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Written by: Merri Lemmex
If you are Generation X or Y, or even worse – a Baby Boomer – you have probably had to give your head a shake or two when it comes to managing millennials. It has been said that managing the current generation entering the workforce is the hardest history. Of course, it has been said over and over for every generation, so maybe it is time to stop blaming the new generation and figure out how to manage them successfully.
So, what is the problem? The first thing to managing any generation is to understand where they are coming from and what has influenced their lives. (Of course, you cannot apply stereotypical traits to everyone within a generation, but these generalities with give an idea of how their lives have been different from other generations and how they have shaped their thinking.)
So, what is it that is different with Millennials?
Millennials have been influenced by changes to the education system. The shift to predominantly team work in the school system has prepared them to work well in teams and be collaborative. This is a huge boost to organizations.
On the other hand, the strategy everyone wins (there are no losers) has not prepared them to fail or lose. Millennials also have little fear in losing a job as they are more plentiful than they ever were in the past, and a much higher percentage of young people are staying at home until they are completely financially stable. This has made our younger generation very mobile, and if they are unhappy with their job, they move on.
Millennials dislike the idea of regular working hours. Once the task at hand is done, they are done. They do not want to just fill in the hours for visibility – if they’re done, they want to go home and do something else.
This generation is the most connected generation ever. With networks typically in the thousands, they have a platform to voice their beliefs and concerns, as well as connections to change job opportunities as necessary.
Millennials have never known a world without technology, so their ability to grasp, and exploit technology is a huge strength. However, they can also be frustrated with those around them without the same level of technological skills.
Lastly, they typically have loyalty to a cause or idea, not a company. Growing up in an era of environmental concerns and terrorism have shaped their opinions. Millennials apply these ideals to their choice of jobs, and managers they respect – and when these ideals are not met, they will move on until they are satisfied.
So, how can you manage Millennials successfully? By understanding where they are coming from and appealing to what they want.
First and foremost, they want respect. They may not have been in the workforce for very long, but they are used to being able to voice their opinion and as a manager you should be listening. Your newest employee is the most likely to point out what is wrong with the status quo, and how things can be done differently. (Ask them what the stupidest thing you do is, and they’ll provide you with lots of ideas!) Their access to information and their network is a valuable tool any organization should tap into.
Secondly, Millennials expect a work-life balance, so where possible, flexible hours, time off without pay, telecommuting, etc. will appeal to their working style.
Third, encourage them with their technological abilities to move your organization forward. Tap into their knowledge to improve processes. Get on board with social networking and its ability to improve your marketing. Look at your biases when it comes to technology and be open minded to their suggestions.
Forth, understand that this generation is very mobile. They are not looking at driving that truck for 8 years until they get a promotion, like you might have in the past. They are looking for new challenges and opportunities to learn, so figure out how you can accommodate that to harness their valuable contributions.
And, lastly, and I will repeat it – respect. It is important to respect who they are, where they have come from, and their valuable contribution. Remember, at one point, you were in the hardest generation to ever manage in history yourself!
Merri Lemmex, Lemmex Williams Training