Most managers who see an empty chair at a Millennial’s desk or see them sinking a lot of time into social media while on the job would chalk the behavior up to lazy or lack of focus. I, on the other hand, would say it’s because the Millennial is underemployed.
Being underemployed is similar to when your school teacher considered you a disruption in the classroom because you would finish your homework or test before anyone else and then you would start talking to your peers because you were bored out of your mind.
Being “digital natives,” Millennials will leverage technology, like HR software, and collaborative tools, like social media, to streamline and systemize their work. They can work smart. As long as managers are still managing the input (time) of their Millennial employees vs the output (results) they may be underestimating just how much their Millennial employees can contribute. Do not confuse working smart with laziness.
Here are 4 ways to move Millennials from underemployed to hyper-utilized.
1) Provide examples of satisfactory work.
A clear and relevant example of excellent work is fundamental in aiding employees to achieve hyper-utilization. 61% of Millennials say they need “specific directions from their boss” to do their best work.
Leaders must cast vision. A vision of the “why” behind the work and a vision for the quality of the work. People tend to meet the expectations of those that lead them. Raise your Millennial expectations and you will raise the lid on the potential of your Millennial employees.
2) Make additional projects available.
It’s probably an understatement to say that today’s organizational leaders have too much on their plates. Yet today's underemployed Millennial employees would pounce on the scraps from that plate. In fact, 1 in 4 Millennials are “asking for a chance” to show their leadership skills. Whether they vocalize it or not, they want to prove that they have what it takes.
Make it a priority to check-in with your Millennial employees on a daily or weekly basis to ensure they have enough to work on. Then communicate the other projects that are available should they want to elevate their impact on the organization.
3) Create a transparent and cross-collaborative work culture.
74% of Millennials prefer to collaborate in small groups and 38% of Millennials feel that outdated collaboration processes hinder their company’s innovation. A transparent culture creates trust and enables Millennial employees to align their unique passions and strengths with company priorities and initiatives.
Transparency creates the necessary visibility and accessibility an employee needs for action. The more empowered a Millennial employee feels to collaborate across teams, the greater the potential for innovation and stronger team outputs.
4) Support personal and professional development.
50% of Millennials believe their organization could do more to develop future leaders. When a Millennial’s appetite for development isn’t satisfied, they will feed the need outside the organization. This is why Millennials are notorious for having “side hustle” or passion projects outside of their full-time job.
Leaders should encourage development, and where possible, help Millennials identify areas where they can apply their “side-hustle” to their job. For example, if a Millennial enjoys blogging, perhaps they could launch a company blog or become a contributor for an existing company blog.
Stop making excuses for your Millennial’s disengagement at work. Do not settle for an underemployed Millennial workforce. Instead raise the bar and see how they respond. Offer more, expect more, do more.