As an executive, who happens to be a millennial, it is hard for me to admit that the generation born between 1980-2000 (millennials) have workplace characteristics and motivations that are significantly different than earlier generations. However, it is true! To effectively manage millennials you must know how they compare. Here is a breakdown:
1946-1964: Baby Boomer - Baby Boomers are resourceful, goal centric professionals that value relationships and have high confidence in their abilities. 1965 - 1979: Generation X - Generation Xers are the hub of collaboration, enjoy a work-life balance, embrace feedback, and are very direct. 1980 - 1995: Millennial - Millennials are free-thinking and creative, value tasks over time, good with technology, and will often challenge hierarchy. 1996 - 2010: Generation Edge - Generation Edge or Y are result oriented team players that are very tech-savvy and prefer flexibility over set schedules.
Whew! Now that we have got through that. Let's move on to the three tips. Millennials need mentors, not bosses! Millennials do not take well to traditional hierarchical structures of authority. Rigid structure, office politics, and red tape are workplace failures that can send a millennial heading straight for the door. Some of the best mentors (bosses) that I have had were approachable, encouraging, and provided strong leadership. Managers that flex their authority should expect push-back against the status-quo. Good leaders earn respect through consistent actions and a clear sense of direction. Millennials like to feel like they are being mentored and not bossed.
Provide opportunities for growth and learning. Millennials move from career-to-career more than any other generation. They will not wait around for you to decide their career goals. A common myth that I often hear is that millennials need constant validation. Yes, I like to receive pats-on-the-back, but it is not at the top of my list. Most millennials prefer training as one of their must-haves. Implementing monthly training sessions can help them feel comfortable in their role. Along with development providing cross-functional opportunities to push millennials to perform better. Teamwork and learning from other professionals give them the ability to demonstrate their skills and potential to the rest of the company.
Constant Feedback! Millennials thrive in a workplace that provides consistent feedback. No, they do not want a reward for doing their job! However, giving them clear feedback on a specific accomplishment and why you are giving them positive/negative feedback is what they crave. You should provide feedback that speaks to their strengths while also pointing out areas where they can improve. Stop focusing on rules and focus on results. Millennials work best in a way that works for them. Before checking to see if they clocked in on time, check to see if they have all their tasks complete. As the old saying goes, “if it is not broke, then do not fix it.”
Unlike generations before, millennials want their work to have meaning and purpose. Yes, money is important, but the experience of knowing you add value to the mission of the company is what drives millennials to get out of bed in the morning. Managers should make it their daily habit to show them how their work connects to the vision of the company. In short, managing millennials is easy!
Duncan Harrison is a future of work architect that fosters economic inclusion through workforce development programs that strengthen communities. As an HR Influencer he has served as a director of human resources for over 7 years helping agencies build robust systems that optimize their talent. As a co-founder of Mercer County Works he brings his know-how of connecting employers with the right talent to produce better business results.