Schools and school districts are listening to this new group in the American workforce. After all, they are growing fast and will soon overshadow Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

According to the Pew Research Foundation, Millennials are the 54 million adult Americans who were ages 18 to 34 in 2015 and now make up one third of the country’s workforce, the largest generation at work. These digital natives grew up in the shadow of 9/11 and the Great Recession, and are well adapted to change, technologically savvy and poised to unleash innovation — when given the right environment, support and autonomy.

Keep these characteristics in mind as you consider hiring Millennials:

  • They are high-maintenance and the highest performing at work.
  • Millennials are notable for their commitment to friends, family and hobbies.

They are known for these negative attributes:

  • They are said to seem narcissistic, disloyal or unable to interact face-to-face.
  • This can be turned into positive attributes in your school district when properly understood and leveraged.

In order to engage members of this generation, school districts need to recognize their talents and give them a significant role in which they can make a difference. Here is some much-needed insight:

Work Hard, Play Hard

It is important in education to have a work-life balance. Teaching is about interpersonal skills; schools want their teachers to rejuvenate so they can be at their best for students once they step into the building.

Some schools ramp up the fun by having a gaming club or end-of-year parties called celebrations of learning in December and June. This is so necessary because teachers work hard meeting the ever-increasing demands of those assessment benchmarks.

Important features to develop:

  • Pay
  • Promotion decisions executed fairly
  • Everyone gets a shot at special recognition
  • Workers have a say in decisions that affect them

The school districts that have these features exhibit:

  • Strong and open two-way communication
  • A high tolerance for risk taking
  • High levels of cooperation and support among employees
  • Reduced roadblocks to innovation, such as internal politics
All In

School districts are particularly interested in retaining this new generation of teachers. They are inviting recent hires and graduates to administrative and leader meetings. This helps build their skills, networks and exposure to various aspects of schooling.

Because this generation so trusts and values information from contemporaries, districts can incorporate peer relationships by having ongoing mentoring programs, not just for the first year.

What This Means for School Districts’ Hiring Practices

It’s better to directly address the needs and understand the characteristics of the Millennial generation than to pretend they don’t exist. Millennials are innovative, willing to learn new using the latest technology and hard working.

The continuing economic uncertainty and technological changes affect everyone. By focusing on the needs of the next generation, school districts are creating a better place to learn for our country’s future: our students.

Wafa Hozien, Ph.D. Dr. Hozien teaches Human Resource Administration at Central Michigan University.