Monday April 13, 2015
Millennials aren’t the first generation of youth to come under fire from their elders, but they certainly seem to be getting a lot of bad press. A heated defense has been mounted by millennials and their advocates, who claim these traits as virtues. In particular, many millennials are thriving entrepreneurs, and older business owners can learn some valuable lessons from their successes.
As a millennial myself, I’m willing to admit that my generation is still young, and we have some issues to work through. But I also think we have some unique perspectives on productivity, work/life balance, and the nature of work itself, which older generations can benefit from.
At the very least, understanding the benefits behind the millennial approach to work can lead to smoother workplace relationships, and fewer misunderstandings. Here are some tips from the millennial work style that small business owners in particular can learn from.
1. Question the way things are done
One of the defining characteristics of millennials is their unwillingness to blindly do things the way they’ve “always been done.” Keeping a critical perspective on systems and processes is crucial to keeping a business growing.
Frequently ask yourself why you do things the way you do. Is there a way you can be more efficient? These questions should be inspiring rather than scary. After all, if there’s a better way of doing things, don’t you want to know?
2. Get experimental
Finding new ways of doing things is a challenge that many millennials embrace willingly. When you’re willing to try a new system or process, you open up countless new doors to grow your business.
Treat growth as an experiment, where each new system or process is a hypothesis. This means that you carefully test its effectiveness, ROI, and value before deciding if it’s a good fit. Keep your focus narrowed to one or two experiments at a time to avoid misattributing any changes that happen as a result of your experiments.
3. Use software to automate repetitive tasks
Millennials are pretty unwilling to do busy work – but this doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It just means that they recognize that repetitive tasks are a waste of human time, energy, and creativity. Software can automate accounting, invoicing, emails, and so much more – with more potential opening up every day.
Experiment to find out where you can automate, and use the saved time to exercise your human ingenuity.
4. Bring the live feed into business management
Few millennials would deny their addiction to the live feed. Once you start receiving updates in real time, it’s hard to go back. One area the live feed has been slow to penetrate is the workplace – and millennials understand that this needs to change.
For example, at AllProWebTools, we’ve built our business management software around a live feed called the Workflow Timeline. It posts real time updates about new business, client notes, and employee workflow to a live feed accessible by everyone in the business.
5. Commit to continued learning
The internet puts unlimited information at our fingertips, and millennial entrepreneurs understand the importance of this. Spending between 10 and 30 minutes each day reading articles and blogs, watching videos, or listening to podcasts about solutions to issues in your business can have a big impact.
6. Seek out feedback and mentorship
One of the biggest criticisms brought up against millennials is their “needy” desire for feedback and mentorship. But I see these desires as an indication of a very important entrepreneurial trait: desire for continued improvement.
It’s very helpful to have accountability partners and mentors challenging you, encouraging you, and offering suggestions. It’s no wonder so many millennials are seeking these relationships out. Taking a leaf out of their book might expose you to some great criticism and ideas.
7. Make yourself a priority
This isn’t an encouragement to be selfish, but I do urge you to commit to improving, caring for, and learning about yourself. Take time to find out more about your personal leadership style, your own rhythms and cycles, and your triggers and motivators. Journaling, talking with a counselor or mentor, or even taking reputable online personality tests can give you a lot of useful insight.
8. Embrace a flexible schedule
It’s not just millennials working unconventional hours, or working from home, but they’re more likely to have the courage to demand flexibility. Mobile technology has made it possible to be productive anytime, anywhere, so why shouldn’t we take advantage? People should work when and where they’re most productive.
9. Value performance over work ethic
Do millennials have a bad work ethic? We’ve always known that hard work doesn’t necessarily mean results. In fact, working hard can be a way to avoid work that is hard. Organizing your workflow can help you get more done, with less stress, in less time. Millennials, lazy or not, definitely know how to work smarter instead of harder.
10. Consider your motivation
Many of these tips have encouraged you to think critically about the systems and processes you use to manage workflow in your business. I also want to encourage you to challenge your own motivations. What drives you? What are you pursuing?
This means setting personal goals, but it also means broadening your perspective to the big picture. What are your impacts, positive and negative, on the world around you? What is the role of your business in your community? Even broader – the world?
Millennials are fascinated by these questions, because they bring meaning to their work. Do you understand the meaning behind what you do? Having goals larger than your own self and your own gain can actually make you more productive. You’ll feel happier, more fulfilled, and more connected to your work in the context of the world around you.
Millennials definitely have a different perspective on life and work. We focus on allowing human ingenuity to thrive and flourish, through efficiency, knowledge of self, and sense of purpose. Work, for us, is highly individual and personal. When we love what we do, we’re willing to work hard for it.
Do we have a lot to learn? Of course we do. We’re young. But I think we also have a lot to teach.