Discover the Reality of Working with Millennials

Discover the Reality of Working with Millennials

Running a business is a lot like a reality TV show. You have an ultimate goal or mission and a time frame in which to achieve it. A group of people are thrown together and the fun ─ or chaos ─ begins. In business, you hope for the fun and do your best to prevent chaos.

Of all the reality TV shows, Survivor is my favorite. I’ve watched every season for the past 16 years, and I continue to be fascinated by the social dynamics of the show. It’s never the same and just when you think you’ve seen it all and there can’t be anything new, in comes a new group of survivors, and the chaos and fun begins again.

It’s a game of knowledge, experience, skill, and personality in a race to see who will rise to the top to win $1 million. In order to win, you need to work as part of a team, while also working on your own to be the survivor who wins the $1 million prize. Does this sound a bit like your business environment?

In the current season of Survivor, I’m fascinated by the interactions and relationships between the younger and the older players. I hear the older players complaining about the younger players and vice versa. Again, this is replicated in our business environment.

I remember listening to my parents’ generation bemoan the fact their children didn’t know what hard work was and weren’t loyal to their employers. My parents’ generation typically worked for the same company their entire career and then retired.

According to a PWC survey, in 2008 (pre-recession) 75% of Millennials believed they would have between two and five employers during their working lives. By 2011, Millennials expected to have six or more employers. While these statistics may seem alarming, remember that our economy is increasingly affected by global factors and rapid changes in technology and the way we work.

In 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Millennials became the workforce’s new majority, and by 2030 this group will represent 75% of the workforce. So folks, Millennials are here to stay and the reality is, we all have to work together to achieve our goals. The chaos begins when we start mixing up the different generations in the workplace from Millennials (born after 1980) to the Traditionalists (born pre-1945).

How do you hire and effectively work with Millennials in your business?

There isn’t a secret sauce recipe, and yet it’s easier than you think. There are a few essential elements that, once in place, will have you happily and successfully working with some of the brightest, most creative, and innovative members of the workforce.


Millennials Need PurposeStart with why the work matters. Millennials are committed workers. When you look at the Millennials on Survivor, most of them are non-traditional. For example, Aubrey convinced a traditional university to let her write a children’s book about a manatee instead of a 50-page thesis. She graduated with honors. Caleb was in the Army protecting our freedom. Cydney committed to receiving her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Pro Card at age 20, while going to college.

Do these Millennials sound lazy and entitled? Do they lack work ethic? They all worked hard for things that were important, in fields where they could make a difference.

Apply this knowledge to your business. It only takes a few moments to show Millennials the big picture and how their work contributes to making a difference. Here are three areas where you can easily make the changes that will have Millennials contributing and making a difference in your business.


Millennials Need FlexibliityI was always frustrated by a “time clock” mentality. Many of my jobs were more focused on the time my butt was in a seat rather than on the results I achieved. I remember my first position in a law firm working for an attorney who would come in around 10:30, do his professional reading, go to lunch, and then get down to serious work around 2:00 in the afternoon. I remember begging the firm to allow me to work 12:00 – 8:00 p.m. so I could have my mornings free to attend school. The firm would benefit because they wouldn’t have to pay me overtime every day to stay until 8:00 p.m. It was a win-win and yet they refused. I was forced to work the 9-5 hours.

Many businesses are focusing on old school, traditional ways of working. In a knowledge-based work environment that changes rapidly, this no longer works. It’s a simple thing to change your focus to results rather than a traditional 9-5 schedule. Many jobs are not dependent on business hours. What matters most is achieving results, not a forced number of hours.


Millennials Need GrowthOffer growth and development instead of just a job. Millennials are interested in continuous learning. On Survivor, tribe members have to work together to create a shelter, build a fire, get clean drinking water, and find food. The tribe that learns to use transferrable skills from the “real world” like relationship building, analytical thinking, and creativity to achieve a goal and applies them to surviving in rough conditions usually does better than tribes operating in a task-based system where someone assumes the leadership role and assigns tasks to the tribe members.

Communication is also key to creating a growth and development mindset. Winning tribes talk about their goals and then help each other achieve them. In a business setting, recognize that Millennials don’t want to be cogs in a wheel. They want a collaborative relationship where they are encouraged to look at different or better ways of doing things, to express their creativity, and be innovative.

In Survivor, the players have studied past seasons and know what’s been tried before, what worked, and what didn’t. The survivor is usually the player who isn’t afraid to change things up and challenge the way it’s always been done.

What does this mean for you?

Unlike Survivor, your business is not a game. A few changes you can easily make to hire the best Millennials are:

  • Stop searching for the perfect resume. Look for transferrable skills and experience and be open to new ideas and ways of achieving results.
  • Revisit your job descriptions and make sure they accurately reflect the job and the expected results, as well as how they fit into the overall mission of the company.
  • Communicate the growth and learning opportunities. It’s okay if you can’t offer a Millennial a lifetime career with a clear path to the Executive Level. Contrary to popular belief, most Millennials aren’t looking for a fast track to the top. They do, however, want to know what they will learn and when the opportunity to learn will take place.

Purpose, flexibility, and growth ─ these are things that your business probably already has. It takes a small investment of time and effort to use them to your advantage when hiring the brightest, most creative, and innovative Millennials. 

Which of these resonates most with you? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Your insights may be just what someone else needs to move forward.