Home Blog & Media Multi-generations and Trust: Leading Millennials

Multi-generations and Trust: Leading Millennials

March 6, 2020

Share this Post


Irene Kirimi

Deputy Director, Human Resource Learning and Development
Action Against Hunger USA

The content of this post was originally published in the HRM Magazine, you can view the original article here.

Different sources list generations in existence differently since no chronological start and end points have been set for each of them, but in general.

  • Gen Z/iGen/Centennials: 1997 – yet to be determined
  • Millennials or Gen Y: 1981 – 1996
  • Generation X: 1965 – 1980
  • Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964
  • Traditionalists/Silent Generation: 1928 – 1945

There is a lot of research on millennials on various fronts, probably because they represent the largest percentage of our workforce and their impact is prominent. Trust has come out dominantly as one of the things this generation does not score positively. I am a millennial myself and this subject has intrigued me over the last few months.

So, who is a millennial? As listed above, this is the cohort of persons born between the early 1980s to the mid-1990s and compose the majority of the workforce around the globe. This generation was severely impacted by recession, as it caused record unemployment, affecting young people joining the workplace.

Why trust and target the millennials?

Approximately 60%, of millennials have been screened and researched by various agencies and bodies. Many articles I have read mention that millennials do not trust much. In fact, I recently attended a conference, themed around trust, and when I mentioned that millennials are quoted as a low trust cohort, there were murmurs across the room. On further discussions after the conference, chit chat with the participants proved true. I had a chance to network with individuals in gen Z and baby boomers and they agreed with the claim that millennials do not trust much. They question everything!

Why the low trust?

Millennials came about at a time when the world was undergoing massive changes such as parents divorcing, everybody was lying to them including the government, churches and politicians, and there was also the recession during these years. Dan Schawbel, founder of the Gen Y research and management consulting firm Millennial Branding, says that millennials are used to not trusting CEOs and politicians and corporations in general, they like blogs so much because they feel they are written by an individual and it’s not an agenda, it’s a personal account of their thoughts and how they’re feeling, and so they can better align with that, especially if the content is written by someone who understands them or someone who is a millennial themselves.

As a millennial, I spend an average of 37 percent of my day at work, roughly nine hours, therefore need to be at my optimal, happy and be meaningful. After all, the motto of our generation is YOLO (you only live once)!

How do you cultivate high trust with millennials at the workplace?

Trust must be built if we want to bridge the generational gap and work effectively. Here are a couple of tips for management and leaders to create trust with your millennial employees:

Show you care

Theodore Roosevelt said “people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” In order to establish trust, caring by itself isn’t enough—you must show  that you care. You may genuinely care, but if you need to show and express it – be real and authentic. How then? Ask questions like “Can I help you in any way?” and “What do you need from me to learn, grow to add value?” Show gratitude even for the smallest thing – moreover, be consistent with these expressions

Check in regularly

Here I don’t mean you micromanage, this is a no with millennials, well with anyone. Make yourself approachable so your millennials feel comfortable to ask you anything. Whether it’s physically coming into the office, sending regular texts or another form of communication, establish a relationship with your millennials on a regular, weekly basis. Act in a way that’s relevant to them, which lets them know you care. They will remain loyal and retention will go through the roof.

Own up to mistakes when they happen

As leaders and managers, accountability for actions is a must. Own up to mistakes, wrong actions and decisions. By doing this, you are setting a good example for millennials to follow. You are showing, like any human, your weakness and imperfections and demonstrating that it’s okay to have them. They will trust and follow you for this. You will earn their trust more!

Keep promises and be sincere

Millennials require frequent, two-way feedback assuring them that their ideas and concerns are a part of decision-making. To truly engage millennials, leaders have to make an authentic effort to keep their promises and not to mince their words around an issue. If you promise that you are passionate about work life balance, show it, and don’t let the issue remain thought that is not put to action.

In a nutshell, if you practice these and more, you will retain your millennials longer, and have a motivated workforce and positive working environment.