The challenge of Millennials and Generation Z

Holly AbbottUncategorized


The Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace, and the Millennials will begin to dominate soon enough. Yet, everywhere we look, companies still seem puzzled by how to handle them.

As a side note, it seems in a lot of cases, Millennials are getting confused with Generation Z-ers. However, it seems they share a lot of features, so a lot of this may be transferable between the two!

At Spirit Ventures, we have a number of Millennials in our team. Our position in the hospitality sector means we get ready access to a lot of young, talented people who want to progress with us. We now have 2 people who may be described as Millennials on our Executive Board, and many more on the Operating Boards in our different ventures.

A recent HBR article did a great job of exploring some of the myths and some of the facts around Millennials in the workplace. It quoted surveys that showed that, contrary to popular opinion, Millennials weren’t constantly looking to jump ship to the next challenge. The obsession so far has been about getting them to stay, rather than developing them into future leader. Which, incidentally, is how we believe you get them to stay.

Instead, Millennials have two very important traits that employers need to recognise:

1. Many are too financially insecure to want to constantly jump ship.

They’re looking for security. But, more so than previous generations, this is balanced with a need to …

2. Feel valued.

This does not mean, as many seem to think, that they need constant reassurance. Forget the patronising stereotype that Millennials need to be “mollycoddled”. Rather, Millennials just want to know that they’re making some kind of difference, however small. They want to know how they’re contributing to the business’ strategy, and they want consistent feedback so that they can readjust if they need to. This might link back in some way to the job insecurity factor.

And sure, some Millennials may be oversensitive, and may shrink at a challenge. But let’s face it, there’s plenty in previous generations who were too!

The HBR article gives some advice on how to handle Milllennials best, but here are some tips we’ve come up with based on our own experience:

1. Involve them in the strategy

This doesn’t mean getting them to write it, of course (although don’t rule it out). This means getting them involved in implementation, encouraging them to come up with ideas about the best way to make their bit of the strategy a success. Above all, make sure they know their place in the strategy and how they can contribute.

2. Utilise their ability to challenge

Millennials have a somewhat deserved reputation for being more willing to ask questions, namely “why?” We shouldn’t be surprised. As Kaplan and Norton pointed out, generations since the ‘Baby Boomers’ have all become more interested in challenge, asking questions, and shunning the traditional ‘command and control’ structure. Don’t be afraid of this. They might just be on to something.

3. Consistent feedback

Millennial seem to hate silence. It breeds insecurity. Give candid but constructive feedback early and often. Your traditional annual appraisals might become redundant. GE have moved towards an app that gives consistent feedback. You might not be able to go that far, but regular short conversations might become more useful than monthly or quarterly blocks of time.

4. Develop them

At Spirit Ventures we take this very seriously. This isn’t just about building up people’s skills. Financial insecurity means Millennials want to stay with firms and want to grow with them. They’re looking for the ‘psychological contract’ that we hear so much about. Helping them to develop, and giving them an indication as to where their future may lie in the business, will go a long way to securing their loyalty and getting them motivated.