Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

9 Tips to Manage Millennials

Millennials are definitely changing the rules.  They live for social engagement, rank job satisfaction higher than pay and often express a desire to find work that allows them to “make a difference.”

In fact, they approach life so differently that this topic has its own following and set of experts.  The existing dialogue delves into the psychology behind their perspective and life choices.   Needless to say, we don’t need me to jump into an already boisterous conversation regarding the ways millennials are different from their predecessors.

However, having managed (and raised) millennials, I do think we can benefit from understanding the wealth of information on this topic.  Make no doubt about it, this group of people will accomplish phenomenal things both for business and mankind.  They are smart, driven, technology based and typically have a strong desire to leave the world a better place than they found it.

With that said, you can never “assume” that a certain type of employee will (or won’t) be a slam dunk.  If it were that easy, there would be lots of Human Resource professionals without a job and lots of busy attorneys with discrimination cases.

So while I’m referring to a group that’s categorized by age, what I’m really discussing is the ever important consideration of “fit” to maximize both the employee and employer relationship.

Ultimately a lot of the “fit” is decided by a host of factors including: the company culture, extent of growth opportunities and yes even management style.

Bottom line whether you are considering hiring a millennial or already have one on your team, recognizing the factors below may provide some insight:

  1. Give them Room.  While it’s difficult to find employees that actually like to be micro-managed, millennials typically despise having someone choreograph their every move.  Remember, they like to make a difference and it’s a little difficult to make a difference when you aren’t allowed to implement original thoughts.  So if your management style trends toward micromanaging your staff, then be prepared for a bumpy ride.
  1. Don’t get Attached.  While successful managers recognize and embrace the need for constant growth and new ideas, they also realize the cost of churn..or employee turnover.  And millennials have earned the reputation of being perpetual job hoppers.  As you might suspect, millennials blame the recession and layoffs.  At a time when many of them were trying to find their first job, they saw employers turn their back on long-term employees who had displayed great loyalty. Now don’t misunderstand me on this….I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hire them because they won’t stay with you.  What I am saying is that you need to enter the employment arrangement with eyes wide open and realize that it’s likely you won’t be presenting them with a gold watch at retirement.  Given specifics regarding ramp time, job responsibilities, experience   and training, they may still be your best candidate.
  1. Bring on the Change. If you’re looking for someone to look at your business with fresh eyes and willingness to rewrite “how it’s always been done,” then a millennial could be a great addition to your team.  Much like they challenge so many things their predecessors have just accepted, this group can literally change the way you approach your business.  While I believe in the importance of change, it’s not for the faint of heart.  So if you really like the “way it’s always been done” and the concept of mixing things up a bit makes your eyes glaze over, then it could be a rocky road for all.
  1. But that was Yesterday. I can only imagine what fantastic things that millennials will do for the world.  With that said, their impatience can be one of the biggest struggles for management.  Many feel their instant gratification mind-set has been fueled by the ease and speed with which they have access to information via the internet and instant communication through social media channels.  So trying to tell them to wait 2-4 years for an opportunity is like a lifetime! Regardless of the reasoning, they are a tough group to keep satisfied long-term.  Instead, they thrive on constant challenges and opportunities.  And sometimes managers struggle to identify exciting next steps. If you’re looking to fill a position for repetitive tasks with little potential for career growth, be painfully honest when offering the job to a millennial.
  1. Looking for a Coach. Millennials crave constant coaching and feedback.  While at first glance this can make them appear high maintenance, it can actually help them be outstanding employees.  Generally, their desire to improve and be the “biggest, brightest and fastest” propels them to seek out feedback but it doesn’t stop there.  They are quick learners and highly motivated.  As a rule, give them an area of potential improvement and they are literally off to the races.  With that said, if proactive coaching is not a priority for you (or the organization) then you may think twice about the long-term fit.
  1. Plugged In. It’s no secret that this group literally grew up with technology.  Now being a boomer, I’m quite proud to tell you that there’s not much I can’t eventually figure out on my computer, IPad and IPhone.  But I will freely admit that what takes me several hours is routinely considered child’s play by a millennial.  Consequently, if you are looking to fill a position with a heavy technology or social media focus, it’s likely a safe assumption that you will have at least one millennial in your top candidate pool.
  1. Sky’s the Limit. Millennials were constantly encouraged by their parents and told that they could do anything.  And consequently, most believe it and embrace their personal and professional lives as such.  So if you are looking to augment your team with someone who can dream big but has the goods to back up the plan, someone in this group may be the perfect fit.
  1. Keep the Scales Even. Perhaps it’s because they were the first dual income generation or maybe the staggering divorce rate of their parents, regardless millennials often place a high priority on work life balance.  It’s not that they aren’t interested in producing results, because again they are driven.  But they are also driven about how they want to spend their time outside of work and it typically doesn’t include extra hours for the boss! 
  1. Feel the flex. While boomers have long ago accepted that work is done in a specific place (or building), millennials crave the freedom and empowerment of flex time and work remote agreements.  The rules that many of the former generation have lived by seem nonsensical to them.  So throwing a millennial into an incredibly structured environment may be a nail bitter for everyone.  But if instead, you can offer them some freedom as long as the work gets done, it can be a beautiful thing!

At the end of the day, it’s always dangerous to stereotype and categorize people.  As much as the information shared here holds true for many in this group, there are obviously individuals that will prove me wrong on each and every point.

Ultimately, just like every other management decision you make, you will find the most success when you fuse knowledge and your personal situation and experiences to make a decision that comes not only from your brain but also from your heart.

Millennials, I’d love to hear from you. What do you like in a boss?

Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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