By the year 2020, over 50 percent of the population will be made up of Generation Y, commonly referred to as “Millennials.” Millennials are individuals born in the late 1980s through the 1990s. And the way they approach work is different than any generation before them. It is no longer a generation you can ignore or side eye. You have to adapt, change, and learn how to manage these individuals; however, this group has received a bum rap with how the media portrays them— truly!
The myths about managing millennials have reached the height of insanity and need to be debunked.
Some myths you might have heard:
1. Millennials are entitled
2. Millennials are lazy
3. Millennials don’t know what “real work” is
4. Millennials are looking to get ahead at any cost
5. Millennials only care about free coffee, beer, and foosball
Sounds familiar, right? Well, I’m here to tell you, managing millennials does not need to be hard or frustrating… if you take the time to understand them. Throughout my years working in the COO consulting role for companies with young talent, I’ve done just that, and here’s what I’ve found from managing millennials.
All The Feels
In reality, millennials just want to be heard and to have a sense of purpose in the work they’re doing. They want to understand how they are contributing to the overall mission of our organization. Sure, having perks that create an environment for interaction in the workplace is ideal for millennials to have a sense of belonging to the overall group, but what’s the common thread here? Feelings.
Did you just roll your eyes? I know, I know. For many of us who have been in managerial roles for quite some time this may sound a bit woo-woo but stick with me here.
Tapping in on a colleague’s feelings wasn’t something my generation or the generation before me did in the workplace. The days sort of went like this, you would go to work, do what you had to do to get the job done and go home. But today, the work-life balance many crave, in many cases, isn’t a thing. The work and life line has shifted dramatically, thanks to the constant availability of technology which leads to the no excuse to not be in your inbox at all hours. This could be one reason why “feelings” are now important in the workplace.
Develop Relationships & Be A Coach
As boss or manager, you must spend time developing eye-to-eye relationships with your colleagues to build trust and to show that you care about them not just as employees but as people. It goes back to the saying, “I don’t care about how much you know until you show me how much you care.” But here’s the danger, don’t take this as permission to start being interested in everything this generation is interested in — music, clothing, etc. — just be yourself. Authenticity and relating to them is huge.
In addition to building relationships, having regular meetings to check the pulse of their feelings and overall satisfaction of their role and contributions is key in a few ways.
1. It gives you, as a manager, the opportunity to reiterate the importance of their role in the overall success of the company.
2. It provides you with an opportunity to mentor them and develop a plan for long-term growth within the company.
Many of you may not be too keen on number two, especially when the average stay time of a millennial employee is around 2.6 years. But here’s the deal, millennials value professional development and mentorship to get them there. Investing in their professional growth may not be ideal when they may leave in a few years, but what’s worse…what if they stay? So always invest in your people because your company culture and bottom line will thank you.
In today’s work environment, having flexibility is easy to accommodate with the climb in coworking spaces and technology advancements. Sure, having face time with your team is vital on a weekly basis, but building that trust (it all goes back to trust, right?) is necessary to assist the millennial generation to have the flexibility they desire from work. Freedom to work when, where, and how they want. Why? Because again, the gap between work and life is shrinking.
Expect Fresh Ideas
I know this throws many company leaders off kilter. Millennials come into the workforce with fresh ideas and this undeniable energy that many are not accustomed to. It’s easy to back away from this energy and new way of challenging the status quo. But as a leader, you should figure out a way to adopt the ideas so that they work for your company, but also doesn’t stifle the enthusiasm of the millennial. Now, I’m not saying handle them with kid gloves, what I’m saying is their ideas can be and often are good ones if you take the time to listen to them instead of brushing them off. Yes, listening.
So, here’s the key message, every generation has something to offer. As part of the seasoned generation in the workforce, we have our expertise and wisdom to share with generations coming behind us and millennials can teach us a thing or two about challenging the status quo and coming up with real meaning behind the work we all do collectively. We’re better together.