Millennials have a reputation for being different (if not difficult) in the workplace. We take a look at how savvy managers can leverage the characteristic strengths of Millennials to help them achieve optimal results while avoiding the pitfalls and conflicts that can arise due to generational differences.
Meet the Millennials — the World’s Most Populous Generation
They are the children of the Baby Boomers.
We’ve called them Gen Y, Echo Boomers, Generation Next, and Twenty-Somethings.
We’ve also labeled them as delicate snowflakes that melt under pressure, self-absorbed and self-entitled.
But what we should be calling them is Number One.
Did you realize Millennials now comprise the largest population segment in the US and the world?
The Millennial generation (born between 1983 and 2001) is 80 million strong, making them the largest US population segment — bigger than the generations that brought them into the world; the Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964), Generation X (born 1965–1982), and the Builders / Silent Generation (born 1925–1945).
The Millennial generation’s dominant position extends worldwide, with almost 2 billion members living on the planet today, more than any other generational group.
Who Are the Millennials and What Sets Them Apart from other Generations?
Chart by Barclays
The Builders / Silent Generation is defined by:
- The Great Depression
- Radio and movies
Baby Boomers are defined by:
- The Vietnam War
- Civil Rights Movement
- Women’s Lib
- TV and Rock and Roll
Gen Xers are defined by:
- Working moms
- Higher divorce rates
- The AIDS epidemic
- MTV and computer video games
Millennials have grown up in a world influenced by:
- Tragedies, such as the 911 terrorist act
- Technology like iPhones and iPads
- Developments in pop culture like YouTube vlogs and streaming music
- New social media platforms (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and instant messaging, etc.)
10 Tips for Successfully Managing Millennials in the Workplace
As a group, Millennials have many positive traits. They are more educated than earlier generations and certainly more tech savvy. They are also the most racially/ethnically diverse generation to date.
However, many managers find certain Millennial behaviors confounding in the workplace. Some of these may stem from the exceptionally close relationship many Millennials have with their parents (25% raised in single parent households) as well as the style of education many received, which emphasized working collaboratively in groups to solve problems.
* Interview with Goldman Sachs Chief Learning Officer Jason Wingard on developing wide-reaching programs to help the millennial workforce learn and grow, which in turn, helps with retention and recruitment.
In the following section, we’ll look at ten different ways you can embrace the positive characteristics of Millennials (and minimize the negative ones) to successfully manage their career development and integrate them with other generations of workers.
1. Stop Resisting Change. Accept New Realities.
Tip 1 has more to do with addressing your own attitudes, assumptions, and mindset.
To manage Millennials successfully in the workplace, you will have to come to terms with the fact that times are changing.
It’s happened before. If you are a Gen X or Baby Boomer manager, you might think back to a time when you thought workers older than yourself — especially those using paper reports, overhead projector slide foils or even slide-rules — were hopelessly outdated dinosaurs. Now it may your turn to be the “old fogey.”
Resist the urge to say things like “We’ve always done it that way in the past.”
Instead, work through the five stages of grief* you may be experiencing (about your own mortality perhaps!) and begin to accept new ways of working.
* The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance
You’ll get more benefit from Millennial employees if you go with the grain and meet them at least halfway.
Try to see the world through the eyes of a Millennial. They grew up on Facebook, iPhones, and texting.
For example: If your call for an urgent team meeting meets with skepticism or indifference, consider that a Millennial might think the need for a face-to-face meeting is unnecessary when a group chat message sent to the team via Slack could give everyone an instant update.
2. Send the Right Message to Attract Millennial Job Candidates.
Creating the right positive message will help recruit Millennial employees. Keep in mind that traditional compensation packages and reward strategies will have to be adjusted in light of Millennials preferences for things like” life/work balance.” For example, a Millennial may place more value working in a role that offers the possibility of “changing the world for the better” or “making a difference” over a position which benefits package touts long-term job security and steady advancement.
More ImportantLess ImportantWork Life Balance Unlimited Focus on Career SuccessRegular Positive FeedbackAnnual Job ReviewPurpose OrientedTask OrientedPersonal Impact on the CommunityJob Compensation PlanCelebrate StrengthsFix / Improve WeaknessesMentorManagerPersonal GrowthJob Stability and SecurityDelivering ResultsAdvancement via Seniority and Time of ServiceDisruptive Entrepreneurial InnovationSteady Incremental GrowthAcquiring Transferable Job Skills Lifelong employment at a company
* What Millennials Prefer in Making Career Choices
“The biggest thing to take into account when having a manager who is from a different generation is their different perspective on things. They typically have an old-school mentality on things that can be hard to overcome.”
– Point of view from Cody Adams,
Formaspace Senior Design Engineer,
a Millennial working for a Non-Millennial Manager
3. Managers Need to Manage Assignments in New Ways.
Many first-time managers of Millennials are startled by their relative indifference to maintaining traditional hierarchical roles in the workplace. Example: At the annual stockholder meeting, the new Millennial intern walks over to the corporate CEO and strikes up a conversation about an issue he or she is concerned about. “Why does this happen?” asks the Non-Millennial manager. One explanation: many Millennials grew up in Baby Boomer households where the parents treated their offspring more as “friends” rather than children who were best seen and not heard. One consequence of this so-called “Peerenting” style of parenting is that Millennials are far less intimidated by authority figures. Reinforcing this behavior is the fact that Millennials are the first generation to have access to the world’s information (thanks to the Internet) without having to go through a hierarchy of gatekeepers.
The unconventional work habits of many Millennials can also ‘bug’ non-Millennial managers:
- Working collaboratively in groups is perfectly normal for Millennials (in many cases this is how they were educated in school) to the extent that an individual assignment can be seen as a type of cruel and unusual punishment (in contrast to Baby Boomers or Gen X employees who tend to crave individualism).
- For Millennials, the results are what count. In their minds, it shouldn’t matter if they are working at home one day, clocking in and out at non-standard hours another, or working from a coffee shop on a third day as long as the assignment gets done.
In response, managers should:
- Focus more on results, less on methods and work styles
- Rotate Millennials through a range of assignments to keep their interest levels high and to identify strengths and weaknesses which might not be revealed so easily in group assignments
- Where appropriate, divide projects into group assignments that are matched to skill sets (rather than assigning projects to individuals only)
- Where possible, incorporate a mix of Non-Millennial and Millennials on project assignments
- Brief Non-Millennial employees on why work methods are changing and help them accept these changes
“The biggest thing I have noticed is Millennials do not feel like they have to be present at a job to accomplish a task. They want flexibility to accomplish it however they want to prior to the deadline.”
– Point of view from Gregg Casey,
Formaspace VP of Engineering and Design,
a Non-Millennial Managing Millennials
4. Provide (and Solicit) More Frequent Feedback Than You Normally Would.
Many managers report than Millennials prefer frequent feedback. (This may be another consequence of “Peerenting” mentioned above.)
Don’t wait until the end of the year to provide an employee evaluation.
Learn how to give real-time feedback that’s honest (but try to highlight positive news and improvements about your Millennial employee).
Be direct. Say exactly what you are looking for.
Over-communicate in both directions.
5. Transfer Institutional Knowledge Before It’s Lost.
Many American businesses are sitting on a demographic time bomb.