Does it seem like millennials get blamed for everything nowadays? Whether it’s the perceived rise of selfishness in society (as if that vice just started in the last 30 years) or the inhibiting effects of avocado toast, the term ‘millennial’ has become a form of shorthand for describing anything that we view as different from how we grew up and therefore, inferior. Honestly, at this point, it would not be a stretch to see the fall of the Roman Empire somehow attributed to millennials and their preponderance of video games which, led to a lack of them playing outside as kids.

The fact of the matter is that millennials are perhaps the most misunderstood generation of the last two centuries. As children of the baby boomers and early Gen Xers, millennials were those people born from 1981-1996. This means that, as of 2020, millennials are anywhere from age 23 to 39 years old. Sometimes known as Gen Y, millennials are typified as digital natives since they have high usage and an inherent understanding of the internet, social media, and mobile devices. Millennials have experienced 9/11, Katrina, Great Recession, and now the Coronavirus Recession, which means they have a unique perspective in the workforce that separates them from prior generations. That said, how do you effectively lead millennial employees?

We tend to believe that the next generation always has it so much easier than we did. But upon reflection, that might not be the case. Millennials are dealing with a world where culture and technology are always changing, and while side hustles are tremendous opportunities, they can also be overwhelming. As a leader, it’s essential to engage with the next generation from a place of empathy. Millennials are navigating a culture with so many choices and distractions that they’re changing jobs often in an effort to figure it out for themselves. You’ve got to enter these conversations with empathy for where they are in their stage of life.

As a leader, it is crucial to do the hard work of clarifying where the team is going as well as the overall mission. It can’t be simply about revenue. Millennials have discovered that success has got to be bigger than money and so providing purpose is fundamental. It’s also a must to provide high levels of support to your workforce in order to meet the high challenges that have been set. This generation of employees wants to know that you care about them. In past times, this may not have mattered as much, but it’s an employee market and culture has shifted. Effective leaders invest sincere time and care so that when challenges arise, and people must be held accountable, employees are never left asking if they are valued or cared about. Leadership in this day and age requires much more than simply signing checks.

We understand that leaders are busy. We move deadline to deadline, and it’s tough to hit pause and create margin to invest on an individual basis with your team. However, the payoff is tremendous. The reward is worth it. People long for relationship. And if leaders are willing to build the margins in their workflow to connect with their millennial employees, then you’ll see remarkable growth in their trust, encouragement, confidence, and commitment. And that will make you and your team a force to be reckoned with for years to come!