be an active listener. If they zone out, ask them to re-engage.”
Feedback, Boubel said, is a gift with two possibilities.
“First, you can use it as a teaching tool,” he said. “But as soon as they transition from rookie to pro, you can coach them to become greater than they are. By properly managing their feedback, you can win their hearts and you can probably improve your retention rate as well.”