By some estimates, millennials – those born roughly between 1980 and 2000 – will make up approximately 75% of the workforce by 2025. It’s no wonder, then, that baby boomer and Gen X managers have been obsessed with putting their finger on the pulse of this often-misunderstood generation.
Before millennials began to enter the workforce in large numbers, there was a great deal of hand wringing in the business community regarding what kind of impact such an influx would have. Millennials have been painted as lazy, impatient, and entitled, thanks to the participation trophy approach to sports that largely characterized their youth. Others see millennials as unfortunate products of the speed and immediacy of the internet; according to some, they expect immediate gratification and are loath to toil away in obscurity for years, slowly climbing the corporate ladder before receiving their recognition.
While no generation is completely homogeneous, these characterizations have turned out to be largely untrue. Like each previous generation before them, millennial workers have begun to rise to the occasion within the business world – albeit with their own distinctive priorities, strengths, and values. They’re not necessarily entitled, but they do expect their employers to step up and give them the support they need to succeed in their positions. They don’t necessarily lack respect for authority, but they are comfortable maintaining personal relationships directly with senior executives and thought leaders.
Millennials can be dedicated, motivated workers who prove to be tremendous assets to any company or organization they belong to. Still, there are some key management skills that you can employ to help ensure that millennial employees remain productive, passionate members of their team.
Be a mentor
Most people work better under someone they can respect and trust, and millennials are no different. Many grew up in more democratic households, and they will chafe at rigid rules and regulations imposed seemingly without reason or explanation. Managers who offer assistance, advice, and guidance will likely win the favor – and loyalty – of millennial employees. Plus, by helping your employees better themselves, their overall performance will improve.
Millennials famously want more than just a paycheck from their job – in fact, many will take a pay cut in order to work in a career that has meaning and personal resonance, such as for activist organizations, nonprofits, or groups like Teach for America. But even millennials who take a more traditional, corporate career path are increasingly aware of the social and societal impact of the work they do. A company with clearly articulated values – both internally and externally – provides a much more rewarding work experience. Make it clear to your employees where your company stands. This helps workers derive a sense of purpose from their job, keeping them happy, productive, and fulfilled.
Provide professional development opportunities
Millennials’ can-do attitude correlates with a strong desire for self-improvement. Whether it’s streamlining their life through bullet journaling or taking control of their health with meal planning and an active lifestyle, the members of the “video game generation” are always seeking to level up. Offering professional development opportunities – such as conferences and events, online courses, or personal coaching – helps employees improve on their existing skills, learn new best practices, and gain confidence in their abilities. This in turn helps retention and productivity.
Give feedback often
This is good advice to consider for employees of any age, but particularly for millennials. Don’t assume they have everything they need or know exactly how things ought to be done. Give constructive feedback – both positive and negative – as often as possible and in an actionable format.
Be open to feedback
Millennials crave relationships based on mutual respect, and this should extend to their managers and bosses. Invite employees to offer constructive feedback regarding ways in which you as a manager can better support their productivity and efficiency – and listen thoughtfully to their input. It’s not enough to pay lip service to your employees. If you show them that you value and respect their opinions, you will undoubtedly receive their respect in return.
Support team building
Millennials have learned the value of working in groups. They understand that by leveraging the discrete strengths of each member of a team, they can accomplish much more than they would individually. Promote team-building exercises to reinforce company camaraderie. Look for opportunities to achieve group consensus, and give your employees leeway to collaborate often with their colleagues.
From smartphones to Google Hangouts, technology has fundamentally changed the way businesses are run – and millennials are the most adept generation yet when it comes to adapting their lives around new technologies. Because it’s easier than ever to work from home (or the beach), millennials expect this to be an option for them at least some of the time. Being able to control their own work hours to a degree helps give employees the freedom and independence to achieve an appropriate balance between work and their other responsibilities. Just be wary of “flexible work hours” turning into “always available, always on the clock.” Everyone – not just millennials – needs time off to disconnect and relax.
Create a robust, positive company culture
Too often, employers associate a positive company culture with having a beer fridge, Foosball tables, and beanbag chairs. But fun office amenities don’t create a positive corporate culture – they are merely products of it. A culture in which employees feel comfortable asking for help, taking initiative, and flexing their creativity will do much more than some startup-inspired trinkets around the office. Give employees the opportunity to contribute to the development and evolution of the workplace environment as well; a culture that arises organically (rather than one that is imposed from above) will feel much more honest, authentic, and relatable.
Enable their networking urges
Millennials are easily the most connected generation in history. Facebook came to prominence while many of them were in high school or college, which means that reaching out to their networks and sharing multiple aspects of their lives comes perfectly naturally to them. Rather than trying to curtail their social media use, turn it into a positive force within your company. Encourage employees to become brand ambassadors, and equip them with the good communication skills they need to leverage their networks for the better. Because they speak digital as their native language, millennials can prove invaluable as mentors for older colleagues, helping them expand and enrich their use of technology.
These valuable management skills can help ensure that millennials remain a force for good within your company. After all, they are poised to become tomorrow’s leaders and the business world would do well to adapt to and encourage their strengths. Most importantly, however, understand that everyone is unique. These traits are shared by many members of the millennial generation, but it would be unwise to treat your employees as simply representatives of generational trends rather than individuals.
If you’d like to explore other management skills – or investigate professional development opportunities for your employees – consider Ace-up’s deep bench of expert business coaches.