North Idaho Business Journal: Turn young worker frustrations to everybody’s advantage

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It’s an old song. Generations old and young lament one another’s failings; the lyrics may change, but the tune remains the same. It’s as if we’re not only speaking different languages, but living in an entirely different world.

The thing is, we are. Given the fact that workers now have the market advantage, older generation employers and managers frustrated with young workers could start there. Attitudes tend to be the products of our environments, current, past, and future. Let’s face it: Their future looks bleaker than ours did at their age. This isn’t a pity party, but first seeking to understand others makes it easier to motivate them.

Which takes us to another key difference: Millennials and emerging young adults have different priorities. What motivates them isn’t what motivated us. Like it or not, work does not come first anymore, period. At best, it’s second or third, behind family and quality of life — not just in the long run, but each and every workday. No amount of “buts” will change that perspective, which is reaching global proportions.

One more thing is important to today’s young adults, and quite redeeming: A sense of community. Charity. “Family” means fellow man.

All of this can be used to company advantage, with a shift in perspective. Young adults tend to give more to jobs and companies which recognize this, and frankly, who can benefit from it beyond motivating individual workers. Consumers are increasingly ethics-conscious, too.

Common themes to attract, motivate, and keep younger workers from sources including the Harvard Business Review, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Deloitte (a multibillion dollar professional services company) include:

1. Paid time off, and flex time. Studies have confirmed this is the number one thing — more than pay grade — millennials look for in a job. Consider it a cost of doing business. Remember when maternity leave wasn’t standard? This is part of the new standard. Flex or shared time; options to work from home, at least sometimes; paid time off to volunteer (especially, as a company or department) or get training.

2. Be an ethical, socially conscious company, and let them know your vision. These are generations who share on social media the good and bad about corporate culture. They want jobs to be more than dollar-generators. They want even simple work to mean something, so they respond to managers and companies whose visions they understand, and who care, not just about them (profit-sharing is another motivator), but also about local and world communities. Explain the company’s role in the community, why its mission is important, how it fits in the economy, beyond the bottom line.

These generations need that kind of buy-in. They’re loyal to companies who value sustainability, who buy from suppliers who don’t deal unfairly, who work with organizations improving what ails the world, engage in fair trade. Who share profit by donating regularly, especially to causes employees care about



from 9

(determined perhaps by a survey with a list of choices?).

3. Lots, and lots, of feedback and encouragement. Yes, employers have to correct what isn’t working; but it doesn’t cost anything to send “well done” — repeatedly — for what is.

4. More titles, more increments. Consider it part of that feedback — a reward system to motivate and encourage continued effort. Gone are the days when workers stayed at one or two companies their entire careers (along with associated pensions), so today’s workers don’t wait 10, five, or even two years for a promotion. Maybe 25 cents an hour isn’t much, but if it comes with a different title it can be enough.

According to Deloitte’s 2016 study, millennials currently have the largest share of the global labor market, and 66 percent plan to leave their jobs in less than five years. Six in 10 millennials say it’s because their “leadership skills are not being fully developed” (back to those titles and increments). The same study indicated millennials value company ethics and integrity as highly as worker satisfaction. For much more information see:

In other words, these are generations who attribute the same ethics to companies as they do to people. Which has its own logic; separating the entity from human beings is merely legal fiction anyway.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone Newspaper Network. Email:

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