Adapt for the emerging workforce

Strategies to address the preferences of millennials

At our most recent Living As A Leader Leadership Breakfast, executives from local companies came together to explore and discuss the clash between the baby boomer cultures of many organizations and the preferences of the millennial workforce. A portion of the inputs focused on what organizations are doing to create a culture that will attract and retain the emerging workforce.

strategies-generation-y-old-young-shutterstock_731235881The strongest themes that emerged include:

  • Flexibility – The emerging workforce works in a different way than the boomers traditionally have. Some prefer working remotely, listening to earbuds during tasks, dressing differently than boomers, having access to a cell phone and flexibility with hours. Leadership Breakfast participants said focus should not be given to the means by which work gets done, but to the quality of work and the timeliness in which it is finished.
  • Continuous Coaching – Millennials are in search of regular feedback and clarity of expectations for development. Because of this, boomers may want to employ a practice of continuous coaching versus the traditional annual performance evaluation. The continuous coaching model offers an informal, ongoing communication opportunity to focus on feedback and developmental needs.
  • Collaboration – Break down any invisible barriers between millennials and boomers. After all, everyone is a team. It is important to be conscious of the differences between the generations, but it is more important to act on the differences and work together to bridge any gaps and unify the team.
  • Technology – Utilizing technology is second nature to millennials and is generally preferred when completing tasks. Some boomers, on the other hand, may have difficulty acclimating to it. Both experiences with technology should be acknowledged and respected.

Some of the specific examples that were shared:

  • “We are actively working on restructuring our annual performance reviews to a more ongoing coaching/feedback format. This is a huge change for the existing boomer ownership and management. We also had two current managers attend the breakfast this morning who both verbally stated they better realize the importance of flexibility.”
  • “(We will be) establishing and maintaining metrics that allow us to objectively see the contributions being made by all employees to our business. If the baby boomers see that the millennials are meeting productivity and quality guidelines, they will have less cause to complain about the means being used to get those results.”
  • A general theme of technology was at the forefront of the conversation. While some baby boomers view technology as a “necessary evil,” millennials don’t know a world without it. To bridge that gap, baby boomers need to make a conscious effort to embrace, and even search for, new and productive technology. I understand that some boomers aren’t personally up to the challenge of searching for new technology for their company, though. Technology-oriented professionals are out there for hire and I believe if a senior level individual isn’t up to the challenge, that person should rely on someone who is able to help his or her overall cause. These tech professionals can also train all the boomers on staff.

Kudos to these organizations in the Milwaukee area proactively making changes in their organizations to acknowledge the preferences of their emerging talent!

-Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send questions to her at To read all of her columns, visit the knowledge portal at

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Aleta Norris is a partner and co-founder of Living As A Leader, a national leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. Living As A Leader supports the development of leaders in more than 125 organizations across the country. For several years, Aleta has been researching and speaking about the critical responsibilities organizations and leaders share related to the attraction, retention and engagement of the emerging workforce.

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