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Millennials change workplace culture for the better

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Doug Phillips

Doug Phillips
Guest Columnist

Make no mistake about it, the millennials are having a profound impact on the 21st century workplace, and those of us who hold leadership positions in our organizations must employ some of the flexibility and balance that millennials crave – if we want our businesses to continue to thrive.

Gone are the days of everyone working 8 to 5, believing that keeping your nose to the grindstone and performing duties “by the book” was the best way to get ahead. We no longer live in a world where our growth comes almost exclusively from personal experience. Meaningful collaboration and purposeful use of social media, skills highly valued by our younger workers, are becoming increasingly important to the success of our businesses.

Most millennials seek to integrate their professional and personal lives, creating schedules that deliver workplace productivity while carving out necessary hours for family and social obligations. And, the rest of us are coming to realize that this is a pretty good idea.

The attitudes of this new generation of workers can have a positive impact on business in many ways. It is our responsibility as leaders to channel their values in a manner that promotes achieving the goals and objectives of our organization.

We have found, for example, that millennials want new challenges, that they tire of repeating the same task. So we have made the effort to add new tasks and responsibilities to their portfolios, while emphasizing that repetition of skills already learned is the surest route to achieving mastery.

Our newer employees also place a high value on feedback to help advance their careers. While we continue the policy of the annual performance review, our supervisors now meet with members of their team at least twice a year. These interim reviews, in a less formal setting, show employees that we care about their personal development.

In the same vein, we have also created a mentoring program, in which our senior managers take one or more of our newer employees under their wings. I will admit to having been skeptical when we launched the program, which is entirely voluntary, but almost every one of our newer employees has chosen a mentor. The program is informal; no one writes up any reports of meetings. Typically, the mentor and mentee will meet once a month, often over coffee or lunch, to discuss their work, their career goals and strategies for advancement or learning how to work more effectively.

Our generation has learned the importance of networking, building contacts outside the office that can lead to opportunities for community service and professional growth while incidentally advancing the good name of our business. Younger professionals can show us a thing or two about another form of networking, as their skills with online social media help them keep up with their business associates and with the latest trends and information in the industry. Do not be surprised when one of the younger members of your team presents an idea that could improve your business; chances are that he or she found it online faster than you could have.

One other thing about millennials: just like everyone else, they like to be rewarded for excellent performance, but many prefer to receive when the task is completed successfully rather than as an annual pay increase, and some would prefer a few extra days of vacation instead of a cash bonus. Listen to your employees, and think about adding some flexibility to your compensation and rewards systems.

Strong young professionals represent the future of your business. Challenge them, support them and recognize their accomplishments. n

Doug Phillips is president and managing director of Horty & Horty P.A., a public accounting firm with offices in Dover and Wilmington.

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