Many of my clients today share a common management challenge: how to lead, motivate and inspire new young employees. The Millennial generation (also known as the Internet, Nintendo or digital generation) are 80 million strong and by definition were born between 1980 and 2000. While this generation has a lot going for it, it presents generation gap challenges to older bosses and co-workers. Surveys claim 71 percent of millennials at “regular” jobs would prefer to quit their current job to work for themselves, and 60 percent of them plan to do so in the next two years. So how does one manage them on the job?
The good news
Like no other generation before them, Millennials are well-connected, tech savvy and know how to collaborate. They are connected to each other in ways previous generations couldn’t imagine — via e-mail, blogs, text, instant messaging or MySpace. They know how to access information and each other — anytime, anywhere. If you need to access information or people, put your Millennial on the task!
They are multicultured. This generation tends to be more informed about, tolerant of and comfortable with the diversity associated with different cultures, races, sexual orientations and religions across the globe. Fairness and respect are huge core values for them — be prepared for them to stand up for them in your workplace.
They are confident and optimistic. For many the sky is the limit. Their parents nurtured high self-esteem and lofty career aspirations. Most have been told (and believe) they can achieve anything. They expect their workplaces to be optimistic, fun (like they’ve heard about at Google) and loaded with opportunities for growth and challenge. They expect bosses to actively mentor their big career plans. This can be a serious challenge for those managers of the old-school mindset of “Just do your job” and “You need to pay your dues.”
Most Millennials have little or no fear of the unknown. Information is a click away, and they are adept at creative problem-solving and confident with changing technology. Note: This also translates into their being more than willing to leave those companies where they are unhappy.
Tips for managing them
- Keep them challenged. They have led highly structured, achievement-oriented childhoods. Soccer moms (and dads) shuttled this generation daily from karate to T-ball. Summer was spent at space camps, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or with volunteer projects. They are incredible multitaskers — the down side is that they are easily bored by menial and/or mundane tasks. They will respond best to workplace environments that are stimulating with challenges and opportunities for creativity.
- Praise and recognize. This generation was largely raised by parents who took great care to reinforce to them how “special” they are. They will respond best to bosses (aka, their workplace parents) who give them plenty of recognition and positive feedback. Don’t ignore them or make light of their contributions. Be forewarned — HR people tell stories about “helicopter” parents who are calling in to complain about “Johnny’s performance review.” No kidding.
- Define goals, expectations and success factors. The Millennials will respond positively to companies/bosses who provide learning opportunities and support in achieving their goals. They will resist those who solely lead as authoritarian old-school bosses.
If the boss relationship isn’t positive, odds are they will soon be looking for one that is more aligned with their expectations.
- Let them bring some fun into the workplace. They are natural team players — put them on your social committee! They will thrive in a culture where humor and blowing off steam now and then (positively) is encouraged. One of their big challenges, however, is getting along with difficult people. The naysayers, the rigid and those unwilling to embrace change — they just don’t get them. They will need coaching and support about how to get along with difficult personalities.
My advice: Get to know them. Find out what they want to achieve. Make a conscious effort to regularly encourage and mentor them. Model professional and expected workplace behavior while challenging and supporting them. Let them know you are open to learning from and with them as well.
Baby boomers are exiting the workplace in huge numbers (half of all certified schoolteachers plan to retire within the next five years, and 60 percent of all federal workers are soon to retire). The Millennial generation, and the ability to manage and motivate them, will be critical to success.