Millennials are a constant topic of conversation in the business press – just search “Millennials” on Inc.com to see the variety of stories covering them. And often, they get a bad rap. They’re said to be overconfident, dramatic, demanding…and sometimes, they are. But Millennials also offer unique advantages difficult to find in other generations. Many successful leaders have found useful ways to engage Millennials, and their companies have thrived as a result.
YPO member Erik Fairbairn has found Millennials to be ideal hires. Fairbairn is the founder and CEO of PodPoint, the UK’s leading provider of electric vehicle charging equipment. Since its founding in 2009, PodPoint equipment has charged over 50 million miles of electric vehicle driving. Similarly, Fairbairn has gotten unexpectedly impressive mileage out of his mostly-Millennial work force.
On an episode of my podcast YPO 10 Minute Tips from the Top, Fairbairn shared his advice on why Millennials can make great employees:
1. They’re Mission-Driven
“I’ve always described PodPoint as a mission-driven organization,” says Fairbairn. He explains, “We believe that travel shouldn’t damage the earth, and we want PodPoint everywhere you park for an hour or more. But it’s not until the third line of what PodPoint is about that you get into anything financial.” And while he may not have meant to, this is what has made PodPoint attractive to Millennials. “What we’ve found is that Millennials seem to really buy into having a career which makes an impact on a global scale,” says Fairbairn. Millennials are motivated differently than other generations, so embrace their altruism! Identify a deeper mission in your work, or give them benefits that allow them to make a difference in their communities.
2. They’re Loyal
Once you’ve tapped into the Millennial desire to have an impact, they can become loyal, dedicated employees. “The number one reason PodPoint exists is that we think it’s important to solve the de-carbonization of travel,” Fairbairn explains. To him, Millennials “aren’t here necessarily for the money the previous generation was here for. They’re really here because they’re having a positive impact.” And when they see the difference they’re making, they’re more inclined to stay at that company. “We’ve ended up with an enthusiastic, young, loyal team,” beams Fairbairn. So company investments into Millennial development, while also in line with what they want, will also produce a big return for the company, which gets to retain the skills and knowledge they’ve developed in their employees.
3. They’re Blank Slates
“I didn’t set out to build a team of Millennials,” Fairbairn explains. “But no one’s really built a network of electric vehicle charging stations before. So we can’t go and find someone who’s got experience in the specific thing we’re doing.” Millennials are young, and they don’t have a lot of experience. But good leaders can make that work to their advantage. Instead of looking for specific skills, Fairbairn looked for reliable people he could trust, and who bought into the company’s mission. Enter: Millennials. In addition directing to their enthusiasm, leaders can take these young people and mold them into exactly the employees they need.
4. They’re Self-Directed
Fairbairn intentionally structured his company unlike many others. He explained, “It’s different from the hierarchical structure of bigger organizations, where everyone has a very specific role with a very specific way you’re supposed to deliver.” And that works for Millennials, who don’t like being told what to do. “We’re totally objective-oriented,” Fairbairn says. “We’re not interested in how you meet your objectives. So when you work, how you work, what you need to get the job done, your format, we really don’t like to specify that.” And Millennials are curious and comfortable with that ambiguity, Fairbairn claims, saying, “We can say to Millennials, ‘This is the problem we need you to solve,’ and then just leave them to go and do that.” Effective leaders work to find methods of employee engagement and motivation that tap into exactly how an employee works best.
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