The prospect of drastically changing your management style to accommodate the growing number of millennials entering the workforce might seem daunting. But acknowledging that they are and will continue to be a major pool of talent for your company is the first step toward recognizing the importance of adapting, and of effectively welcoming them into your organization.
Millennials (also known as Gen Y)—currently in their late teens, 20s, and early 30s—operate differently from past generations, the Gen Xers, and especially the Baby Boomers. They view the world differently because they were raised with technology: the Internet has been part of most, if not all, of their lives. Also, many of them grew up in an environment of constant praise from their parents, teachers, and friends. They are motivated by different factors than older workers. They see their careers more informally than previous generations did, and they are often seeking to “break-in” to a business or industry quickly and with a splash.
These younger employees can alarm some managers, since they may not know how to effectively motivate a generation that views the workplace so differently. Knowing more about how millennials operate and being prepared to make a few changes in your management style will go a long way toward successfully working with them.
Here are five tips to effectively engage millennials as part of your workforce.
Glance around you at a coffee shop, and chances are you’ll be able to spot the millennials—they’re the ones texting a friend while at the same time ordering a latte, tweeting about the latest movie, and snapping a pic of their new kicks. They are the masters of multitasking. To them, juggling 10 things at once feels more natural than doing just one thing at a time.
Not only are millennials multitasking prodigies, but they also love new challenges. They’re driven to learn about the latest developments and to become the best. Knowing this can be very useful when it comes to managing them in the workplace. Encourage your millennial staff members to learn new things by offering them professionally or tech training opportunities. Make them feel welcome to share their ideas and new approaches, and take those ideas seriously in order to nurture their creative side.
Millennials grew up in a faster-than-fast-paced environment, so they are used to getting immediate results. Most of them also grew up with the adults around them offering support and praise. That’s why, in the workplace, they’ll operate better if they are given regular feedback.
The key is to walk that fine line between micro-managing and being too laissez-faire. Millennials want to know whether they’re doing a good job, and that you’re aware of and appreciate their efforts. Providing real-time feedback is a sure-fire way to let them know that. Waiting until an annual review to let them know how they’re doing is not the way to go. Instead, give them feedback throughout the execution of their projects, to help them feel supported and appreciated.
All millennials have used some form of social networking, whether it was AOL’s Instant Messenger in the late 90s and early 2000s, or the Facebook and Twitter of now. They’ve never lived without it. It’s what keeps them in touch with friends and family, and abreast of the latest trends and most up-to-date information. So using social media is a basic way to keep them interested. Consider involving them in the development of a social media channel for your brand or company. Not only will they be naturals at it, it will also give them an opportunity to prove themselves by doing something many of your more seasoned employees may not know how to do.
Also, think about using social media to develop and communicate ideas within your company. An office intranet that works much like a social media network is a good system for engaging not just millennials, but all of your employees. If you develop a robust intranet system, you can even use it as part of your onboarding process, so millennials can explore and learn about your company the best way they know-how.
“Work hard. Play hard.” This motto is the cornerstone of the millennials’ approach to their careers. They want to advance their careers and prove themselves in the workplace, but they have other interests as well. They want to spend time with friends and family, play sports or go to the gym, and take classes and outside training courses. Making sure your work policies don’t infringe on their personal time is crucial to keeping millennials happy and productive.
If you can offer them flexibility in their work schedule or allow for telecommuting, that’s another good way to make your company more appealing to millennials. Telecommuting is especially attractive since it affords them the chance to be outside of the office while using their tech skills to still do their work. And a good work-life balance will benefit everyone in your company, not just the millennials. Happy and balanced people are more loyal and productive employees.
One of the biggest pitfalls of the divide between generations in the workplace is frustration on both sides when it comes to communication. Baby Boomer managers often feel that their direction is not being heeded by the millennials. But managers need to remember that it’s a two-way street. When millennials feel that their managers and superiors don’t listen to them and that they don’t take them or their ideas seriously, they become unproductive and stagnant in their work. After all, what’s the point of coming up with new ideas if nobody is listening to them?
Listening to millennials and taking their ideas seriously counts for a great deal. Some ideas may seem different or a little out there, but you never know when something truly great will come out of them. The worst thing to do is to stifle their creativity by not taking them seriously. Of course, everything works better when there’s a system, so consider establishing a way for millennials and other employees to share new ideas. Scheduling impromptu brainstorms with coffee and donuts or asking for ideas on the office intranet are good starting points.
Remember, tweaking your company’s management style to better fit your millennial employees is a business-savvy move. Your bottom line is to have a productive, creative, and efficient workforce, and giving millennials the tools and the feedback they need to succeed will help get you there.