Decoding Millennials: How They Can Become A Players

Millennials Photo

One of the most prevalent issues within the American workforce is the cultural and social difference among the various employed generations, especially between the millennial generation and their predecessors. These cohorts, the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers, complain that Millennial workers want the immediacy of nice salaries and perks, without putting in the hard work and generating the results necessary to earn these rewards. Such disparities are well documented in business articles and studies from market research firms that monitor workforce trends. As a result, corporations are investing vast time and resources trying to decode the Millennial work ethic and psyche in order to quickly bring them up to speed to the demands of the workplace.

In the recently launched book The A Player, talent expert and author Rick Crossland addresses ways in which companies can transform their millennial talent into top performers, or as he refers to them “A Players.”  Mostly due to the way they were raised, Millennials enter the workforce with different expectations and in many cases entitlement mentalities that were absent in prior generations. He explains that as the children of the affluent, yet time starved Baby-Boomer generation, the Millennials were lavished with the latest clothes and technologies, and in many cases the family calendar revolved around their activities.

In addition, the Boomer parents also wanted to protect them from having to experience the setbacks they sometimes experienced in their own youth, so a “participation trophy” mindset ensued.   He uses the adjustable height basketball baskets of this generation to illustrate the “lower the hoop mentality” often experienced with Millennials when the work gets tough.  In many cases Millennials were also used to their parents pressuring their teachers for better grades in parent-teacher conferences or lobbying their coach for more playing time on the sports field.  

These behaviors can also manifest themselves at work when Millennials have unrealistic expectations relative to the time required for advancement opportunities.   You hear countless stories of Millennials asking after only a few weeks on the job, when are they going to get a raise, or even become the vice president.  “It’s like they were raised by wolves” Crossland says when explaining the perfect storm that reared this talented yet somewhat self-absorbed generation. 

Because many Millennials were raised with great support systems that bailed them out of sticky situations, keeping integrity to commitments is another area where this generation often struggles.  Too often, Millennials break commitments when what they perceive as a better opportunity comes along.  “We see this often with Millennial candidates we are recruiting.  They commit to a job, only to rescind it if something more attractive to them comes around” adds Crossland.  “Their sense of integrity to commitments is not nearly as strong as other generations, and this is something we train them on from the recruiting through the onboarding process.”

The trick for employers is selecting Millennials who had upbringings and experiences that taught them accountability and responsibility in real-life situations.  Many employers crave what he coins “Throwback Millennials”—those of the generation who have all of the tech savvy, but with an old-fashioned work ethic.   The other secret is building onboarding programs that clearly show Millennials the expectations of the rigors of the corporate work environment, while incorporating some cutting-edge HR practices such as flex time, paid-time-off policies, wellness programs, career coaching and charitable contribution matching programs that appeal to their upbringing and value systems.   They also expect the employer to have proven processes and systems that when implemented, will make them successful.  “All employees crave leadership when they join an organization, and the Millennials are no different.  “We have had very good success getting great productivity and reliability quickly with Millennial employees because we are very clear with our expectations and we have very transparent accountability mechanisms” he adds.

The Millennial generation has several attributes that hold untapped potential for an increasingly socially conscious business world. For example, Crossland addresses Millennials’ disposition towards wanting to work for companies that strive for purpose-driven profits. In other words, those that aim to align the productivity of the business with altruistic causes that help give back to both the local and global community.  They also highly value companies who are willing to invest in their own human capital development and education.  He calls the alignment of these purpose-driven profits the Prosperity Principles, and asserts that Millennials “Appreciate the transparency these principles provide regarding the connection of the profits to the purpose of the organization.”

Additionally, Millennials must continually prove they have the inner-drive to excel in the workforce. To combat the entitlement mindset that may hinder this motivation, Crossland stresses the importance of keeping Millennials accountable for bottom-line business results. This hands-on approach to accountability, coupled with reinforcing positive steps towards their personal growth, is a leading factor behind turning Millennials into A Player Millennials. He states, “Praise should only be given to employees for actions like taking initiative, accepting constructive criticism, showing resilience, beating a goal, or making a significant breakthrough.”  Don’t praise them for doing the basics of the job or just showing up on time.

Creating a workforce of A Player Millennials is an essential role for all successful companies in the workforce.  This generation, on paper, is the most talented ever.  As the older generations retire, converting this raw talent into proven leaders who produce results is critical to your organization’s success.


Written by Rick Crossland is author of the book The A Player. He works with organizations across the country to transform good companies into great companies. More information on this and other ways to improve your own performance and the performance of your organization and culture can be found in the recently released book The A Player.

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