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How Do You Innovate With Millennials?

by | May 31, 2012 | Industry News & Trends

There have been many articles written on how to attract millennials and hopefully, by now, you’ve put some processes and activities in place to attract this very large generation. But once you have them as active members of your staff, board or volunteer base, what do you do? Innovating with millennials sounds like a no-brainer. Those young kids have plenty of inventive ideas, right? Sort of.

While they have the enthusiasm, they may need the goals of your innovation to be laid out for them. Are you trying to increase membership? Are you brainstorming on member retention ideas or new events? Let them know how their ideas can best be applied to your association’s goals.

Millennials aren’t thinking years in the future. They work at a job and they’re quick to point out inefficiencies but they’re not creating life/career plans. Try not to let the amount of time they’ve been with you negate the importance of what they have to say. It’s not uncommon for managers to dismiss comments made the first week on the job. Make note of them and don’t discourage this from happening but teach your staffer the appropriate way to bring an issue to the table. Don’t just spout out the inefficiency; bring a solution. This will shape their contributions in a meaningful way and make them more palatable to all involved.

Building on their hesitancy toward creating a long-term career path, put them in charge of projects that will immediately effect them such as increasing morale or membership. Giving them the push to come up with creative ideas on things they can see come to fruition is of great interest. Assigning them the task of doing a five-year plan, not so much.

Another way to capitalize on their exuberance and get them innovating is by placing them in charge of the “little things.” Little things is not another term for grunt work. Gen Y is quick to brush that off and see it as an indicator that they are undervalued. Little things are those items and activities that although they cost very little, they make a big difference in recruitment, retention and loyalty. When I was in school we’d refer to them as the “having class outside” perks. It cost the professors nothing (other than potentially our attention) but reinvigorated the class when the professor would “break” the rules  and allow us to defy convention. It felt illicit and decadent to be out there and that departure from the ordinary also fueled the recommendation of that professor. “You should take Dr. Brown. He lets you have class outside.” Placing millennials in charge of the little things is perfect for them. They will surprise you in the extra perks they come up with. They may create social groups within your professional association or they may take your social networking to another level.

With a commitment to ongoing communication, you can channel their enthusiasm and direct them towards a goal. Give them the room to explore and talk it over (as they do well in collaborative situations). This will help you make the most of their ideas and innovative spirit.


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