What Evergreen CEOs Need To Know About Working With Millennials

Britnie Turner Keane, Aerial Development Group

October 24, 2016

I lived in my car on and off for nine months in 2009, when I was 21 years old. I slept in grocery store parking lots and spent 18 hours a day working for free in a city hundreds of miles from my home. All with the hope of starting a business in the real estate industry to fund my passion.

Does this bust any of your myths about millennial workers?

Since that cramped but productive time in my life, I have gone on to launch six successful businesses in Nashville, Tennessee. The Purpose of my Evergreen company, Aerial Development Group, has always been to empower people, sustain the planet and utilize capitalism as a force for good. I call this Excellence with Impact. We combine commitment to excellence in our products and services with dedication to impacting the world around us; we’ve sold over 290 homes, elevated 18 communities, sponsored 112 orphans in Africa and supported 12 local outreach programs.

And of the 28 people on my staff, 12 are millennials—my peers. I give them a lot of credit for our success.

Some stereotypes of millennials are based in fact. They need a lot of affirmation and attention. But with the right support they can become a major asset to your company.

Millennials are uniquely dedicated to personal development. They want to keep learning and rise within a company. Believe it or not, they are self-motivated and driven. But CEOs need to make sure they keep millennials focused on the broader mission of the company as well as their own achievements.

At Aerial, we have multiple strategies we use to manage millennials (as well as everyone else in our office). Specifically, we have a platform in place to make sure millennials are heard. Giving them time with management shows that we care about their growth as well as the growth of the company. This not only motivates them, but it also keeps our company sharp.

One tool we’ve found particularly effective is the Monday Morning Pow-Wow. Everyone has a chance to share their new ideas and suggest innovations—nothing is off the table. From assistants to executives, everyone receives equal respect in these meetings, and magic has had a tendency to enter the room during this time.

Then there’s the daily tool millennials particularly love called Align. The web-based management app lets everyone see the priorities of the company and the individual departments and then breaks down these priorities into specific tasks. It’s a nice, clear way for employees to see how everything they do contributes to the company’s goals.

We also do quarterly individual reviews to make sure everyone is working to achieve their goals as efficiently as possible. Although millennials tend to value Purpose over a paycheck, they can still be motivated by money. We always say, “We’ll give you a raise, but you have to show us why it makes sense for the company.” This is an empowering and educational exercise for all. It allows them to have some control over their rise in the company while also teaching them to think more like CEOs who understand the connection between raises and value creation.

It’s not all easy. I’ve found that I need to constantly remind my millennial employees of the big picture; otherwise they get bored and feel like they aren’t doing something with their lives. I have to show them why performing even a mundane task has meaning and contributes to the larger company and, sometimes, the world.

For instance, I recently went to Haiti to help set up an entrepreneurial program so the citizens there can create their own opportunity and won’t have to rely entirely on NGOs. When I returned, I had a meeting with my staff and showed them a video that reflects our company’s core values, why conscious business matters and how the work we all do will affect this particular project in Haiti. Through this little bit of extra effort, my entire staff was energized by my solo trip, and they feel good about staying home to keep the company going in my absence.

Make sure your Evergreen company has a Purpose, whether it is environmental or People First-oriented. This is what our generation demands. We grew up on Disney films in which the wealthy character was painted as the greedy villain every time. Millennials care deeply about the world and making it better. More than 75% of us say it’s important for a company to give back rather than just make a profit. We want our lives to affect others in a continuous and tangible way.

The Evergreen way will attract millennial clients and customers. A strong Purpose will attract and keep millennials as employees, as well. Open your doors to them. Mentor them. You’ll be astounded by their vision and capacity for change.

Your Evergreen company will be richer for doing so.

Britnie Turner Keane is the Founder and CEO of Aerial Development Group.

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