Millennials are the newest generation to impact the work force. A group defined by those born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, they represent the largest generation in the U.S., representing a whopping one-third of the total U.S. population, according to research by the White House.
The question then is how does one effectively manage this group, if there is even a single way to address such a large and diverse body of people?
Certainly, there are experts who say that you can apply techniques to manage millennials, and plenty of books being published on the subject. We recently included several in our roundup of the best management and leadership books. Chip Espinoza and Mick Ukleja’s recent book Managing the Millennials discusses the differences that can arise in a group that had access to the Internet during their formative years, that is more diverse and educated than earlier generations, and that has come of age during a period of economic stress.
All those factors certainly play a large role in the way millenials perform, as well as the way that they are perceived by older generations. Like most eras, the older generation typically finds the younger ones to be different, if not difficult. Yet as managers, we can’t rely on myths and misperceptions to rule our opinion of core members of our team.
Certainly individuals cannot be categorized by generalizations of entire generations. Yet there are some stand out differences that managers can understand and exploit to get the most value from and provide the most support to your millenial team member.
Make Work Meaningful
There’s been a lot of chatter in the business world about the need to cultivate happy employees, but what if what makes your employees happy is doing good for others?
There’s an trend among millennials as a group to value more socially conscious work practices, according to Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania President, in a recent interview in Inc Magazine. She notes: “One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities. We see this in the classes they select.”
Therefore, the work Millenials are doing needs to have some meaning to them beyond the reward of a paycheck. There are many ways to promote the cultural and social benefits of your work: you can tout the company-giving news more on the company blog, or engage in more socially responsible team-building opportunities such as volunteering in the local community. Involve the whole team to nominate and vote for causes they’re passionate about, and explore ways as a team that you can support these causes.
Encourage Their Confidence
No one likes being talked down to, but some generations are more likely to accept it because they’ve come of age in a hierarchically structured businesses environment.
Not so with the Millenials.
Corporate trainer Dana Brownlee, a Gen Xer, has written about the sense of entitlement millennials can express that can turn off managers of an older generation. She notes that younger workers are more entrepreneurial and are less wedded to a corporate identity than a personal one. At the same time, this confident, entrepreneurial worker can also need more guidance.
The result is the perception that this generation is arrogant and unwilling to accept direction.
According to PewResearchCenter, “Millennials may be a self-confident generation, but they display little appetite for claims of moral superiority.” They tend to be more racially tolerant than their elders and are the most open to change of any generation. The New York Times reported on this study and noted, “What Pew found was not an entitled generation but a complex and introspective one.”
There are many strengths to that complexity that can be of great value to an organization. You want someone on your team who can think for themselves and has the self-confidence to tackle those difficult tasks you’ll assign to them.
It’s important, then, to encourage and not squash this can-do attitude. It’s not arrogance as much as it’s a willingness to take on the world and accomplish what they want. Help communicate that what they want can and does align with your project and you’ll not find a more helpful, productive and successful team team member.
Offer a Work-Life Balance
A Journal of Management study has found that recent generations are more likely to value leisure at work and put a greater emphasis on leisure time away from work than previous generations. This may be an attitude in flux with age. Young people in general prefer to get out of the office more and do things outside of work.
As companies scramble to attract and retain millennials, they need to understand the data collected in surveys like the one from Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research, which found that millennials want flexibility and would even take a cut in pay or forgo a promotion to have a more equitable work-life balance.
Other ways to encourage a work-life balance for millennials include offering paid time off, which includes not only sick, personal and vacation days, but even sabbaticals. Get higher level executives to model a work-life balance to send a message that this complements the company’s policy and culture. Don’t use electronics as a means of 24/7 communication but instead set aside work hours in which work-related communications are allowed.
Use Their Tech & Collaboration Skills
Hiring millennials brings unique skills to your workforce, such as the fact that they’re more technically proficient, at least in the eyes of hiring managers in this study from Elance-oDesk. This provides businesses a way to tap the innovation they need to remain competitive.
Give millennials more hand’s-on management of your team’s technology. They can be tech leaders helping those less savvy than themselves learn how to bridge the tech gap. Millennials are collaborators, it’s how they grew up and how they learned in school, and they can apply and even teach those skills to the team. Empower your millennial team members to bring teams together and encourage their ideas.
Millennials are really not that different from generations past, but they are the largest generation currently and will dominate the workforce for decades to come. Finding ways to support this generation with all of their unique skills and cultural experiences will bring value to the entire organization.
Be sure to provide your millenials team members with the tools that can support their collaborative nature and tech savvy skillsets. Nothing hamstrings your workers more than outdated tools. ProjectManager.com offers a collaborative online suite of features in the cloud so your team can update project tasks and plans from desktop or mobile. Try it free with our 30-day trial.