The largest and most dynamic generation in history is changing the culture of the 21st century workplace.
As the largest portion of the American workforce (baby boomers) begins to retire, an estimated 40 million millennials (also known as Generation Y-ers) are already in the workplace with that figure
This is a generation that has been made to feel “special” by their “helicopter” parents (parents who hover over their children). This special feeling was reinforced in school where there is no longer such a thing as failing. This special feeling also runs true in little league sports where everyone who participates “wins” a trouphy. Basically, these children have always had parents and mentors who helped solve all their problems for them.
By growing up in such a supportive environment, the younger generation of employees enter the workplace finding it hostile to their work ethic and lifestyle. They witness that most business owners and managers spent little time providing a work cultuture that embraces employees of all ages.
In most cases, it is not that the small business owners don’t want to help merge the younger workers into their business smoothly, they just don’t have the resources to recruit and train them individually like the large corporations do.
As a consequence, older generation managers feel conflicted. They want the new hires to be productive employees, but they want it to happen seamlessly without a lot of hand holding. But it won’t happen. It will take work from both parties.
Let’s face it, every generation bemoans the weaknesses of the newer one. Millennials are not better or worse than any other generation — they are just different. For instance, millennials operate under a work ethic that differs from the older generations’ nose to the grindstone ideology. They are creative and bright and have enormous skill sets, but according to one employer we talked to, “they can be difficult to manage.”
There are strong similarities between millennials and the generations that have preceded them: they want security and variety in their career; they want to be stretched and challenged; and they have strong beliefs and expectations that extend to the workplace.
Obviously, the millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people.
Everyone performs better after being complimented for a job well done, but this is a strong millennial trait as they expect detailed, regular feedback and praise for a job well done, and they want it frequently or continually on the job.
Attitudes about Work
Millennials expect to work hard, but they get bored easily. They’re drawn to organizations that offer a comfortable and stimulating atmosphere that creatively blends work and life — a balance seemingly more important than financial reward.
Millennials fight the idea of traditional employment. And they don’t believe that “safe jobs” exist since they witnessed their parents being downsized from companies that had employed them for many years. Even the millennials already in the workplace have experienced mass layoffs in their short careers.
They love interaction with others. They admire collaboration and open communication. Millennials are comfortable working with the older generations and value mentors. They like to help one another and brainstorm ideas, a trait that can reflect well on their employer. Yet, their non-traditional views of how to get a job done sometimes irritate the older generation managers.
Millennials also want to be involved in the decision-making process, much to the chagrin of older workers. Growing up, their parents often asked them what they thought — and their parents listened. Consequently, millennials long to steer ideas. It’s second nature to them, since they’ve been doing it all their lives.
Knowledge of New Technology
It has been said that millennials are the most connected generation in history and will network right out of their current workplace if their needs are not met.
Well, that may be a little harsh, but with technology dominating every aspect of their lives, it’s not surprising that millennials say they prefer to communicate electronically rather than face to face or even by telephone. Consequently, technology often creates intergenerational conflict in the workplace and many millennials feel held back by rigid or outdated working styles of older managers.
10 Tips for Managing Millennials
Today, it is important for every business to understand the generation Y-ers since the majority of their new employees will come out of the millennial pool.
Although there is no one set of criteria that dictates what is or what is not an acceptable way to manage millennials, managers with whom we’ve talked agree on the following 10 points.
1. Forget college majors. Unless the job requires a very specific major, look past college courses. Millennials love to learn. If they have the will and potential, train them, give them the tools to get their job done properly, and let them fly.
2. Over communicate. There can never be enough clarity when it comes to communicating with millennials. You should show there is no distinction between generations in your company by never talking down to them because of their age. Use daily email messages to keep people updated. Use anything that works to keep an open line of communication.
3. Tell them why. Millennials never grow out of asking why. They’ve asked why all their lives about everything they were asked to do. And when they ask why, they expect a clear answer. Once you tell them why, give them freedom to do their job. Like all of us, millennials become dissatisfied with work when they feel they lack control.
4. Provide immediate feedback. Millennials crave for immediate feedback whether good or bad. Praise them in public and single out individuals for a job well done. By the same token, hold them accountable for their own jobs and call them out for their mistakes, but do it privately.
5. Be a good shepherd. Free your millennial charges to go after new approaches to a job. As we mentioned previously, millennials love to steer ideas. They are good at brainstorming; let them share ideas that may work for your organization.
6. Be authentic. This generation prizes authenticity. Display your vulnerability and own up to your mistakes. Admit when you were responsible for a mistake. If you pretend to be perfect, you are telling them that you don’t need anyone else, which diminishes their value.
7. Let them work as a team. Millennials are cliquish and love to work as a team. They often run in a group inside and outside the firm, and they celebrate each other’s successes. Don’t discourage these strong friendships, they will reflect well on your company.
8. Learn from them. Encourage reverse mentoring. An unquestionable skill younger workers bring is digital savvy. Let them leverage their digital comfort and multi-tasking abilities by teaching older workers about new technology. Give them a sense that learning is a two-way street, regardless of age.
9. Give a sense of freedom. Since they are digital beings, allow millennials to work remotely and provide a sense of freedom, flexibility and autonomy. Make sure, however, you have accountability procedures set up, or you may not get what you intended.
10. Help them grow. Millennials place a high value on having a strong relationship with a mentor. They are used to this as they hail from a background filled with encouraging professors, coaches and parents.
Making a Difference
Any student of history will testify that the people who have made a difference in our world are not those who have continually chosen the popular, smoother route. They are instead those who dare to make waves.
Without question, millennials make waves with their non-traditional views of the workplace and how to get a job done. Older generation managers need to understand where millennials are coming from and help them with positive change and guide them forward. If you don’t, you could risk losing future talent.