Know and Grow Your Millennial Employees (What a Wonderful Workplace it Would Be…)

In the memorable words of James Cooke, “What a wonderful world it would be….” As I listen to these lyrics, I feel an instant re-connection to a subject that has always been near and dear to my heart. Why can’t all property managers have a property management training mindset? What a wonderful workplace it would be!  Some of the best managers I have ever worked for or known had a mindset focused on growth, connecting, leading, training and inspiring.  It looked right. It sounded right. It felt right. When it all comes together, it plays like a well-written song sung in full harmony, not to mention being music to the ears of the millennial.

You are a property management training professional, so you understand my point. You always seem to have your finger on the heartbeat of the onsite employees. Because you were the first person they encountered in their new hire training class, your relationship is one of trust, understanding, and encouragement. You tend to network with other trainers and seek outside advice. You are always looking for new ways to advance your training program and understand your internal customer. You strive to know and grow employees. You tend to have your hands in all areas – property management training, marketing, employee benefits, recruiting, retention, and more. This is especially true when it comes to your millennial employees. You are a good match for millennials because surveys reveal that millennials want to see individualized focus and attention on their personal career path. The biggest challenge you face is passing your same knowledge, hopes, and goals down to the one who will lead the millennial employee daily – the property manager.

Many property management training professionals have walked in your shoes and understand the disconnect that often takes place when the employee leaves training and goes to work. Millennial employees are working for a manager who doesn’t always have a “trainer” mindset. While it is unlikely that you hire new managers, you probably train them. So embrace those few face-to-face classroom opportunities to encourage your managers to know and grow their employees, especially the millennials.

1.  KNOW. To be in the know means to be widely informed. Managers focus so much on knowing their external customer, yet spend very little time on their internal customer. The first customer in the leasing office is the internal one and many of those fall into the millennial category. Katie Locke, Director of Training and Possibilities at Red Carpet Learning shared these thoughts in an article focused on improving internal customer service, “If you have to focus on just one area this year in order to improve your business, focus on your internal customers. Your biggest assets are your employees. Truly engage them in your business and culture. and provide a company they are proud to work for and you will see business growth and a rise in productivity.” Do your managers know that by 2025, millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce? Knowing is directly related to training because it is about being informed, knowing your customer.  If your managers are not informed about their audience, how can they train, lead, or retain them?  What motivates a millennial? Why do they care so much about this, or that? Why don’t they stay longer? Why do they appear to be entitled?  Here are a few points to share in your next face-to-face manager meeting and property manangement training event.

Do you KNOW that the majority of your millennial employees don’t intend to retire with your company?

The average millennial stays with their employer two years. In comparison, the average tenure for Baby Boomers is seven years and five years for Gen X employees. One of the primary reasons millennials are more likely to job hop is because they are not willing to stick around if they do not believe they are receiving any personal benefit or growth. Interestingly, many of the challenges managers face with millennials stem from their lack of truly understanding their goals, meaning they don’t know this generation. While each person is unique, they do have certain generational tendencies that are important to address in your property management training classes.

According to a study conducted by Bentley University, 67% of millennials have a goal of starting their own business and only 13% have an interest in climbing the corporate ladder to become CEO/President of the company. This represents a sharp contrast from what has been common in our industry for so many years. In many cases the position you offer is viewed as a stepping stone for them. What caused the flip? Is it really about their loyalty, or is it about ours? Fred Tuffile, Director of Bentley’s Entrepreneurial Studies program, remarked, “Millennials are eager to make their own pathways because they suspect the traditional ones may lead nowhere. Millennials see chaos, distrust of management, breaking of contracts and bad news associated with business. They’ve watched their relatives get fired and their peers sit in cubicles and they think, ‘There has to be a better way’.”

At their core, millennials want to grow in their skills and knowledge, and they want freedom to change career paths within their own company. They see change as a growth opportunity. If managers can create this type of environment, these employees will stay longer. Consider all the career paths that exist within the leasing office, regionally, and in your corporate leadership. They don’t only want to be limited to opportunities within a leasing office in a particular region and in a particular state. Are your managers always pushing them down the promotion road or just hoping they will stay put?

Do you KNOW that millennials desire feedback more frequently, but they won’t ask for it?

You most likely do know this, but is it being acted on in the leasing office? While my generation and the previous ones were content to wait for the six month or annual review, millennials want instant feedback. Capturing this enthusiasm is vital, yet it can be challenging for the hands-off manager. The good news is that millennials’ idea of ongoing feedback isn’t necessarily a formal one. It doesn’t have to be listed in a policy and procedures manual to take place. A daily habit of passing along lightweight signals of positive and negative sentiment will go a long way with them.

