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Today’s Startup Culture: Five Things to Know About Millennial Workers

In the next 10 years, Millennials will comprise of nearly 75 percent of the workforce; over a quarter expect to have six employers or more during the course of their careers.

There’s already stiff competition among companies to hire the “best and brightest” of the younger generation and it’s not getting any easier. We at GoFetch recently completed our seed round of financing, paving the way for hires. I would like to share a few insights on what I have learned about the Millennial workforce and how to manage a Millennial startup.

The media says that Millennials are lazy, disengaged, and lacking loyalty and hustle. This generalization actually misses out on the bigger picture. In my experience, young people in the workforce bring strengths that are too easily overlooked or downplayed. By definition, 100 percent of the GoFetch team are Millennials who are incredibly driven and intellectually curious. I find that they have a deep respect for the potential of technology to make things easier, faster and very different from what came before – essential characteristics for any start-up.

Even though I do not disagree completely with the world-view of Millennials at work, my observations and early experiences have illustrated that building a successful Millennials startup culture is all about leveraging one’s strengths.

Below I outline five key takeways that I am positive any CEO/founder/manager would find valuable.

1.  Millennials want it all—and that’s a good thing

Millennials expect not only the first place trophy, but also the second, third, and even the participation ribbon! While many business leaders think this is an arrogant outlook, I have experienced that this same confidence and sense of self-worth can transcribe into tremendous achievement and hustle.

Traditionally, successful career trajectory has been based off ideologies such as working hard, knowing your place, and earning your stripes. While this may have been true for the Boomers, I have come to believe that there is now nothing wrong with punching above your weight and fast-tracking your own success, as long as you have the right attitude and can walk the talk.

At a 10-person startup like GoFetch, the environment is fast moving and the scope of everyone’s work is tenfold what it would be at a large Fortune 500 company where roles are more specialized. Success at GoFetch requires our team to punch above their weight and take on new tasks on an hour-to-hour basis.  This would not be possible without both a mindset and environment that fosters an hyper-overachieving attitude.

2. Millennials don’t work for cash; they work for purpose

For Millennials, their work must have meaning. They want to work for organizations with a mission and purpose. Traditionally, baby boomers didn’t necessarily need meaning in their jobs. Many wanted a paycheck ― and their mission and purpose were their families and social life. For Millennials, compensation is important and must be fair, but it’s no longer the key driver. The emphasis for this generation has switched from paycheck to purpose ― and they culture must do the same.

Millennials are entrepreneurial spirits that are successful when sharing a common mission and drawing their own map towards completing that mission. For instance, one of our company values is Ownership. 72% of Millennials would like to be their own boss; so by letting your team work how they want, as long as they are delivering results, is an incredibly important component to creating a successful Millennial culture.

3. Candid, constructive feedback is key with Millennials

I wanted to talk about the constant feedback loop that Millennials value. According to Gallup: performance management requires a constant focus on feedback. 44% of those polled Millennials more likely to be engaged when their manager has regular meetings with them. Regular “walk and talks” is key to fostering open communication and creating clarity throughout the workplace.

The way Millennials communicate ― texting, Snapchat, Slack, etc. ― is now real-time and continuous. This dramatically affects the workplace because Millennials are accustomed to constant communication and feedback.

With the fast-paced environment that Millennials enjoy and a startup brings, lack of direction and priorities can sometimes come into play. Leaving the office to walk and talk for a few blocks makes a world of difference in developing a clear sense of direction.

4. Work-life balance is out—the blend is in

This idea of work-life balance, in my opinion, is misunderstood.

Yes, Millennials consistently rate work-life balance as the top job priority, but poke around a bit in the numbers and something very surprising emerges. One Ernst & Young study found Millennial managers are adding more hours to their workweek faster than their Gen X or Boomer counterparts, for instance. In sum, a desire for work-life blend is for sure not about being lazy.

One of the first aspects that stood out to me during our first initial hires is how much Millennials appreciate a job they can be engaged with and showcase their skills. This is especially true for Millennials. Because for Millennials, a job is no longer just a job ― it’s a lifestyle.

Major companies have implemented ways to create this blend. Google, giving their employees the freedom to work on whatever they like for 20% of their workweek; and Netflix by giving unlimited vacation.

GoFetch is experimenting with methods like this to leverage the importance of a blend across our team’s work and personal goals.

5. Leave room for Millennials to grow

The average tenure of a Millennial employee is two years. For reference, the average tenure for Gen X employees is five years and seven years for Boomers. The main reason Millennials are quick to move companies has to do with their belief in the personal growth they get from the company they are with. For instance, if a Millennial employee does not feel that they are learning and honing their skills, they are likely to look to another company that will tick this box.

Millennials love an entrepreneurial environment where autonomy is rewarded and there is a wide set of opportunity for learning within their role/company. On top of this, Millennials are natives to technology, making them significantly more efficient problem solvers.

Look for areas of the business that would lend well to helping your Millennial employees grow and learn. I believe if a Millennial employee feels like their team members are invested in their personal growth, they will be more likely to develop a stronger loyalty with not just the company, but the people within it.

Final thoughts:

The characteristics of Millennials outlined above requires a focused understanding from employers. Millennials want a flexible approach to work, but very regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized. These are all characteristics that employers can actively address.

Willson Cross is a cofounder of GoFetch.

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