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Innovating with Intention: Learning to Empower Your Millennial Workforce with Microsoft

At a recent 2-day leadership event for Microsoft, we had the opportunity to get an inside glimpse at what the tech giant is doing to continue building momentum in a transitional time. The company recently laid off over 18,000 workers in an effort to shift their focus to developing new technologies. This has left many long-time employees feeling uncertain but has given new inspiration to a younger generation. Leveraging these fresh faces has become an organizational focus.

Microsoft’s MACH (Microsoft Academy of College Hires) program is a unique onboarding experience designed for new college graduates. This particular MACH program was a 4-day Bootcamp event that brought together college hires from the IT division of Microsoft. Even though all of these hires were part of IT, each had a specific area of expertise and focus. Our aim was to align these individuals to a single heartbeat that centered on embracing their individual contributions and empowering them to lead.

We’re moving into a new age of corporate dynamics. Leadership teams are no longer the lone driving force behind innovation, and the younger generation is no longer looking to follow. They’re looking to lead. They’re looking for value. They’re looking to be a part of something bigger then themselves, but this drive, this desire, this passion needs to be focused. This is why we have to engage the millennials in our organizations to innovate with intention.

But how do we do this?

  1. Engage: Before anyone is inspired to create, they need to be engaged in the company. What is the overall vision for the organization? How does this person fit into the larger picture? Microsoft does a wonderful job of this by investing in conferences and team building workshops to quickly introduce new hires to the organizational culture.
  1. Listen: This is where we learn what truly makes someone tick. Now that your hire knows what your organizational goals are and where you see them on your team, let them tell you where they see themselves. Ask about their personal goals. Understand their intentions. Truly take time to listen and understand their needs, as this is a two-way street. If their needs aren’t met, yours won’t be either.
  1. Honor: This is where most organizations drop the ball. You’ve engaged the employee and listened to their goals, but now is the time to honor their contributions. This is ongoing. When they share a new idea or take a risk by creating something new, reward and honor it. Each person’s contribution is unique and valuable, and it is critical that they are recognized for their input.
  1. Unleash: Trusting and empowering younger employees is critical. This is something Microsoft is really embracing in the MACH program. They want people to be closer to their projects, and they want to empower them to impact change. Microsoft understands that organizational layers are counterproductive to moving quickly, and they are placing more trust in the younger employees.

By taking these four critical steps, you can channel your millennial workforce’s lofty ideas into focused efforts with tactical, strategic plans to make them reality—putting your team on the cutting edge.

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