It wasn’t long ago that we were talking about millennials as lazy, tech-dependent high school and college students. Now, they represent the largest generational demographic in the American workplace. From a managerial perspective, this presents some unique challenges and opportunities.
What You Need to Know
Millennials, or those born in the 1980s and 1990s, are frequently given a hard time. Many of them deserve their negative reputation, but the majority of millennials aren’t afraid of working hard. They tend to have large amounts of self-confidence and do well when high expectations are bestowed upon them.
“[Millennials] are extremely focused on developing themselves and thrive on learning new job skills, always setting new challenges to achieve,” entrepreneur Terri Klass explains. “They are also the ‘can do’ generation, never worrying about failure, for they see themselves as running the world and work environments.”
It’s easy to see the confidence of millennials as arrogance, but that’s a pessimistic approach to dealing with this generation. Organizations should want confident employees who don’t see failure as an option. It’s far better than the alternative – that much is for sure.
How Managers Can Effectively Lead Millennials
From a managerial perspective, what does it look like to manage millennial employees? While there’s no playbook for every circumstance, the following tips will prove helpful in most situations.
1. Provide Immediate Feedback
As a baby boomer who grew up in an era of strict hierarchies and rigid business practices, you’re probably comfortable with the idea of annual reviews. After all, that’s how you gauge your progress. For millennials, not so much.
“Being able to shape and make a contribution to where you work is important to millennials. To a generation used to instant replies, messaging, and tweeting, annual reviews are seen as a thing of the past,” explains Christian Galliani of Jay Suites. “Most millennials seek immediate feedback weekly or as soon as projects are completed. They want a mentor, not a manager.”
2. Focus on Health and Wellness
Millennials are big on health and wellness. They believe that their employer has an obligation to care about their health and wellness, too. While you don’t have to build an onsite gym or offer complimentary fresh snacks in the break room, you should address personal health issues. This could look like helping employees establish better office ergonomics or offering a discount on their health plan when they get regular physicals.
3. Put the Team Over the Individual
Millennials have grown up in an environment where collaboration and social interaction are significant aspects of what they do. This is partly due to the rise of the Internet and social media, which has led millennials to crave connectivity. It also has to do with their upbringing and education. In addition to an emphasis on team sports, many millennials have been involved with group projects and assignments throughout high school and college.
Whenever possible, managers should allow employees to work together in small groups and teams. This may not always seem like the most efficient use of time, but most millennials are more productive when they have others around them.
4. Allow for Some Flexibility
Finally, millennials crave work-life balance. They want the ability to work hard and play hard, without compromise. One of the best ways to appeal to this desire is by incorporating flexibility into scheduling.
There are many different options for flexible scheduling. You can try compressed workweeks, flex hours, remote working opportunities, or even unlimited vacation time – which surprisingly leads to better productivity and output. Whatever you do, avoid the traditional 9-to-5. This is a huge turnoff for millennials.
5. Don’t Condescend
Finally, don’t condescend millennials for being, well, millennials. Millennials aren’t oblivious to the fact that other people look down on them as being lazy and entitled. The more they hear obvious and subtle jabs, the more frustrated they’ll become. Try to find ways to encourage millennials, despite the fact that they lack experience in many situations. There’s a difference between putting someone down and letting them struggle in order to learn.
Don’t Fight the Shift
There’s a natural tendency to fight things that aren’t familiar to you. As a baby boomer in the workplace, you might feel that you need to force millennials to fit your mold of what a successful employee looks like. Resist this, though. Can you imagine if the generation before you forced you to abide by their stringent requirements? You would have been far less successful and unable to fulfill your potential.
As you manage and lead millenials, try to teach them the ropes without forcing them to fit a role. Leverage the unique traits and desires they bring to the table.