Small Business Strategies: Give Gen Y a chance to help build your company

Millennial boyHere’s a golden opportunity for business owners who could use an employee or two but can’t pay big salaries. The current group of college graduates, and those who graduated over the last several years, are facing a job market that offers somewhat dreary prospects. Fewer companies are hiring, and for each open position, there are often many more experienced candidates.

These Gen Y kids are often willing to work as interns or for very low salaries — if you can make it worth their while. Most Millennials are unimpressed  by the long titles and corner offices that we Boomers prized in our early careers. Millennials want work that is meaningful, that makes them feel like their talents are being put to use, and most importantly, they want work that gives them opportunities to grow.

A small, growing company with an entrepreneurial spirit can be a great fit. In a small business, entry level employees often have the opportunity to take on many different roles and explore various sides of the business. Rather than being trapped in a sea of corporate cubes, they have more chances to operate on the front lines in a small company, and they can see that their contributions actually make a difference to the company’s success. This age group also considers life balance a birthright, an attitude which is perhaps not shared by many large corporate environments and is often easier to find at smaller companies.

So what does the business owner get? Generally speaking, these Millennial employees will walk in believing they’re ready to take on the CEO’s position, right this second. They’re not, but that level of confidence makes them unafraid to take on almost any task you set for them. At Tribe, we have found our Millennial employees and interns to be highly intelligent and knowledgeable about the world around them, talented and passionate about their work, and to have a work ethic that might surprise their parents.

Here are a few tips for hiring and managing Millennials:

1. They crave constant opportunities for professional growth. The worst thing you can do is condemn them to days of menial drudgery. They will quickly rebel against the feeling that their talents and education are being wasted.

2. Understand that they define leadership differently. Compared to Boomers and even Gen X professionals, this generation has a completely different idea of what it means to be a leader. They are highly social creatures, and they see leadership in terms of group success, rather than individual achievements. Let them work in teams, for best results.

3. They need constant feedback. When these young professionals were growing up, they received perpetual reassurance that they were on the right track — from their parents, their teachers and their coaches. In the work environment, they still want to know how they’re doing, usually in much more immediate terms than an annual review. Tell them when they’re doing a great job, as frequently as possible and preferably in front of their peers, and also let them know when something’s not working, gently and in private.

4. Know that they believe they could do your job. Don’t be unnerved if they don’t treat you with the respect or deference you showed for more senior professionals when you were just starting out. At this stage in their careers, they don’t always see the value of experience. They’re more impressed with ability, and they are confident that they themselves have plenty of that. Let them use that confidence to help you build your company, and you’ll both be gaining  a great deal.

Yet members of this Gen Y group have a great deal to offer, particularly to a small, growing company where they can gain experience on the front lines. Although

are likely to be capable, confident, and passionate workers

additions to your staff, if you can make it worth their while

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