Millennials have been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time Magazine; “entitled” by just about everyone; and “slackers” by many managers. Yet, this generation — born between 1980 and 1999 — is comprised of 80 million workers who will be replacing the Baby Boom generation, who are now retiring.
Viewing Millennials as spoiled brats raised by helicopter parents doesn’t help in managing this generation. This is a highly educated group that is faced with an economy that makes the opportunity cost of leaving the workforce extraordinarily low. It should not be surprising that a generation with that mindset can cause some tensions when entering the workforce en masse.
Every new generation has been frustrating for managers of previous generations. Even Socrates bitched back in the day that “[t]he children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders…” Rather than complaining like Socrates, you might wish to follow these suggestions for effectively managing Millennials:
Money Does Not Motivate Millennials
Despite expectations that such a “selfish” generation would be focused on individual rewards (i.e., compensation), that simply is not true. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, only 7% of Millennials place a high importance on a high paying career (versus 15% of previous generations) and instead place a higher value on being part of something bigger. The Chief Talent Scout at a major company reports that Millennials can, and do, work extraordinarily hard IF they believe in the mission and believe they are making a difference. Managers MUST make a direct connection between the work and the benefit it provides to others. Plus, while Millennials are not into money, Millennials do want recognition: a pat on the back or any public acknowledgment.
Work/Life Balance Has Fundamentally Changed
Millennials want it now, not later. 75% of Millennials admit that work-life balances drive their career choices. But, at the same time, Millennials see technology as part of life: this is the wired-in generation, the “heads-down tribe” who are on their devices while dating, at dinner, while watching TV, and at work. Millennials already, and instinctively, integrate work and life. This quirk demands that managers need to understand how Millennials view/use technology and to recognize that offering anything less than a smart phone to a Millennial is as much a breach of etiquette as offering your left hand in the Arab world. The company equipping its workforce with the coolest devices is the Millennials’ dream date.
Process Matters For Millennials
Millennials are seldom “go it alone” players or rugged individualists. Thus, don’t try to make them act this way. Working together with them to create goals and helping them map out the skills they need to develop to succeed will succeed. Likewise, managers should provide a team environment where Millennials can bounce ideas off of others and feel like they are part of a community. This is a generation whose religion is “networking” on Facebook and everywhere else. To maximize the effectiveness of Millennials, it is necessary to leverage their skills in assimilating information to find a consensus, rather than pushing back and demanding an immediate answer.
Flexibility Cannot Be An Urban Myth
Millennials multi-task, which can be frustrating when you want them to buckle down but does provide other opportunities. St. Ambrose said it perfectly: si fueris Rōmae, Rōmānō vīvitō mōre; si fueris alibī, vīvitō sicut ibi (“if you were in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there”). Multiple assignments work better for multi-taskers; ditto for assignments that are outside their current job. Millennials want job rotation, not a promotion track. Indeed, 62.1% of current college graduates identify the opportunity for personal growth to be an extremely important factor in their job search.
Remember My Name
Millennials need that constant reinforcement that you, in fact, know who they are. This is perhaps cyclical: that point is chapter 1 in Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People, which was published in 1936. But, then Millennials also favor other retro stuff like skinny ties and handlebar mustaches. Whatever! The key is that managers need to be “retail politicians” who can pump hands, remember names (and hobbies, interests, etc.). Equally important, managers cannot wait for the annual review cycle to give feedback. If you plan on telling Millennials what a great job they are doing at their annual performance review, it may be too late.
To manage Millennials effectively, you don’t need to get an ironic tattoo or load up Spotify with a playlist dominated by Mumford & Sons, Macklemore, and the Black Keys. But, you must appreciate their preferences and adjust to manage through those preferences rather than through your own.