Seven Behaviors to Connect and Motivate the Rising Generation (connecting with Millennials)

As published in the Midwest Society of Association Executives FOCUS magazine spring of 2016 by Kordell Norton

“They can’t pass the drug test!” He is another client who is complaining about the workforce, more especially, those “Millennials”. Repeatedly business executives are frustrated by this emerging group of workers.

“One half of all the applicants from this age group literally cannot pass the drug test. Then,” he pokes the air between us for emphasis, “those we do hire don’t want to work. After a couple of days they come and tell us that the work is too hard.”

Who are these Millennials and how are they affecting your business? If you are an association, you see the Missing-In-Action nature of this generation and are petrified of the outcomes. They have not been joining associations like those generations before. It has association executives scared to death.

The Millennials will be eighty million strong by 2020 (as much as one half of all your customers). This offspring of an army of soccer moms are used to being catered to, and made to feel like they cannot lose.

What do they want? For associations they want to:

1. Have opportunities to learn how to be a leader.
2. They want to hone their business skills so they can be a leader in the market.
3. They want to network with others.
4. They want to “give back”.

For business to connect with this generation, there are areas you can focus on.
They are looking for a powerful and distinct view of the world. They can sniff out a lack of vision instantly. The world is information rich, and they appreciate those who can take that and plot a meaningful course. Whereas traditional strategic planning was done once every two to 5 years, they expect you to be strategic daily.

They want to be involved in things that are not yet finished.

Marriott is in the middle of a major room renovation. They are taking out the desks, and putting in hardwood floors. The Millennial, so says Marriott, does not sit at a desk. They instead will sit on the bed. The hardwood floors give the room a most rustic feel, like a homey log cabin. Marriott discovered that the hardwood floors make the room feel complete . . . almost.

Consider the movie The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It portrays an office environment that caters to this generation. Open work spaces, exposed rafters with duct work. Like someone put together an office, but just didn’t finish.

They want to be convinced of the value of a product or offering through storytelling.

This is the Sesame Street generation. They learned through stories. With information bombarding the everyday, this generation has had their attention grabbed with stories. Facts and figures are not enough anymore. Story telling is the new currency of business.

They are into raw entrepreneurial skills and innovation. They are NOT into big wealth and power.
Millennials see Polititions who are discredited by fact checkers instantly. They see wealth as a byproduct of the money hungry who are destroying the planet. They see the instant success that occurs around companies, and the customer experience that goes beyond expectations. Creativity is a must, especially by their managers and leaders. They, as a generation, want to be heard . . .and getting feedback from others is key to creativity.

They want uniqueness

Millennials live in a world of mass customization. They expected to find and order anything on their smart phone instantly. Because the market offers so much diversity, they look for the new new thing, that unique offering that can make them momentarily different.

Whatever they do, they want to experiment, to contribute, and to be consulted.

Millennials have been taught to do things in teams. Not only in school, but on the field of play, and even in their daily interaction. Can you say Social Media? If you want to pull them into your efforts, or as customers, they must be included in the activity. If you don’t have a proactive way to do that, then start working on one.

They want to associate with organizations who have strong ties to the local community.

Research indicates that they have a strong sense of belonging. That they feel a part of their surroundings and environment. As easily as they adopt into teams, they also quickly adopt in their local environs.

Moral of the story.

• Make them part of your planning.
• If you have already done your planning, then communicate your vision.
• Wrap all of your communications in a story format.
• Consider telling them the current story and get their feedback on what will/should happen next.
• It will slow down any planning initially, but get their help building whatever you are working on now, only to make things go smoother in the future.
• Make sure to delegate to them. Paint the picture that their contribution will help them grow.

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