Ryan Jenkins, is an internationally recognized Millennial and Generation Z keynote speaker, generations expert, and Inc.com columnist. This post is adapted from his book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work
Ryan offers some great suggestions here for instilling a strong work ethic in Millennials. Introverted leaders, who take the time to listen, coach and build relationships of depth with their teams and customers are uniquely poised to get the best out of their younger workforce.
Employers pursue it, leaders exude it, fulfillment is derived from it, customers expect it, success depends on it, and career progression is the result of it…what is it?
A strong work ethic.
Eric Chester, the author of Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce, describes work ethic as, “positive, enthusiastic people who show up for work on time, who are dressed and prepared properly, who go out of their way to add value and do more than what’s required of them, who are honest, who will play by the rules, and who will give cheerful, friendly service regardless of the situation.”
Workers who view the work they do—fun or not fun, menial or noble—as a critical part of the bigger picture and execute the work with excellence, derive higher levels of satisfaction from their work, unlock more opportunities, and become more promote-able than those content with the minimum effort required.
With those type of benefits, why wouldn’t someone want to cultivate a strong work ethic?
Work ethic is a value based on hard work and diligence. It’s the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward. In other words, work ethic is not something we are born with, it’s a learned behavior.
Work ethic is part of an individual’s personal values and much like a company’s corporate values, they must be taught and modeled daily.
Previous generations have defined success at work by time and tenure, but Millennials measure it by the impact. Millennials ask themselves, “What’s the biggest impact I can make with the limited time that I have?” This mindset is often interpreted by managers as “lazy” because it clashes with previous generations view of what hard work is and should be. (Here is an article that explores this topic further.)
We must be careful when comparing a new generation of workers with previous generations when the way in which we work has changed so significantly over the generations.
Here are a few actions that can help instill a strong work ethic into Millennials…
- Clearly communicate the expected work ethic. Too many managers make assumptions that Millennials ought to know the expected work ethic. Stop assuming and tell them.
- Demonstrate the right work ethic daily. Not being innovative and working smart or not having a healthy work-life balance may deter Millennials from following your example.
- Create channels for work ethic. Ensure Millennials are equipped and have access to innovative tools where they can put their unique skill sets to work.
- Connect work ethic values to the big picture. The job of a leader is to paint a picture of the preferred future. Help Millennials connect their actions to the bigger picture.
Because of the shifting landscape of work and Millennials varied approach to work, one of the greatest challenges when instilling work ethic into Millennials is defining a baseline for strong work ethic. The best way to overcome this is…
Let the customer define the work ethic.
The behaviors that Millennial employees need to demonstrate should be defined by the needs of the customers or clients.
If customers need…
- Reliability – then employees must be available or deliver products/services when or where customers need them.
- Quality – then employees must do everything in their power to produce high-quality products or service.
- Honesty – then employees must display integrity in their actions and in every interaction.
- Professionalism – then employees must dress, act, and prepare like professionals.
- Positivity – then employees must commit to serving the customer with positivity, friendliness, and enthusiasm.
- Delighting – then employees must find ways to go the extra mile.
- Promptness – then employees must be timely in their responses, attendance, and deliverables.
- Expertise – then employees must demonstrate authority or a willingness to learn.
- Respect – then employees must be poised, diplomatic, and display grace under pressure.
- Determination – then employees must embrace challenges and focus on solving the customer’s problem.
It’s the responsibility of the leader to understand what the customer or client needs and to clearly and consistently communicate the work ethic needed to satisfy those needs to their Millennial employees. Once the customer-defined work ethic has been established, give space to Millennial employees to see how they take ownership and execute the newly formed values.
As your customers evolve, so will the work ethic needed to create the best results for customers.