In an interview with the New York Times, Jeff Lawson, chief executive of Twilio had this to say about millennials and feedback, “They enjoy constant feedback because they always want to be learning and growing. They’re not looking for constant praise, but rather they want to ‘keep score’ on how they’re doing in all aspects of their career. They never want to have a surprise.” It all makes sense when you consider that millennials grew up with the Internet, which offers instant gratification and quick feedback, and by extension they expect the same at work. Do your managers know this? Are they responding or complaining?

Do you KNOW that the #1 preferred employee benefit for college-educated millennials is student loan repayment?

While this isn’t directly related to training, it is a golden nugget that can be shared with your upper management if it hasn’t already been considered. What millennials value most is their independence and freedom. Student debt stifles their freedom. Adopting such a program in your company sends a message to them that you know they have taken on a real burden to obtain their education and that you don’t want them to hold onto it until deep into their 40s. According to a 2016 Millennial Benefits Preferences study conducted by FC Consulting, millennials will stay at a job 36% longer when offered a student loan repayment program, and when two equal jobs are presented, 85% will choose the one offering such a program. This same study revealed that college-educated millennials prefer student loan repayment programs 2-12X more than other perks including 401 (K) and health insurance. Wow! This benefit affords companies a powerful advantage for recruiting college-educated talent over their competitors. They care about the NOW, so pass on the KNOW!

2. GROW. To grow means to develop. As a property management training professional, you understand this concept well. At work, it is essential to challenge and stretch yourself often. Growth has the potential of making you better at your job, and it can make you feel more fulfilled both in and out of the workplace.  An impressive 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job, far more than the 69% of non-millennials who said the same in a 2016 Gallup report. How well are your managers growing their teams?

Do your managers help millennials GROW and do something big?

In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial survey, only 28 percent of surveyed millennials reported feeling that their current place of work was fully utilizing their skills. It is important for managers to be aware of millennial employees’ ambitions and talents from the get-go. Are they artistic? Are they creative? What skills do they bring from their previous work experiences? What leadership roles did they hold in college? Property management training professionals and managers should be eager to learn about and demonstrate ways they can utilize these skills to help millennials realize their full potential and ‘do something big’ at work! I remember years ago recruiting an internal group of marketing-minded employees to work on some company projects. To my surprise, one of the ladies in the group had been instrumental in the development of the 1980s “We’ll Leave the Light On For You,” campaign for Motel 6. What a gem she was to have on the team! She helped us accomplish some big goals. Do your managers truly know the talent that exists on their teams? Encourage them to explore their employee inventory, which reaches far beyond the resume.

Do you encourage your managers to GROW the soft skills in their millennial workforce rather than complain they are lacking?

By virtue of having been raised on technology, millennials are the most tech-savvy generation the world has ever seen in the workplace. As a result, this growing portion of the workforce is drawn to STEM careers. While they can boast about their hard technical skills, when it comes to soft skills, millennials fall short. We learned timeliness, professionalism, networking, leadership, communication, and basic business etiquette early on in our lives. We displayed them at work and expected them from others. To millennials, soft skills might seem somewhat antiquated. What’s the big deal if they are five minutes late to work? Why do they have to dress professionally instead of however they are comfortable? No matter how much technology exists, soft skills continue to be in high demand.

Below are a few of the most important soft skills to have in the workplace according to Mike Steinerd, Indeed’s Director of Recruiting:

  • Acting as a team player and displaying strong leadership skills when necessary.
  • Being flexible, as those who can adapt to any situation are dependable no matter what’s thrown at them.
  • Effectively communicating, including articulating oneself well, being a good listener, and using appropriate body language.
  • Problem-solving and resourcefulness, which are critical when unexpected issues inevitably arise.
  • Accepting feedback gracefully and applying that feedback to foster professional growth.

Mentoring this generation and growing these skills might be more important than it was for any previous generation. If you want to grow your millennial employees, you must inspire the “trainer” in your managers to get the job done. They should be seeking daily opportunities to grow soft skills.

While they have certain generational tendencies, millennials are all different and should be treated as unique individuals. Consider what Christian Brucculeri, CEO of Snaps, says of millennials, “The same basic principles apply to the millennial generation as to any other age group. Some people are inspired, excited, hardworking, humble and curious. Some are entitled, unfocused and political. Not everyone is great!” There are so many opportunities to know and grow your millennial employees through property management training classes. You understand this very well. Consider yourself the messenger of information to those who recruit, lead, train, and manage this talented generation. What a wonderful workplace it would be if our leasing offices were filled with training-minded managers just like you – a team of leaders who are always seeking to know and grow.

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Maria Lawson
Vice President of Training and Development
Edge2Learn / Ellis Partners in Management Solutions