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Current trends in small-business leadership tend toward the creation of a workplace culture that mirrors the best of society. Business owners and their hiring managers strive to nurture a twenty-first-century ethos, where hires are all-in, passionate, and dedicated to the mission and vision; the small-business owner wants their new employees to see their workplace as a second home. New hires are expected to possess not only business acumen specific to their chosen field but also a whole range of skills and character traits beyond what is noted on the resume. In other words, they start under a high-powered microscope, and time-clock punchers need not apply.

This ethos parallels the new economy and those who have begun to drive it. At the same time, the majority of hires will be those drivers: millennials, who will be especially critical to small businesses looking to renew, refocus, or reinvent following critical downturns and shutdowns. Hiring and retaining mistakes will compound issues around delay the process of ramping up effectively. Interestingly, forward-thinking businesses and younger-generation hires share many similar ideologies, so one would expect a synergistic relationship as a consequence. In a tight job market, it is worth reexamining the questions – and perhaps some misconceptions – about what millennials expect from their employers.

The Projection Paradox

Over the past decade, millennials have carried the stigma of narcissism, which may stem from differences in how some were raised in contrast to past generations. Terms that come to mind are entitled and expectant. Instead, other characteristics should be embraced: energetic and enthusiastic. What millennials look for in a job should not be viewed as detrimental, but rather as essential.

A Stability Need

Historically, this group has displayed the tendency to hop from job to job. In reality, current young workers want what their parents and grandparents had: job security, and all that implies. While workers will always seek higher-paying jobs, they also know that quest could potentially lead back to a salary ground zero; instead more then in previous years, they strive for financial security and stability since they are increasingly worried about their futures. As media consumers, they are informed and observant, and they see rising housing costs, increasing consumer debt, massive deficit spending, and, especially, healthcare crises.

At the same time, they would prefer to stay with one employer for another reason: to be seen as valued. If the traditional view of this group is that they seek affirmation, then this makes sense.

A Purposeful Workplace

In contrast to perception, millennials are not blindly self-centered. They have been raised to promote the welfare of others. Schools that incorporate community service into the curriculum were once at the forefront. Now, service-learning is the educational norm, and they expect their workplace to share this value; a 2017 Horizon Media Study indicated that 81% of millennials expect corporations to contribute positively to the world at large.

Consider too, philanthropic altruism currently trends among influential parents and business leaders. Managing Partner of S-Cubed Capital and thirty-year venture capitalist and philanthropist Mark Stevens notes that in his life it has been “very stimulating to finance entrepreneurs who wanted to change the world.” A small business that incorporates selfless practices can build trust, an essential ideal for a potentially wary hire to see.

A Concrete Clarity

Clear expectations are a must. Have you been in a high-school classroom lately? Previous generations asked “is” questions, such as, “Is this on the test?” More recently, they ask “why” and “how” and “what” ones: “Why is this important?” “How will this accomplish our objective?” “What is the effect of that decision?” In other words, your young hires are critical thinkers. They ask the right questions because they want to take action they see as correct, they do not want to waste their time, and they do not like to second-guess. Millennials most want proper training, clear expectations and goals, and sufficient information to do the job right.

However, do not mistake this clarity with an old-style top-down management style. Because millennials also value independence and initiative, they prefer to work independently, using their own initiatives and methods to accomplish the tasks you train them to do.

A Stimulation Zone

Finally, the workplace should contain some elements of a happy home and a modern school. Education has evolved in fits and starts over time. As project-based learning and other forms of active engagement instruction have come to the forefront at all levels of school, recent graduates expect a stimulating environment to be the norm. They expect and will thrive in a busy, lively, and physically healthy workplace, offering nutritious snacks, ergonomic fixtures, and playful outlets such as games (or gaming).

Uncertainty looms over the future of a vast number of small businesses. Every decision an owner makes from now will have a bearing on success or survival. If yours is one in the position to take on new hires, take note of how you address the expectations of newer generations of workers.

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