Millennials are the generation between the ages of 18 and 35, born after 1980. They want a secure job, but they aren’t looking to make one job their life’s work. They are on track to being the most educated generation, rising to meet a new knowledge-based economy.
If you want to be a good leader, you must work to truly understand the group and how they compare to other generations before them. These six tips will help you gain a new understanding and successfully manage your Millennial employees:
1. Let Them Work In Groups
Millennials have a reputation for “crowdsourcing” and they often tend to want to work in groups. But don’t let that make you think that they are unable to make decisions on their own. While they value the input of a diverse group, they are still able to make decisions at work without the constant input of others.
In an IBM study of Millennial workers, more than half said they made better business decisions when there was a group of people providing a variety of input. But Generation X response was even higher. So if you are able to work with your Generation X employees, Millennials shouldn’t come as too much of a shock.
Millennials, like Generation X, believe their leaders are the most qualified to make decisions. Baby Boomers seem to have a built-in distrust and skepticism. Perhaps that is why they prefer to avoid group decisions and are unconcerned about getting consensus on their plan of action. They trust themselves to decide.
Key Takeaway: Millennial workers, like Gen X workers, want to have a group consensus when it comes to decision making. As a manager, you need to address this in two seemingly conflicting ways:
- Value the importance of the group. Instead of “laying down the law” and dictating decisions that affect the whole group, involve your team in the decision-making, and show them why the decision was made. Your team will work better if they feel that the entire group is valued and is in it together.
- Treat each person as an individual. The group is made up of individuals, not “generational stereotypes.” They may enjoy working and deciding as a group, but we all want to be seen as individuals.
2. Consider Their Technological Suggestions
Millennial employees stand out for being tech-savvy. Not only are they adept at using technology, but they prefer it. No other generation has grown up steeped in technology like the Millennials have, and so what is seen as optional or gadgetry for older generations is a natural and required for Millennials.
Rather than sticking with what might seem outdated, Millennials will try to inject updated technology and workflows. It will seem more efficient to them even if older employees prefer the “way it’s always been done.” Use their penchant for technology to help everyone.
If they present a solution for a problem, don’t dismiss it. Consider their solution and perhaps even test it, because it may be helpful to your business.
Keep in mind, Millennials still crave in-person collaboration and abhor the faceless vacuum that technology has brought. 60% of Millennials prefer in-person collaboration rather than remote technological solutions.
Key Takeaway: Millennial workers are naturally fluent in technology, and will adapt and adopt it into your workflow quickly. As a manager, you must understand that:
- Technology isn’t novel. It’s always been there. And just as older generations leapt for new technology because it was something they were not used to, Millennials may crave a sans-technology approach in communication. Remember, people and connections are important to them.
- Not all technological changes suggested by Millennials will be valuable. They may cause problems for the team. Mixing Millennials and older generations will likely be a cause for compromise when it comes to technology, and truly evaluating which tools can improve efficiency and which ones will be an unnecessary roadblock for your other workers is important.
3. Provide Regular Feedback & Recognize Their Work
Millenials have a different “social mindset”, according to the Ivey Business Journal. They want feedback on how they are doing, they want that feedback often, and they want it right now.
They grew up with the internet and social media, and are more familiar with instant gratification and instant feedback than previous generations.
The Millennial generation grew up with high expectations and, along with that, near constant praise and affirmation at each stage. A strong sense of workplace recognition will likely help engage these workers.
Note: Recognition for good work shouldn’t be exclusively for one generation of workers. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.
While twice-yearly reviews might be enough for your other workers, it is in this category that Millennials stand out and show how different they are. Some Millennials may take the lack of reviews and feedback to mean that they are not appreciated.
Key Takeaway: Not all of your team will want the same kind of feedback that Millennials prefer. Provide your team the feedback they need on an individual level. You can still have twice-a-year reviews, but may need to provide informal feedback between that for some.
- Work with the individual to determine how frequent feedback meetings should be. That way, you can compromise to find a cadence that works best for both of your schedules.
- You may also need to change how you approach negative feedback when dealing with Millennials, couching it first in a positive affirmation before addressing an issue that needs to be changed.
- Consider creating mentorship programs so Millennials have direct access to near constant feedback and feel that they are valued.
4. Understand Their Motivations
Millennials are motivated by a sense of progress, the opportunity to be creative, and a sense that what they are doing matters.
Millennials have grown up in a “maker-centric” age in which creating something is of utmost important. They do not have the patience for typical business hierarchies, instead associating the speed at which they can research and solve problems as the same speed in which change should occur.
While you cannot (and should not) always accommodate that fast pace, put into place a mechanism where new ideas that the group deems valuable do have an opportunity to go forward quickly. Their creativity and the implementation of ideas feeds the sense that they have value and are doing something that matters in your company.
You can also help your Millennial workers by explaining the vision of your business. This is not a generation just happy to punch a timecard and work for a few hours. They want to know that their work matters in the scheme of things, that they are a part of something larger. By explaining and illustrating the vision for your business, you help them understand how they fit into that plan other than just punching in and clocking hours.
Finally, while some may resist traditional hierarchies, you can create mid-level job titles and promotions to motivate Millennial workers. These smaller levels show that improvement, though incremental, is happening. It shows your Millennial workers that career progress is taking place.
Key Takeaway: Millennials want to feel fulfilled in their work. They may feel frustrated if their ideas don’t seem to go anywhere, or take too long to be acted on.
- Provide opportunities where new ideas from your team members can go forward quickly. This can help them see the impact of their work at the pace they desire.
- Explain the vision of your business to show your Millennial employees the Big Picture of the work they’re doing, and how their role is helping to make a difference.
- Offer mid-level job titles and promotions to demonstrate that career progress is taking place.
5. Give Back To The Community
Millennials are concerned about giving back to the community. A 2010 study by Pew Research Center found that Millennials were more concerned with helping people in need than they were with getting a high salary.
If you hope to attract and inspire millennials, you must offer them more than the chance to earn a buck. You need to show that them their work matters in the scheme of something larger than themselves.
One way to do this is to create programs and opportunities for them to give back to the community. This might be through time off to participate in charity events, through company-sponsored events, or through a matched donation plan to the organization of their choice.
Key Takeaway: Millennials want to feel that they are doing something to help others. They want to work for a company that has a reputation for caring about people and important causes, or at the very least allows them to be active in supporting those causes themselves.
- Create opportunities for them to give back to the community through charity events or company-matched donations.
6. Offer Flexibility
Millennials prefer more flexibility in how and where they do their job, as well as time outside of work to pursue their own personal projects. Managers should be open to taking a new look at how a work day is composed.
77% of Millennial workers believe that a flexible work environment would improve their productivity. Managers can’t ignore that.
What this means is that Millennials expect to have the option to adjust their work schedule to fit their life rather than the other way around. They prefer more vacation time (unlimited, if they can get it) and the ability to work outside of the office.
Key Takeaway: With Millennial workers, their lives aren’t reshaped to fit the job. It’s the other way around. While not every job and position can accommodate this level of flexibility, find ways to give them that work and life balance so that they do not feel their personal lives are sacrificed for the betterment of your company. Some ideas include:
- Encourage them to pursue outside projects and interests to prevent burnout and negative feelings towards work.
- Let them design their own work hours at the office by setting up block hours or remote work days.
- Create seasonal hours in the summer where each employee has a four-day work week.
The truth is that Millennials are not all that different from previous generations in the most important aspects of work, including ethics, habits, and teamwork. By offering these team members benefits that are important to them, like frequent feedback and flexibility, you’ll keep them engaged, focused, and happy.6 Key Principles For Managing Millennials Chad Halvorson